Schools Minister Nick Gibb announced the government’s intention to give summer-born children the right to start in reception at the age of 5.
The minister said admissions rules must be changed so children born between April 1 and August 31 cannot be forced to go straight into year 1 if they wait to start school until they turn 5.
He has written an open letter to encourage schools and local authorities to take immediate action, in advance of the proposed changes, and allow summer-born children to start in reception aged 5 if that is what parents want.
The government believes parents and teachers are best placed to decide what is right for their child, and summer-born children should have the same opportunity to excel at school as their peers - even if that means starting reception a year later.
The changes are designed to give parents and teachers flexibility, and the majority of summer-born children will still start school when they turn 4 rather than waiting.
If they do start school later, the children will be able to remain with the same age group as they progress, including into secondary school.
Children usually start school in the September after they turn 4 but parents of summer-born children can ask to delay entry to reception for a year.
Schools and councils often say summer-born pupils must go straight into year 1 and miss out on the reception year altogether - as a result parents can feel pressured to send their child to school before they are ready.
A consultation will now be carried out now and the reforms will have to be approved by Parliament.
In his letter, the minister said that the existing system is not working - with parents and the authorities ‘often failing to agree on what is in the child’s best interests’.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:
As part of our plan to extend social justice and opportunity, we want all children to have an equal chance to excel in school regardless of when they are born.
Parents know their children best and we want to make sure summer-born children can start reception at the age of 5, if their parents think it is in their best interests.
We are going to make changes to admission rules - but we want councils and academies to take immediate action.
The school admissions code currently requires the admission authority to make a decision on the year group a summer-born 5-year-old should be admitted to on the basis of the circumstances of the case and in the best interests of the child.
Parents also have the right to send their child to school on a part-time basis before they reach the compulsory school age.
In his letter, the minister wrote:
We have decided that it is necessary to amend the school admissions code further to ensure that summer-born children can be admitted to the reception class at the age of 5 if it is in line with their parents’ wishes, and to ensure that those children are able to remain with that cohort as they progress through school, including through to secondary school.
We will conduct a full public consultation in due course; and subject to Parliamentary approval will introduce these further changes to ensure that no child is forced to start school before they are ready.
Notes to editors
- Read Nick Gibb’s letter about school admissions.
- All children born from 1 April to 31 August are ‘summer-born’ for admissions purposes.
- A child does not reach compulsory school age until the prescribed day following their fifth birthday (or on their fifth birthday if it falls on a prescribed day). The prescribed days are 31 December, 31 March and 31 August.