Would you keep your summer born child back a school year?

I am too absolutely small for schoolI read the news earlier in the week. The UK government have agreed to allow parents of children born between April and August to keep their kids back from starting in Reception year of Infant School until they turn five. I didn’t think too much more about it until a friend with an August born child (EJ is late July) asked if I was considering taking the government up on this offer.

It seems like she is very seriously considering doing so and she gave a lot of reasons why it would be a good thing to do including her research that summer born children who start school at just turned four have more trouble getting to grips with learning and are not necessarily physically able to get through such structured days at such a young age.

We all know the statistics about the UK being one of the only countries to start children in formal school life at such a tender age and the general consensus that this not a good thing. The only thing is I have got used to the idea that despite a nearly three year age gap between my boys, the fact that they will only be two school years apart will make them closer experientially, throughout childhood.

I did feel a bit shocked a couple of months back when I realised that my little dummy-sucking, muzzy-nuzzling toddler (now pre-schooler) will be starting at big school next year and the applications process kicks off any minute – that felt weird after the extra year out with a September born older child – but to be honest, I was mostly OK with it until I talked to my sister – a Teaching Assistant in a primary school herself so right on the frontline – and she urged me to seriously consider taking the government up on their offer.

However looking into this I read that although studies have shown that summer born children tend to fall behind a bit educationally, further studies have found that there is no marked difference in the careers and achievements of adults who were born either summer or autumn.

Also, for a lot of working parents the beginning of formal, week-long school education equals a huge reduction in childcare fees and that has to play into our decision too. I realise that the government has promised 30 hours of free childcare for all but I’ve also read that this may not be implemented until September 2017 so that puts us in the unhappy position of being the year that misses out on the luxury of simply choosing free childcare over free school-based care.

On the other hand we may be looking at a long school career filled with expensive tutoring on the side if our child is constantly struggling to keep up with children who were ‘ready’ from the off.

And the targets – oh the targets! Up from a 60 to 65% pass rate for Year 2 children in the past year and apparently up to an 85% pass rate by 2017 so no pressure there then!

What a minefield.

Ideally it would be lovely if the government could just realise that this tough target driven approach is all wrong at such a young age and learn to see the wood for the trees.

I never had to think about this at all with JJ so this whole decision is making my head spin.

Do you have a child in a similar position? Are you planning on deferring? Or do you have an older summer born child and if so how do you feel they have coped and would you have made this decision if you had the choice when they were starting school? I would love to hear from others what they are planning to do.

 

And then the fun began...

28 thoughts on “Would you keep your summer born child back a school year?

  1. Andy & I were talking about this last night. On the one hand very much YES, however two years ago when P was starting school, we just were not in a financial position to survive on one salary, so I think we’d have had to send her in anyway. Totally depends on your circumstances… If you can do it, and don’t feel he’s ready, then listen to your gut and hold him back. Best of luck hon xxx
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    • This is true and definitely one of the reasons why I err a bit towards letting it be and letting him start at the allocated time but then I think – well actually, we pay for very little childcare now he gets his free hours and we have things set up so that he is cared for each day by either childminder, preschool, one of us or grandparents, and yes, it would mean that we don’t all get our flexibility (work hours and otherwise) back for another year, but actually, isn’t his entire school life and happiness and success more important than a year’s extra flexibility for us? (and I’m in no way suggesting that you guys were in the same position – I know you have a lot less help with child care than we do). Also, I know I should feel grateful for an extra year to have that dedicated one on one time with him where we can just do whatever pleases us together and where the merry-go-round of two schoolbags with two lots of letters, demands and notifications and the pressure us parents have to push the national curriculum’s agenda is that little bit further away! I just don’t know how I can tell what his readiness will be in a year’s time now. I guess I need to find out just how you go about deferring – do you put in your application but tick a box to say *2017 please* or do you have to put in an application to defer separate to the applications process and then do all the application process a year later? The former would be so much better which probably means it’ll be the latter! X

  2. My daughter is August and we just going to send her! She’s bright and I think will be small and tired but she does nursery fine all day now. I’m not sure if we will put her in pre school though or just keep her at nursery. It’s a minefield but my aunt was August and been fine! Someone has to be and I think the gremlin will be ready to learn more xx #thetruthabout
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    • She’s not due to start until 2017 though is she? I think the whole nursery/preschool thing is different (they are essentially the same thing) – age difference doesn’t play into that really, but school is a different kettle of fish. I am August born too and I don’t look back and feel too adversely affected but then I’m not the most confident person – my grades weren’t particularly brilliant – maybe that’s just me or maybe being one of the youngest did matter. Having said that I still don’t think you can compare what happened in former generations to what’s going on in schools now. I certainly don’t think we were being formally tested at the age of 7/8 so that we could be assessed going forward into Junior School. My sister is convinced that that is the worst thing for the young ones because they are at a disadvantage developmentally from the off. But yes, I certainly see that there is something in the notion of “every child is different and some will be ready at a younger age”. I just don’t want to think I’m lying to myself about my child’s readiness because it might make my life a bit easier in the short term. As my sister says the pressures on you as a parent of a school child are a lot harder than you can imagine before-hand – and that’s with an Autumn born child who has the capability – with a younger child who may be struggling it could be a complete nightmare, and that could last for years and years…

