The non-statutory advice has been produced to help local authorities, admission authorities and parents of children born during June, July and August understand the framework within which admission authorities must operate.
It also aims to dispel some of the myths that the DfE says have arisen around the admission of children born in the summer. it should be read in conjunction with the School Admissions Code 2012.
The advice was created by parents of summer-born children including Stefan Richter, who as Nursery World reported in January, won the case to defer his daughter’s school entry by a year. Bliss, the charity for premature babies, also contributed to the revised advice.
According to the DfE, in recent months an increasing number of cases have come to its attention in which parents and authorities have struggled to agree on the year group in which it is most appropriate for a summer born child to start school.
The advice, in a question and answer style format, covers the flexibility in the school admissions code, who is responsible for making a decision about deferred school entry, what factors are taken into account when delaying school start and possible implications of starting school a year later.
It clarifies that flexibilities exist for children whose parents do not feel they are ready to begin school in the September after their fourth birthday.
It also states that school admission authorities, which are responsible for making a decision on what year group a child should be admitted to, are required to make a decision based on the circumstances of each case.
It goes on to say that there is no statutory barrier to children being admitted outside their normal year group.
Stefan Richter told Nursery World, ‘The advice does not go as far as we would have liked, but it's a start. At least the Department for Education acknowledges that there is a problem, even if they weren't able to make any recommendations on how Admissions Authorities should deal with such cases, all we were able to achieve was some gentle guidance. David Laws, the minister of state for schools, appears to agree as he had to sign it off.
‘Ideally we would have liked to see a recommendation stating that requests for so called "delays" or summer-born children are granted by default, but maybe this is something we can achieve further down the road.’