Starting reception at compulsory school age: it’s a yes from first preference school

Today is the start of the school summer holidays, and what a weird summer term this has been! Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the boys haven’t been at school since mid March. As I blogged about recently, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to experience home ed, albeit a more restricted version than we would have in normal times. Back at the start of the school year in September, I wrote a blog post to introduce our journey of applying for our summer born twins to start reception at compulsory school age (CSA – 5 years old). It had been my intention to catch the head teacher of the school the boys go to in the playground some time during the summer term to talk about this. Of course that wasn’t possible in the end. Yet I still wanted to try to get a feel for her position on this before the application round opens in October later this year, because if it was going to prove difficult at this school, then I would need time to look around other local schools and talk to their head teachers before the application round closes. I didn’t know when would be a good time to email, given how stressful her job must be at the moment, so I sent the email below, emphasising that I didn’t expect her to reply quickly.

I thought it would be helpful to publish the email I sent here, in case it helps anyone else who is thinking of going through the process to ask the right question. We as parents have the legal right to not send our children to school until the September after their 5th birthday; the question that a school admissions authority (in this case it is the school rather than the LEA because it’s a voluntary aided school) has to answer is: Is it in the child(ren)’s best interests to be in reception or year 1 when they start at CSA?

Dear Mrs W,

First I’d like to express our thanks for all your hard work over the past months. We have been impressed at how well the unprecedented crisis has been managed by the school staff. 

I’m sure you’re still very busy with the end of term and plans for the autumn, so I do appreciate that replying to this email probably isn’t high on your priority list. I was hoping to catch you at school when dropping off Andrew and Joel, and speak in person sometime during this summer term, but obviously that hasn’t been possible. 

I am writing about our twins’ school place application. They were born in June 2017; therefore we are eligible to apply for school places in the forthcoming admissions round which ends in January 2021, for them to start reception aged 4 years in September 2021. However, as I’m sure you’re aware, compulsory school age isn’t until the beginning of the term after a child’s 5th birthday. Furthermore, the School Admissions Code (December 2014) section 2.17 states that “the parents of a summer born child may choose not to send that child to school until the September following their 5th birthday and may request that they are admitted out of their normal age group – to reception rather than year 1.”

I strongly believe that it is in our twins’ best interests to start school at compulsory school age, for a variety of reasons which I am happy to discuss. Therefore they won’t be attending school until the September after their 5th birthday (2022). Moreover, I strongly believe that reception is a vital year of education for children, and therefore it is in their best interests to not miss out on this important foundation, to not go straight into year 1. 

So my question is: would BVPS support a request for our summer born children to be admitted out of their normal age group, to start school at compulsory school age in reception?

I look forward to hearing from you in due course.
Best wishes,

Ruth

I had a lovely phone call from the head teacher yesterday afternoon. I hadn’t necessarily been expecting to hear back before the summer holidays, but she said it was in fact a pretty easy and quick question to answer! Yes, she’s right, when a head teacher understands the question correctly, it is indeed simple. She said that she has never declined a request to admit a summer born child out of their normal age group, because she takes the view that the parents know the child best and she won’t question that. She absolutely agrees that reception year is essential, it’s called early years foundation for good reason, and to miss out on this by going straight into year 1 would be a really bad idea.

I’m so relieved that the school we have got on with so well over the past 5 years is also on our wavelength in this respect. She also gave me details of what I need to do in terms of the administration of applying for school places – in Birmingham (though it varies!) I still have to apply in this coming round, adding a note that I intend to decelerate them, then apply again the following year, when it would be considered as a fresh application with the same criteria as the year before (our address and sibling preference mean we would get places in either year).

So, as I had hoped, it turns out I don’t have a lot to write about this process. Not everyone is so lucky though, as the Flexible School Admissions Facebook group can attest. If you need support on this, I’d highly recommend this group.

We’re now looking forward to two years of nursery for the twins, starting in September. An extra year of play in life – here we come!

Follow me on social media

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *