Fears for summer-born children

Schools admissions policies are being looked into amid worries that summer-born children are falling behind in the classroom.

Schools admissions policies are being looked into amid worries that summer-born children are falling behind in the classroom.

Minister Nick Gibb said he was “concerned” about the number of youngsters who are being admitted to school before their parents think they are ready and admitted that reforms to guidance last year had not reduced the number of contentious cases.

In a letter to the education select committee, he said evidence showed that pupils born between April 1 and August 31 are “more likely” to be identified as having special educational needs (SEN).

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Earlier this year, the cross-party group called on the Government to ensure education authorities and academy schools were more flexible with admissions for children who fall between those dates.

Education committee chairman Neil Carmichael said: “Parents told us that there is still a problem here, despite previous work on the school admissions code which aimed to clear this up. No child should miss out on a year of schooling, and admissions decisions need to be made in the best interests of the child, not administrative neatness.

“The Minister’s additional evidence clearly shows that when you are born affects what happens to you at school. A child is much more likely to be identified as having special educational needs if they are born on 31 August than on 1 September. There are important issues here for the Government to look at.”

Summer born children sometimes miss out on reception year altogether and can end up as the youngest and smallest members of a class whose other pupils have already had a year to get used to school life.

Under guidance issued last year, school admission authorities are required to provide admission for all children in the September following their fourth birthday – but there is flexibility for parents who do not feel their son or daughter is ready for the classroom.

Where a parent requests their child is admitted out of their normal age group, the school admission authority is responsible for making the decision on which year group they should join.

Mr Gibb said most parents were happy for their child to begin school in the September after their fourth birthday.

But he added: “I am concerned, however, about the number of these cases in which it appears that children are admitted to year one against their parents’ wishes and, as a consequence, entirely miss their reception year.”

The Minister said that the guidance had been introduced to allow the best interests of a child to be put first.

“Unfortunately, as yet, there does not seem to have been any reduction in the number of contentious cases,” he added.

“I have, therefore, asked officials for advice on how this issue may be resolved.”

Meanwhile, a study has revealed that a third of parents on lower incomes have skipped meals during the school holidays to ensure their children eat. More than six out of 10 parents on incomes of less than £25,000 cannot always afford food outside of term time and 31 per cent have skipped a meal so that their children can eat, a report commissioned by Kellogg’s found.

The report, Isolation And Hunger: The Impact Of The School Holidays On Struggling Families, which it delivered to MPs today, found 73 per cent of parents with incomes of less than £15,000 could not always afford food during the holidays and 41 per cent in this group had skipped meals in favour of their children.