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Government announces plans to help parents delay a child's school start

08 September 2015
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The Department for Education has today published an open letter from Nick Gibb, Minister of State for School Reform, announcing proposed changes to the Admissions Code in England. It details plans to reform the code to provide more flexibility to parents of summer born children to delay their child’s school start.

This follows a debate led by Stephen Hammond MP on 7 September where the Minister also stated he would consider the possibility of due date being used to make admissions decisions for children who were born premature.

It comes after years of campaigning by Bliss, and means that parents should find it much easier to delay their child’s school start.

Research has shown that 30 per cent of premature children would have been born into a different school year group had they reached their due date. It is likely that these children may suffer from developmental delays, having spent the first few weeks or months of their life in hospital, therefore they may suffer academically and socially if they are forced to start school before they are ready.

Bliss Chief Executive Caroline Davey said: “This is positive news, particularly for children who may have been turned down under the current Admissions Code. There is currently a lack of consistency in schools admissions policies, but today’s announcement will allow parents to decide what is best for their child.

“Bliss warmly welcomes the announcement and looks forward to hearing further details and working with the government to get the best possible framework for premature born children”.

Under the current system a child can start reception the term after they turn four, but they legally do not have to start school until they are five. For summer born children this means they either start reception very soon after turning four, or join year one at five years old – missing reception altogether. Alternatively, their parents can apply for them to ‘delay’ – which means requesting that they start reception year at five years old instead.

However, many admissions authorities are resistant to these applications, so many children are denied the opportunity to delay, which can have a severe impact on their development.

Mum of two Tiffany Hill was able to successfully delay her daughter’s school start: “Ella had to cope with the developmental struggles that many severely premature children face, so we decided that it was right for her to start school a year later. We were one of the first in our borough to be accepted but we had to go through a lengthy application process and I know that parents are often turned down. I was delighted to hear about the decision to allow summer born children to delay their school start. It means that parents can make a case by case decision for their child based on their child's progress, maturity and needs.”

Before the new changes are finalised, there will be a public consultation which is yet to be released.

If your child is going to be starting school before the new changes are brought in and you would like support in delaying your child’s school year, visit our campaigns pages, or call our helpline on 0500 618 140

If you would like to read more about the proposed changes, please click here. Please note that these changes only apply to England. Bliss will continue to campaign for equivalent changes in Wales and Northern Ireland.

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