MPs call for parents' right of appeal over summer-born school start

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MPs have urged school reform minister Nick Gibb to give parents of summer-born children a right of appeal if their requests for a later school start are turned down.

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Parents of summer-born children find it a struggle to delay the school start for their child

Currently parents have to abide by the decision of their local authority or academy, which means that their summer-born child may be forced to start school in Year 1.

The committee has heard evidence from campaigners and parents of summer-borns that revisions to the School Admissions Code last year and DfE advice have failed to make it easier for parents to request that their child start Reception rather than Year 1 at the age of five.

Mr Gibb told the MPs at the hearing that he would look at the issue and the letter is a formal request that he do so.

An analysis of the extra cost of summer-born children being misdiagnosed as having special educational needs should also be carried out, the MPs said.

Committee chair Graham Stuart MP said, ‘It was very clear that the month of a child’s birth has a measurable effect on their academic outcomes and their likelihood of SEN diagnosis.’

‘We also heard that there is a greater risk of summer-born children being bullied, and placed in low-ability groups.

‘In particular, some parents find their summer-born child may be forced to start school in Year 1, rather than Reception, when the child reaches compulsory school age. Even if parents think their child is not ready, they currently have no right to appeal this decision.’

The committee has also asked the Department for Education to consider what other action it should take to communicate Government guidance on the issue to school admissions authorities, as well as guidance for parents on how to request that their summer-born child start in Reception.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the  Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, 'We welcome this recommendation by the Education Committee as an important first step in recognising that parents should have a far greater say on when their child starts school than the admission code currently allows. However, it’s clear that much more needs to be done to ensure that parents are not pressured into placing their children into school before they feel that they are ready.'

'Parents are clearly best placed to understand the needs of their own child, and so it should be for them, and not admission authorities, to decide whether or not placing their child into reception, rather than Year 1, at five is in their best interest. '

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