Summer born children in England: Starting school a year late

brothers with hearing aids playing with water in the garden


  • Is your child of pre-school age?
  • Is their birthday on or between 1 April and 31 August?
  • Did you know your child could start school a year later than other children if you think it would be best for them?

You might feel that as your child’s birthday is so close to the end of the school year it would make more sense for them to go into the year below.

A delay in starting school can also give your deaf child the chance to develop the language, communication and social skills they’ll need to make the most of the opportunities school offers.

When is the earliest my child could start school?

From the September following a child’s fourth birthday they’re entitled to a place in a reception class, even though they haven’t yet reached compulsory school age (see below).

However, if your school or council agree, you don’t have to send your child to school at this point if you don’t think they’re ready, or you might choose to send your child to school on a part-time basis.

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When does my child have to start school?

A child reaches compulsory school age on the 31 December, 31 March or 31 August following their fifth birthday (whichever date comes first).

This means that your summer born child won’t have to start school until 31 August after their fifth birthday, which means that they could miss reception and go straight into Year 1. 

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What if I don’t want my child to miss reception?

If you want your summer born child to start reception a year late, rather than going straight into Year 1, you’ll need to apply for them to be admitted ‘outside their normal age group’.

You should discuss this with the headteachers of your preferred schools (or local authority if your child has an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan) as early as possible during the school place application period for your child's date of birth (i.e. as if your child were going to start in their ‘normal age group’).

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What’s the application process?

First you need to find out when applications open in your area for children in your child’s normal age group. It’s usually at the start of the autumn term the year before your child is due to start school.

You can download a copy of the form from your council’s website which should also include information about applying for a place outside the normal age group or ‘delayed admission’ as it's also known.

The deadline for applying for a primary school place is 15 January and you must apply for a place even if the school you want is linked to your child’s current nursery.

To help the admission authority (usually the school itself or the council) make a fully informed decision you could send in any reports on your child from professionals such as a Teacher of the Deaf, speech and language therapist or educational psychologist that support your case.

If you don’t have this information you can just write a statement giving the reasons why you think your child should be admitted outside their normal age group.

Currently, local authorities and schools do not have to agree with your request. The School Admissions Code says:
“2.17A Admission authorities must make decisions on the basis of the circumstances of each case and in the best interests of the child concerned. This will include taking account of the parent’s views; information about the child’s academic, social and emotional development; where relevant, their medical history and the views of a medical professional .... They must also take into account the views of the head teacher of the school concerned. When informing a parent of their decision on the year group the child should be admitted to, the admission authority must set out clearly the reasons for their decision.”

For more information see Advice on the Admission of Summer Born Children, December 2014.

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When would my child start secondary school?

If your child is admitted to primary school outside their normal age group, they’ll reach the age for transfer to secondary school a year earlier than the other children in their year group. This means that you’ll have to request admission out of the normal age group again if you want your child to transfer at the end of Year 6, not Year 5.

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When could my child leave school?

If your child starts secondary school a year later than normal, they’ll reach the end of compulsory school age (the last Friday of June in the school year in which they turn 16) earlier than their peers.

After that, young people must do one of the following until they're 18:

  • stay in full-time education at school or college
  • start an apprenticeship or traineeship
  • work or volunteer for at least 20 hours a week and attend a training course part time. 

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Aren’t the government going to make it easier to start school later?

In 2015 the Government announced that it would consult on changes to the School Admissions Code.  In September 2016 the Education Secretary said that "next steps would be taken shortly", so we are still awaiting confirmation on when this consultation or any changes will take place.  

For more information read the research briefing Summer-born Children: Starting school.

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