Summer-born pupils should start at age 5


Summer-born children should be able to start school a year later to stop them being disadvantaged by the age gap with their winter-born classmates, according to The Education Committee.

There is growing evidence that children born late in the academic year who start school at four are already at a disadvantage just 12 months later.

Children generally start school in the September before their fifth birthday, even though they may not turn five until almost a year after some of their peers.

Many parents of summer-born and premature babies want their children to start formal schooling later than is required by local authorities.

Some fear there is an impact on the child's ability and confidence when they compare themselves with older classmates.

Ministers have now sent guidance to schools and councils that could end the anguish of parents whose children are forced to start formal education at barely four.

The guidelines make it clear that parents have the right to request their summer-born children start reception classes at five instead.

Schools and councils must consider the requests in light of ‘research into the outcomes of summer-born and premature children’. The advice applies to those born between April 1 and August 31.

The Department for Education guidance says: ‘In recent months, an increasing number of cases have come to the attention of the department and ministers in which parents, local authorities and admissions authorities have struggled to agree on the year group in which it is most appropriate for a summer-born child to start school.’

The advice, drawn up with help from parents, adds: ‘There are no statutory barriers to admitting a child of five to a reception class.’

Department for Education figures show 62 per cent of those born between May and August fail to meet minimum expected levels in areas such as reading, writing, speaking, maths and listening.

By contrast, just 40 per cent of children born between September and December fall behind. The report said: ‘Month of birth has the largest impact on the literacy and mathematics areas of learning.’

Separate research has shown that, on average, summer-borns do worse at GCSE and A-level and are less likely to go to university. They are also more likely to be bullied and be unhappy at school.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies says the disparity between September and August-born children is so great that summer-borns should be given weighted test results to compensate.

Campaigners have welcomed the guidance but call on ministers to go further and introduce an absolute right for summer-borns to start reception classes at five.

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