  3. My (ex) step daughter is born in August and she sailed through her GCSEs with A’s and B’s and just done really well at her first year in college too. I think it really depends on the child. They are all so different! You know him better than anyone and hopefully you can make the right call. Good luck xx
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    • That’s interesting Tor. You’re right it does depend on the child. I wonder about the difference between boys and girls too on this matter. But boys can be a lot less mature than girls, less into reading, need to be more active and noisy… Maybe I’m just talking about my boys – you might tell me different! The one great thing about JJ is that I have been told by school consistently that I have nothing to worry about with him – he may not be thrilled by the idea of sitting down to read when he could be running up and down or throwing a ball around but he has the capability. I worry that a child who is too young to either want to sit and read or have the capability, patience and perseverence to ‘try, try, try’ (JJ’s little mantra!) then it will be hell!

  4. Such an interesting post! My girl is June born and although she is a few years off, it’s something I’m now wondering about now I’ve read your post. I think, like with all kids, it depends on them as individuals – I think although there is research that says X, Y and Z, I think it’s also a case of parent knows best – if they seem ready for it, great; if not, it’s useful to have another avenue BUT I think your point about the childcare fees is a biggie which means for many, this conundrum is a no brainer..#thetruthabout

    • I think the thing about childcare fees is that the government has kind of legislated for that by bringing in 30 hours of free pre-school care for everyone (after September 2017 if nurseries can find a way to accomodate this) When you think about it ‘big’ school has children in for just over 6 hours a day so that equates to about 32 hours a week – not much difference. I am beginning to think more and more (having read everyone’s comments) that it’s really going to be a matter of looking much harder at how EJ gets on over the next year before making that decision.

  5. I think it depends entirely on the child. In Scotland (where the ‘age’ year runs from Mar to Feb, rather than Sep to Aug), this has been the case for ages; children born Jan-Feb can defer for a year (Dec is optional, I believe, on a case-by-case basis) although it’s not something I needed to deal with as my oldest was a June birthday. I have several friends who chose to defer with their sons, but interestingly I don’t know any girls who deferred. I wouldn’t have kept my son back, based on his temperament etc., but his best friend from nursery, who was six months older than him, deferred (which was nice as it meant they started school together!) and I can completely understand why his parents made that decision for him. It really does depend on the child and you know EJ best xx
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    • I do know EJ but I think a lot will change for him over the course of the next year as he meets new friends and is introduced to new things at pre-school. I’m not worried about him emotionally or socially at all really – I’m sure he would hold his own in that respect – but I just wonder about the educational side of things. I think I need to spend more time trying to introduce him to him to some learning concepts in the coming months.

  6. This debate has gone round and round a lot recently and whilst initially I thought ‘why would anyone in their right mind want to do that?!’ I’ve had my ears and eyes opened by certain bloggers. I had a summer baby (my eldest) but she is very independent and was absolutely ready for school. By contrast, my younger daughter (November born) wasn’t ready for school at all – then I’m not sure she would ever be 😉 I think it’s more about the child than their age and each case needs to be judged individually. Interesting debate though. Go with your gut I say, as with everything 🙂
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    • I’ve done so much reading on this Suzanne and also looked at the website of my local authority now. They explain the procedure – they won’t be guaranteeing deferred entry into Reception year until the matter is approved in parliament. They also give a warning that children may be negatively affected and point out that just because an infant school accepts deferred entry, the junior & secondary schools your child go on to don’t have to follow suit which would leave everyone in a bit of a pickle! Also – you aren’t guaranteed a place at the school of your choice and for us, the Outstanding school that JJ goes to is a shoe-in for EJ as a sibling, but JJ will have moved on come 2017. You can’t just ask for deferred entry either – you have to put forward an argument as to why it should be the case based on something like notable speech and language difficulties in your child or a physical problem which I just couldn’t really say was the case at this point. I think I will keep a very close eye on EJ in coming months and take it from there…

    • I think, as I have said, we can’t really compare our own experiences with the experiences of today’s children because the education system has changed so much, but also, I agree that it is down to the individual child so I will be making a point to discuss the matter with all of EJ’s primary carers this year (husband, my mum, pre-school and childminder!) and going with my gut! X

  7. This is such a complex issue and one that can only really be resolved by looking at your own personal circumstances. As you know, I home school so I am obviously a little bias but in my humble oppinion the advantage to a child of not struggling through the early days at school is not just about career potential in the future. Many children have a hideous time throughout their school years because of their own struggles to cope… they may well go on to have great careers, but is it right to put them through that termoil just because you know it shouldn’t effect their carreer options? xx
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    • I agree but I think the key is that not all children will struggle simply because they are younger – I don’t want to have a knee jerk reaction without figuring out first just how much I feel I can expect of my child at the age of four. Thanks for commenting X

  8. I have a August born daughter who has just started secondary school.
    When she started year r she did take a little longer to settle, however think it was more being separated from me. Once I’d left she quickly settled down.
    She has always met and exceeded the targets she’s been set at school.
    She has recently sat her Year 6 SATS and was above where she should be.
    Obviously every child is different but starting school at just turned 4 hasn’t hindered her.

