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Schools move for 'summer children'

Ministers should consider allowing children born prematurely to be entered in their first year at school according to their due date, rather than their actual date of birth, a parliamentary committee has said.

The House of Commons Education Select Committee wrote to schools minister Nick Gibb urging him to allow parents more power to appeal against decisions to allocate children to a particular school year.

And the cross-party committee of MPs said ministers should ensure education authorities and academy schools offer flexibility to children born in the summer, who are sometimes put straight into year one, missing out on the reception year altogether and ending up as the youngest and smallest members of a class whose other pupils have already had a year to get used to school life.

Committee chairman Graham Stuart said: "Our recent evidence check examined issues related to school starting age. It was very clear that the month of a child's birth has a measurable effect on their academic outcomes and their likelihood of SEN (special educational needs) diagnosis.

"We also heard that there is a greater risk of summer-born children being bullied, and placed in low-ability groups.

"In particular, some parents find their summer-born child may be forced to start school in year 1, rather than reception, when the child reaches compulsory school age. Even if parents think their child is not ready, they currently have no right to appeal this decision.

"We heard evidence that Government guidance for admissions authorities about summer-born and premature children is sometimes overlooked."

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 are flexibilities for parents who do not feel their son or daughter is ready to begin school before their compulsory school age, which comes on whichever of the dates December 31, March 31 or August 31 follows their fifth birthdays.

"Summer-born" children born between April 1 and August 31 are not required to start school until a full year after they could first have been admitted.

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.

The committee called on the Department for Education to undertake an analysis of which admission authorities are observing the guidance, and to consider the merits of using a child's due date rather than birthdate in admissions policies.

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