The Summer Born Victory

The whole ‘Summer Born Babies’ campaign is very close to my heart and I’ve written a number of posts on this subject, you can read them all here.

I’m sure you’ve seen the news, it’s been all over the TV and National press recently, where Schools Minister Nick Gibb said admissions rules would be changed so that children born in the Summer Term (or between 1 April and 31 August) would be allowed to go into reception a year later if their parents felt they were not ready for school at four years old. Changes to the admissions rules will have to be approved by parliament, which will hopefully happen soon, but in the mean time Nick Gibb has written an open letter to schools and local authorities. It urges them to take immediate action and allow summer-born children to start in reception aged five if parents request it.

To say I’m over the moon about this would be an understatement.

I went through a very stressful time trying to delay my twins a year, and didn’t win my battle unfortunately, so these changes are too late to help me. But I’m so happy that the Summer Born campaigning group that supported me and so many others, have brought about this monumental change.

I’m happy that our very real concerns as parents have been noted, and that 30 years of research surrounding the birth date effect on childrens’ success in school, has finally been recognised.

I was tormented when my own little summer born twins were forced to start reception at just turned four, when I knew they weren’t ready. I fought with Hertfordshire County Council to delay for a year, but they didn’t budge, even though my twins were premature, and even with support I’d managed to get from the DfE. The Dfe, incidentally, had already issued statements to admissions authorities, clearly advising them that delaying until CSA (compulsory school age, which is 5) should be carefully considered if parents believed it was in their child’s best interests.

summer born twinsMy tiny boys on their first day at school, aged 4 years and 1 week.. looking happy enough posing for pics, but the smiles didn’t last long.

Hertfordshire CC, I discovered, were notoriously difficult. There was only one case that I knew of at the time where delaying had been allowed, and that was fought for months and months, with the little girl in question having severe learning difficulties etc. No one else had succeeded. Including me.

Even now, two years later, Hertfordshire have still refused pretty much every single request and I think it’s disgusting. They should be ashamed of themselves.

No parent wants to delay their child starting school unless they feel strongly that their barely 4 yr old, is not ready and may not cope. Some summer borns will be fine, especially those with early summer birthdays and some late August borns may be ready. Young, yes but confident enough to get on with it and thrive.

Some however, like my twins (who shouldn’t have been born until the end of September, which would’ve meant starting school a year later anyway) are still very immature and really would benefit from another year at home or nursery.

I insisted that my twins go to school part-time then, if they DID have to start at 4. I knew my rights and so I treated it like Nursery, picking them up at lunch time each day. They didn’t want to stay for lunch, it was far too daunting for them, and because they weren’t 5, I knew I couldn’t be forced to make them stay. These half days worked well. Then I would pick them up after lunch and built up to a full week. But they realistically didn’t do full weeks until the summer term, as I would keep them off a day here and a day there, if they were tired.

I have to say that this was in no way detrimental to their academic progress. I’m a firm believer that if a child isn’t happy, they won’t learn anyway… being upset and miserable at school would not only prevent them from learning, but it could also have a massive impact on their well being and education for the rest of their school days.

My boys have just gone into Year 2.

Even though they’re at a good school and they’ve made some lovely friends, it still hurts me to see them so small and vulnerable next to their much bigger peers.

My twins also have the added affliction of being extremely shy, which makes certain situations very stressful for them. They won’t join in with sharing assemblies, they’ve only just started to read out loud (very quietly) and don’t want to do sport of any kind.

The shyness IS getting better, but very slowly and I’m 100% sure that their decision to dismiss sports is because (like one of the arguments for this summer born research clearly points out) they are much smaller, weaker and less confident than their classmates who do join in with sports.

It’s sad. But at the moment I’m trying not to think about it. I’m hoping they will change their minds in the future and start enjoying sport of some kind. I think it will benefit them hugely.

We recently went along for the Year 2 curriculum meeting with their class teacher. I was astonished at what children of this age group are expected to achieve by the end of this school year! The curriculum has apparently just changed… it’s become harder. Not what you want to hear when your children are the youngest. At this moment, I cannot imagine my twins getting to grips with even half of what’s expected.

But their teacher is aware of my concerns, she’s known my boys since reception and reassures me that they will be ‘fine’. They’re improving all the time and the school insist they won’t be left behind.

How can they guarantee it though?

It’s just not fair.

It’s not fair that the month they were born in may dictate their achievements academically.

It’s not fair that my little boys will have to fight every step of the way to keep up.

Another year at home or at nursery, to mature and grow…. would’ve made a huge difference, and the so called ‘playing field’ in the classroom would have been leveled somewhat.

That’s all we want, as parents.

And that’s why these changes to admissions are incredibly important.

Gap shirts twins

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Comments

  1. I know exactly how you feel. My youngest started school when she was 4 years old and 3 days. She wasn’t ready and has struggled. She is now in year 4 and is catching up to her peers but you can still see the difference. I think she will always have a disadvantage but all she can do is try her best…..If I had the chance I would have given her another year in nursery x

  2. Lovely blog, keep up the good work and good luck with the campaigne.

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