Four days too old: Mum wins school battle with council to hold son back a year

Oscar Lawler and mum Mary. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
Oscar Lawler and mum Mary. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
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A MOTHER has won a battle against a council to hold her son back a school year - because he was born four days before the academic cut-off date.

Three-year-old Oscar Lawler was born on August 28 - just four days before September 1, a date which dictates when children should start at school.

But his mother, Mary, 34, was convinced Oscar wouldn’t be ready to start in reception class in September this year.

She appealed to Bradford Council, who eventually allowed her to fight her case at a panel hearing.

Mrs Lawler, married to accountant Michael, 37, and also mum to 16-month-old Adair, said: “It was firstly an age argument. The small number of days is absolutely nothing when you think about a child’s development.

“Oscar was born bang on time, but if he had been just a few days late then he would have passed the cut-off for starting school. The fact that it’s such a short space of time means that it makes no sense to send children to school when they are not ready.

“He also had a language delay in his early years so I think he needs another year at nursery to develop a bit more.”

Mrs Lawler added: “It is not compulsory for parents to send their children to school at the age of four - they can miss reception and instead start year one at the age of five.

“But I didn’t want Oscar to miss a whole year of school, I wanted him to start school a year later but in the same year he would have done so he gets all the opportunities offered.

“I didn’t think it would even be possible to delay his starting date, but last summer the Department for Education put out guidelines for summer-born admissions.

“They said they believe that parents should be able to say that their children aren’t ready.

“That was last summer, and so from September I’ve been battling with Bradford Council.”

Mrs Lawler contacted the admissions service at Bradford Council several times, who at first told her the change wasn’t possible.

“They said they had seen the new guidelines but that wasn’t their policy,” she said.

“Eventually I was told I needed to contact the head of children’s services, who told me that the D of E says that a panel can be set up, which isn’t an automatic right but something that can be done.”

A panel - made up of an educational psychologist, early years achievement office and a headteacher - first met in January, but afterward told her that they didn’t have enough information to make their decision. A second panel meeting was set up which Mrs Lawler attended.

A week after the meeting in February, Mary received a letter telling her that the panel had accepted her argument.

Oscar will now attend nursery as he has been doing - 15 hours a week - for another and start reception classes at school in September 2015.

Coun Ralph Berry, Bradford Council’s Executive Member for Children’s Services, said: “Children can start full time school in the September following their fourth birthday. Flexibility exists for children whose parents feel their child is not ready to begin school at this point and admission can be deferred until later in the academic year or until the term in which the child reaches

compulsory school age - the term after their fifth birthday.

“The Department for Education issued non-statutory guidance in July 2013 to help local authorities and parents understand the framework within which school admissions must operate. Bradford Council has revised its existing policy on the admission of summer born children in the light of this guidance and considers individual circumstances on their merits.

“The Council looks at requests to defer school admission on a case-by-case basis and arranged a special panel to look at this request.”