Yorkshire parents hoping to delay their children being sent to school face ‘postcode lottery’

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Parents across the region hoping to delay their children being sent to school are subject to a postcode lottery, new figures obtained by The Yorkshire Post reveal.

Education Minister Nick Gibb announced in September 2015 that the Government intended to change admissions rules to prevent summer-born children from being forced to go straight into Year 1, providing greater flexibility for parents and teachers.

But data released under the Freedom of Information Act indicates that ongoing delays to the proposed reform has meant that councils have no clear guidance when it comes to making a decision.

From September 2014 up until April this year, there were 419 requests from parents to the county’s 15 local education authorities to delay the school start time for their summer-born children, with 335 applications approved and 80 rejected – almost a quarter. The figures show huge disparities across the region when it comes to approving requests, with some councils, including North Yorkshire and York, approving all of them and others, such as Leeds and Sheffield, granting the majority.

However, some are taking a tougher stance, with Kirklees rejecting almost half of its 37 applications during this period.

And when councils do agree to the delay, many are placing pupils straight into Year 1, rather than reception, according to campaigners.

One mother of premature summer-born twins, who suffer with severe anxiety issues, told The Yorkshire Post how she had been forced to endure an eight-month battle with Kirklees Council, which initially refused to 
allow the four-year-old girls to start reception a year later.

Now MP for Batley and Spen Tracy Brabin, who has a summer-born daughter, has called for more uniformity and transparency from councils.

Mrs Brabin, who has been helping Kirklees mother Laura Riach to secure a delayed reception start time for her twins, said: “It can’t be a postcode lottery, can it? I will be pushing for more open conversation around these decisions. It shouldn’t just be people in a locked room talking about a child’s future.

“There needs to be a kinder, more transparent and more consistent approach across local authorities. We all went the best for our children. A parent wouldn’t want to hold back their child unless their child really wasn’t ready.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We want all children to have an equal chance to excel in school and are concerned that some children may be missing the reception year. We are carefully considering how best to address these issues and any impact this may have on the admissions system.”

Mother’s battle: Page 6; Comment: Page 16.