MP calls for later school start for summer-born children

Seeta Bhardwa
Thursday, June 20, 2013

An Early Day Motion, launched by Annette Brooke MP, recommends that England's school starting age should be more flexible.

It proposes that the Government should ensure that parents of summer-born children should be able to defer their child’s school start, up until the statutory school start time.

Parents should be able to do this without losing their chosen school place due to funding issues. The motion also calls on the Government to ensure that parents also have the choice of placing their child in a reception class, rather than in Year One, at statutory school age.

One factor behind this motion is the growing amount of evidence claiming that summer-born children are at a disadvantage to autumn born children, as they can often be nearly a year younger. Researchers found that the best predictors of being in the Year 2 top stream was being born in the autumn or winter and one of the best measures of predicting being in the bottom stream was a Spring or Summer birth.

Annette Brooke MP, (pictured) said, ‘I have been interested in this issue following the Rose Review and the decision by the last Government to tackle the fact that summer-born children have less schooling than others by having one recommended starting age.

'I was immediately worried that a child born on 31 August could be quite overwhelmed by starting full time school early September. In theory parents do have a choice up to the statutory school starting age, but in practice it is difficult. This EDM tackles this in part but then goes a stage further.’

‘Taken to its logical conclusion this could mean many children starting school at many different times, which is not really practical in the state system, but I definitely think there should be more parental choice, more flexibility and a recognition that every child is different in terms of their development. A bad early experience could adversely affect a child throughout their whole education.’

Dr Richard House, from Winchester University's Department of Education Studies and Liberal Arts, said, ‘This Early Day Motion is of crucial importance because it is raising the awareness of both MPs and Government ministers about an issue which successive Governments over many years have abjectly failed to address. T

'The fact that it periodically keeps on re-emerging, both in research reports and with parents means that it surely can't be ignored or sidelined by fair-minded policy-makers any longer. So our hope is that in raising it once again policy-makers will finally realise that until they address this issue effectively and decisively, they will continue to be embarrassed by it.’

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, ‘As an August-born baby myself, I confess I have a personal interest in this. The evidence strongly makes the case that summer-born children are at a disadvantage when starting school for no other reason than they may be almost a year younger than some of their peers. Given that they may be less emotionally and psychologically mature than their peers due to the age difference, we would welcome the recent proposal by the Institute for Fiscal Studies that such children have their exam results "age-adjusted" to reflect their younger age.’

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