What the law says about delaying starting school

If you are considering delaying the start of school for your child born premature, find out more about what the law says.

Your child’s school place will be determined by an Admission Authority. An Admission Authority is the school or local authority responsible for allocating a school place to your child. 

You can check on your local council's website to see what schools they make admission decisions for.

Delaying means requesting for your child to start reception at compulsory school age, which is five years old, rather than the age of four. If this is something you are considering, you would need to contact the Admission Authority for approval. 

While there is no legal reason why your child can’t be admitted out of their normal year group, many schools and local authorities are reluctant to allow it, so it is likely you will have to make a strong case to convince them that it is in the best interest of your child.

Admission Authorities will deal with applications to delay school entry based on the information in the School Admissions Code. 

An updated code was released in December 2014, this code will shape admission procedures for children starting school from September 2016.

Use the link below to read detailed information about your child starting school from September 2016. 

Starting school from September 2016

If your child is due to start school from September 2016, the procedures will be based on the School Admissions Code 2014.

You can also read our delay fact sheet which accompanies this code and has lots of information on how to apply and the practicalities of doing so.

For the first time the code tells authorities that they should take into account whether the child has any emotional or social delays, the views of medical professionals and whether the child would have fallen into a different year group had they been born full-term. 

Authorities must make decisions based on each individual application and must take into account the best interests of the child. 

Schools are also not allowed to have a policy forbidding parents from making these requests.

New Guidance on the Admission of Summer Borns was also released in December 2014. This guidance clearly explains how children develop according to when they should have been born. 

It also outlines the different ways that children who were born premature may be developmentally delayed, especially if they have fallen into the 'wrong' year group.

The guidance stresses and reiterates that decisions should be made in a child’s best interests. This should be emphasised in your application to strengthen it.

In order to make your application as strong and effective as possible, putting together a pack of evidence is recommended. This pack should include a cover letter from yourself and the guidance and statements from healthcare and educational professionals who have been involved in the care of your child. 

What to include in your application pack

Information on how to apply for a delayed school entry date and what to include in your application pack.
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