    • I can definitely see that it isn’t the case that all the younger ones will definitely struggle and prove the studies right, but are girls just at an advantage over boys through general temperament (better able to sit and learn where boys want to be physically active?). Not sure. X

      • Maybe girls do have a better temperament, however many schools have a free flow reception classes. This allows children to choose their activities, very much like preschools. Parental support to children during their education is also crutial.
        To be honest theres pros and cons for both but it comes down to each individual child, and what’s right for one isn’t always right for another.

  9. This is interesting. We live in Germany where children don’t start school till six but I am from Ireland, where they start at 4. So six seemed really late to me initially. I have three children, two July, one September. When my eldest started school last year having just turned six, he struggled but with the rules rather than the material. He is a dreamer, but quite bright.
    I really think you have to look at your child and try to see how they will cope. Will being one of the youngest in the class or one of the oldest suit better?
    #thetruthabout
    Fionnuala from http://www.threesonslater.blogspot.com
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  10. Interesting….our eldest (like me) is summer born. She has flourished at school. Among some of the toddler kids in her year group she can be a little childish socially but on the education front she runs rings about most of her peers. Our youngest, meanwhile, is autumn born. She’ll start school in two years, almost a year older than her sister. I really do think it depends on the child. Thanks for hosting #thetruthabout

  11. I have an August born son and we took him out of school because he was suffering so much. He just wasn’t anywhere near ready – despite keeping up with the academic side, emotionally, he really struggled being the smallest and youngest in the class. He went from being a charismatic leader at nursery to a shy nervous anxious child at school. I could see him deteriorating every day. We ended up taking him out after 2 terms, and having some time out. (Check out my blog post if you get the chance) We’ve now found a school that were happy for him to move down a year and he’s a different child. Back to his old self and thriving! For these reasons I think it’s really important there is flexibility on this issue. All the research and experts agree, it’s so detrimental to children’s educational and social disposition to force them into school before they are ready. They only get one childhood! There was no way I was going to stand by and let school mess it up! #thetruthabout
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  12. My newphew is a summer baby. My brother was given the option to start him in reception a year after he was due to join, but then he would have to skip year 1 and go straight from reception to yr 2. All the while they insist on children catching up with the right class for their age i dont see how it benifits the child to hold them back a year. #thetruthabout

    • Under those circumstances Tracey – it really doesn’t benefit the child at all! I believe that the government are discussing the whole issue around this though – allowing children to hold back a year and enter Reception year and not be penalised with a skipped year later down the line but I could be wrong!

    • Hiya Sam, to be honest some of the smartest kids in school are often the youngest in the class.
      When I gave you my opinions I was working in Year 1. The transition from Reception to Year 1 is huge and some children are NOT ready for it at all. They don’t have the fine motor skills or concentration skills that the curriculum demands of them. Some of the Curriculum is very demanding. Some children still need to LEARN through PLAY.
      I am sure that this is not the case with your children as they will have had plenty of opportunities for play, learning through play and life experience. I was working with children who hadn’t had the life experience that my own children had had, such as: going to the beach and feeling sand, going on trains and busses, going to the zoo, going swimming, using computers and practising reading and writing and using numbers. I know that JJ and EJ have had wide experience both physically and mentally. They have also had plenty of experience of socialising and conversation. Don’t worry EJ will be more than up for it when the time comes. Love Sis Xxxx
      By the way, I would definitely not recommend missing out Year 1. It’s crucial they learn so much they are like little information sponges.

  13. I have been reading so many blogs and articles about education lately. At least I can say that we all seem to find our kids’ education important. Here in the US kids start school the fall school year after they turn 5. Luckily works great as I have all kids born from Jan-May, I may have an opinion here if it was otherwise ;o). Thanks for hostessing #thetruthabout.
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  14. Hiya Sam, to be honest some of the smartest kids in school are often the youngest in the class.
    When I gave you my opinions I was working in Year 1. The transition from Reception to Year 1 is huge and some children are NOT ready for it at all. They don’t have the fine motor skills or concentration skills that the curriculum demands of them. Some of the Curriculum is very demanding. Some children still need to LEARN through PLAY.
    I am sure that this is not the case with your children as they will have had plenty of opportunities for play, learning through play and life experience. I was working with children who hadn’t had the life experience that my own children had had, such as: going to the beach and feeling sand, going on trains and busses, going to the zoo, going swimming, using computers and practising reading and writing and using numbers. I know that JJ and EJ have had wide experience both physically and mentally. They have also had plenty of experience of socialising and conversation. Don’t worry EJ will be more than up for it when the time comes. Love Big Bossy Sis Xxxx (I hope I’m not too bossy!!!!)

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