Completed petition To Amend the School Admissions Code Relating to Summer-Born Children

We call on the National Assembly for Wales to urge the Welsh Government to consider amending the School Admissions Code where it relates to admission outside the normal age group, in respect of summer-born children(1 April - 31 August).

Owing to the timing of school entry points, summer-born children are put at a significant disadvantage compared to their peers. They may suffer adverse emotional and educational impacts as they start their formal education at a much younger age. As such, parents may choose to defer their summer-born child's entry into school until they reach compulsory school age, as is their legal right. However, most find that their child is put straight into Year 1,missing the crucial Reception year, which research shows to be the most important year in education.

Most parents prefer their child to enter the Reception year at compulsory school age rather than Year 1. Under the School Admissions Code, this is theoretically possible. In principle,the Code gives parents the ability to request that their summer-born be educated outside their normal age group. In practice, the wording of the Code has proven to be extremely problematic: case studies have shown that the provision is inconsistently applied by Local Education Authorities and requests have rarely been granted.

The following amendments should be considered by the Welsh Government: 

(1)As the first option, requests to defer children with birthdays in summer months should be automatically approved (as is the case in Scotland); 

(2)Alternatively, the wording of the existing provision should be amended to strengthen the rights of parents to choose when their child enters Reception class, also emphasising that Local Education Authorities must fully consider requests and issuing Governmental guidance to this end; 

(3)In either case, provision should be made for children educated outside their age group to remain with their adopted cohort throughout their school life.

More details

A recent study conducted by the Department for Education aimed to show that delaying entry to primary school has little impact on attainment. This study should be consulted by the Welsh Government with caution. This study was very limited, measuring ONLY academic attainment and excluding all children with special or additional needs. Academic attainment is very unlikely to be the main reason that parents choose to decelerate their child's entry into primary education.

School readiness is not about a child's academic ability, but about emotional and social maturity. It is these skills that will help a child to make friends, to deal with their emotions, to follow instructions and concentrate and to foster good mental health. The attainment of these skills cannot be measured with a phonics test.

The Foundation Phase curriculum in Wales will not meet the needs of every child in Wales; it cannot. This must not be given as a reason for refusing such requests. A more flexible admissions policy is needed to take children's individual needs and their best interests into consideration. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) emphasises that the education of the child shall be directed to the development of the child's personality, talents and physical abilities to their fullest abilities (Article 29(1)(a)). By putting summer-born children at a disadvantage, this School Admissions Code does not achieve that.

Other devolved countries within the UK are already ahead of Wales in this respect. Nick Gibb, Minister of State for School Standards, has made a commitment to amend the School Admissions Code for England to reflect this parental choice. In Scotland, children of equivalent age are automatically granted a deferral if their parents request it and will not miss any school years in doing so.

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