Warwickshire County Council has said it will review its decisions in two cases in which it denied parents’ requests for deferred summer-born children to start school in reception class rather than year one after receiving criticism from the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman (LGO).
The LGO said that the council failed to properly consider whether it was in the complainants' children’s best interests to join reception or year one when they started school the following year. The LGO reported that, in response, Warwickshire agreed to review its decisions in the cases.
In the first case, Mrs B’s son, S, turned three years old in August 2018. In December 2018, Mr and Mrs B submitted a ‘deferred entry’ application to the council. This is the term the council uses for applications for summer-born children to start school in reception a year after their normal age group.
In February 2019, the council wrote to Mr and Mrs B with its decision to refuse their application. It said that it had decided to refuse the application because the information they provided did not evidence that S was not meeting the required milestones and it was therefore not in S’s best interests to be educated outside of his chronological peer group. It told Mr and Mrs B that if they decided to delay S’s entry into school until September 2020, he would have to join the year one cohort at that stage, and it was therefore in his best interests to start school in reception during the 2019/2020 academic year.
The second complaint concerned, Mr and Ms B’s daughter, J, who turned three years old in August 2018. In November 2018, Ms B submitted a ‘deferred entry’ application to the council. In February 2019, the council wrote to Ms B with its decision to refuse her application. It said that it had decided to refuse the application because the information she provided did not evidence that J was not meeting the relevant development milestones and it was therefore not in J’s best interests to be educated outside of her chronological peer group. It told Ms B that if she decided to delay J’s entry into school until September 2020, she would have to join the year one cohort at that stage, and it was therefore in her best interests to start school in reception during the 2019/2020 academic year.
The county council said that it would review its overall policy in this regard. It said: “Warwickshire County Council is currently reviewing policy, guidance to parents and staff, together with decisions involving children and families, to ensure that they comply with legislation and statutory guidance.”
Key points on the admission of summer-born children in the Department for Education’s advice include:
- School admission authorities are required to provide for the admission of all children in the September following their fourth birthday, but flexibilities exist for children whose parents do not feel they are ready to begin school before they reach compulsory school age.
- 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 a child should be admitted to. They are required to make a decision on the basis of the circumstances of the case and in the best interests of the child concerned.
- There is no statutory barrier to children being admitted outside their normal age group, but parents do not have the right to insist that their child is admitted to a particular age group.
A copy of the DfE’s advice on summer-born admissions can be found at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/838983/Summer_born_admissions_advice_Dec_2014.pdf