Delaying school entry - Tiffany's story

Tiffany's Story Hero

Tiffany Hill's daughter Ella was born prematurely in 2011. Due to her early birth in summer, when it was time for Ella to start school she was due to go a whole year earlier than if she had been born full-term.

“In July 2011 I gave birth to my beautiful twins, Ella and Declan, at 25 weeks gestation. Ella weighed 1lb 6oz and was rushed to intensive care straight away. Sadly, Declan didn’t make it, he was stillborn.

We finally got to see Ella when she was ten hours old, but we were too terrified to touch her, she was so small and there were so many wires and tubes. We were told that there was a one third chance that she would die, a one third chance that she would have serious long-term complications, and a one third chance that she would be ok.

In the nineteen weeks she spent in hospital, she suffered from a variety of problems including one of the worst conditions a premature baby can face, Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC). NEC is a condition where tissues in the intestine become inflamed and begin to die, potentially causing a serious infection. Luckily she pulled through with no major issues. However she soon contracted a virus (Cytomegalovirus) from my milk, which had no way of being treated. She suffered from this for several months, diminishing all hopes we’d had for her to come home before her due date.

Because of the virus she didn’t put on any weight for a month, which was worrying as she was also fighting a heart problem known as Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA), and a serious eye condition. After an operation to fix her PDA she really improved, and after several infections, an operation and 20 blood transfusions, she finally came home.

She has been a happy, healthy child ever since, but has had to cope with the developmental struggles that many severely premature children face. Despite warnings about the impossibility of the task, we decided that it was best for Ella to start school in the year she would have been placed in according to her due date, delaying her school entry by a year.

Based on information and support from Bliss, we put together an application pack, including a cover letter detailing our case. We specifically avoided any discussion about special needs, in part because Ella has none that we are yet aware of, but primarily because we felt this was not a case of accommodating a special need but simply allowing her to attend school with the healthy, full term children that were conceived at the same time she was.

We also included a Bayleys assessment of her development with a supporting letter from her neonatal consultant, an early years foundation assessment carried out by her nursery, a letter of support from her dietician consultant, a letter of support from Bliss, and guidance from the Department of Education.

We submitted the application in March to the School Admissions Manager, as we wanted Ella to go to a community school. We received a confirmation letter in the post in early May agreeing to the request, with the caveats that we would need to delay her application to nursery and that we would need to make a new application for Ella’s secondary school when that time comes.

We are one of the first in our borough to be successful and we were told that a formal process has now been set up for others seeking a similar outcome in our borough. I hope that this will be the start of the other London boroughs putting a similar process in place. I know many of you out there may be struggling, so hopefully our story will give you hope to keep trying, as I think things are starting to change !“

If you would like to know more about delaying your child’s school entry, you can find help and support here.