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Clarity for premature born children starting school

19 December 2014

The Department for Education has issued the new English School Admissions Code and updated version of the Advice on the Admission of Summer Born Children, to sit alongside this. These documents give greater clarity to Admissions Authorities that prematurity is a factor which they should be taking into account when deciding if delaying a child’s start in reception till they are five is in their best interests. They will be applicable to applications in 2015 for the 2016/2017 school year and onwards.

Complications associated with prematurity can delay a child’s development meaning they may not be ready to start school following their fourth birthday. With just a little more time to develop many of these children catch up with their peers without any significant additional needs.

We are delighted that, for the first time, Admissions Authorities are being told that they must take into account, the child’s academic, social and emotional development, their medical history and whether they would have been in a different year group had they not been born premature. In the Guidance, there is also a sub-section dedicated to children who were born premature and the different issues they may face, which authorities should be considering. As well as this, authorities are under greater pressure to have a process in place to handle these applications in a standardised, coherent way.

We welcome these changes and believe they are a big step in the right direction for those children who were born premature and need a little more time to develop before entering a formal school setting. We hope this greater clarity in both the Code and Guidance will help more children start school at a time that is right for them, so they can get their school career off to the very best start.

However, we do recognise that there is still more to be done before it meets the needs of all children. We want parents to have full rights to appeal and children should be guaranteed to stay in their adopted year group throughout their school career. We are concerned the emphasis still remains on children born premature in the summer months, when many struggle developmentally regardless of what point in the year they were born.

Bliss believes that there is still a need for greater flexibility, and we will continue to campaign on this issue, although we hope these new changes will benefit more children than before. Thank you to everyone who has shared your experiences and opinions with us, it has helped to shape our campaign work and we are really proud with today’s outcomes.

You can find out more about starting school here.

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