Frustrated parents are petitioning for their summer-born children to be allowed to start school in reception at the age of five, rather than being missing out on a year of education.
All children are guaranteed a free state-school place between the ages of five and 16, nationwide.
This right is guaranteed by the School Admissions Code, last amended in 2014, but campaigners from Summer Born Children warn ambiguities in the amendment may lead to children starting school in Year One – missing out on a year of education.
Children are not legally required to be in education until the beginning of the term after they turn five, and so are at risk of missing out, campaigners claim.
The organisation responsible for school admissions – local authorities in the case of community and voluntary controlled schools, the governing body in the case of foundation and voluntary aided schools, or the academy trust in the case of academies and free schools – make a decision on a case-by-case decision and “in the child’s best interests”, a spokeswoman from the Department for Education advised.
But Summer Born Children believe children being fast-tracked to Year One is not in the spirit of the Code’s guidelines.
A spokeswoman from the group stated: “Parents of four-year-old children who have not reached emotional, social or academic maturity and readiness for school are being forced to enrol their child a whole year earlier or have their child’s education entitlement reduced by one year with obligatory entrance into Year One.
“This is not in the best interests of the child and the current ‘system’ needs to change.”
Kim Jones, a mother from Thames Ditton in Elmbridge, is one of those petitioning the county council – the local authority responsible for school admissions – for clarity.
She told the Epsom Guardian: “There is so much confusing feedback. We just want the schools, and Surrey (County Council), to be consistent.”
A council spokesman said its stance on summer-born children will remain the same, but would wait on further amendments to the School Admissions code.
The spokesman added: “We ask parents to submit details of their case and we then make a decision based on the circumstances, the views of the headteacher and most importantly what is in the best interests of the child."
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We want all children to have an equal chance to excel in school but we are concerned that some parents feel pressured to send their child to school before they are ready, or risk them missing the reception year. We are carefully considering how best to address these issues.”
To sign the petition, visit: http://petitions.surreycc.gov.uk/SurreySummerborn/#detail