New report shows rise in number of school delay requests for premature children

Posted on May 22, 2018

The report found that the number of requests for delayed school starts has increased significantly but the proportion of granted requests has stayed the same.

Last week, the Department for Education released a report following a survey of both Local Authorities and parents about delaying admission to reception class for summer-born children. The report found that 15 per cent of children whose admission was delayed were born premature, which is more than double the rate of prematurity amongst the general population.[i]

The report also found evidence of a post-code lottery, with local policy affecting the likelihood of a school admission delay request being accepted. Only 11 per cent of Local Authorities who responded to the survey accept all requests to delay primary school start, compared to 26 per cent who only accept requests if there is very strong evidence about why a delay is necessary. The report also found that fewer requests are received in areas with stricter policies while more requests are received in areas with a more flexible approach.

Further findings include:

  • The number of requests for delayed school entry has increased significantly over the two-year period that the Local Authority survey asked about (2015-2017). However the proportion of requests which were granted has stayed the same at 75 per cent.
  • The majority of children whose admission was delayed were born in the later ‘’summer months’’ – 22 per cent were born in July and 53 per cent were born in August.
  • The number of requests for delayed school entry has increased significantly over the two-year period that the Local Authority survey asked about (2015-2017). However the proportion of requests which were granted has stayed the same at 75 per cent.
  • The majority of children whose admission was delayed were born in the later ‘’summer months’’ – 22 per cent were born in July and 53 per cent were born in August.

Bliss has been campaigning for many years for greater flexibility around school start for children born premature in the summer months. Children born premature develop according to their due-date, rather than their actual birth date and some children even fall into the ‘wrong year’ after being due in the autumn and born in the summer. Starting school at this point may exacerbate any developmental delays they are experiencing due to their prematurity.

Despite there being no legal reason why parents cannot delay their child’s school start, many admission authorities are reluctant to grant permission. In 2015 the Government committed  to amend the School Admissions Code to allow all children who are summer-born to have their school start delayed, however there has been no progress on this so far.

Bliss Chief Executive, Caroline Lee-Davey says: ‘’While Bliss welcomes this report and renewed focus on summer-born admissions, we are deeply concerned that there has been no legislative change nearly three years on from Government commitments to amend the School Admissions Code.

‘’This new evidence demonstrates that there is growing demand for this flexibility, however an unacceptable post-code lottery exists which is preventing children in some areas from starting school at a time which is most suited to their needs – despite this being perfectly acceptable by law.

‘’Every year Bliss hears from many concerned parents who feel their prematurely-born children would benefit from delayed entry to school. We urge the Government to make good on their commitment and amend the school admissions code so all children who are born premature in the summer-months are able to delay their school start if their parents feel this is in their best interests.’’

[i] Office for National Statistics, (2011). Gestation-specific Infant Mortality in England and Wales, 2011.