Ready for Reception?

We’ve done something that many of our friends and family will view as controversial. As yet, the cat is not fully out of the bag and only a handful of close family know, but we are a matter of weeks before people will naturally start to ask questions. We’re not keeping it quiet because we are ashamed or worried about reactions, far from it. It’s just that to us it has been a decision we made quite a while back and not really thought about since, finding out we were expecting again kinda stole the limelight!! We read up (well, I did as I’m the kind of person that likes to be fully informed), we discussed all the information and couldn’t see any real cons, and the pros just spoke for themselves.

Deep breath…

We have decided NOT to send Stanley to school this year. Instead, he will be starting next Sept when he is five and at compulsory school age. For the extra year he will be attending preschool part time, playing, bonding with his brothers (arrgghhh that’s the first time I’ve used the plural) , playing, exploring, enjoying days out, playing, growing and developing at his own pace. Did I mention he will be playing? Afterall, it’s what a four year old does best!!

So, come 5th Sept 2018 I will be cheering on and going misty eyed over my Facebook feed as normal. It will be full of my friend’s children looking smart, grown up and unbelievably cute all rolled into one in their new school uniforms. However, there won’t be a photo of Stanley joining the others. I will happily be reading all the proud mum posts too. You see, I’m not criticising/judging/bashing/shaming *insert other Internet based adjective here* parents or any of their decisions regarding their children.

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I will be excited, nervous and emotional (throw pregnancy hormones into the mix too) alongside them as I know I will be feeling exactly the same a year on from now. And, I also know that unless some MAJOR changes occur in UK educational law in the next few years, that I’ll not have the choice to send James and he who has no name (yet) to school at CSA without sacrificing a whole year of their education just because of how their birthdays fall.

OK, so I know you’re going to have questions so I’ll give you a quick break down of some of the responses I’ve made so far to authorities, teachers and people I’ve discussed deferring Stanley with:

  • No, Stanley does not have any special educational needs.
  • No, we haven’t ‘held him back’ because he was struggling at preschool.
  • No, it’s not that we can’t bear to let him go, and I want to keep him a baby.
  • No, we aren’t doing it for ourselves and not thinking about what’s best for him.
  • No, we’ve not thrown our dummy out because he didn’t a place at our first choice of school this year…HE DID!!
  • No, we’ve not done what’s easiest for us. (Far bloody from it….but we’ll come to that later)

As you can probably tell from the answers above, I’ve had a bit of an ear bashing by some which I hope is mostly fuelled by misinformation and misunderstanding. On the flip side of that I’ve had two relative strangers (who I only know through various kids clubs) tell me that they think it’s amazing, and one who asked me to email her the info so she could then look into it for her daughter. She had no idea that the option was available, which I think is a massive issue!!

So, why are we doing this?

The plain fact is…he’s 4. We’ve simply chosen not to send him to school EARLY, we are sending him at school age which if you go back a generation was the absolute norm. I personally believe that in the UK all children start school too early and that we’d be better off following our European neighbours whose children start school at aged 7 when they are emotionally and physically ready…but that’s just my personal opinion. I don’t wish to get into politics as I can only take so much before my head explodes.

Stanley falls under the grand title of ‘Summer Born’ as his birthday is mid June. Thanks to a change in DfE legistration in 2015, we not only have the choice whether to start his school journey prior to compulsory school age or at CSA but also currently have the right to request admission into Reception class at CSA rather than Year One, ensuring that he will not lose a vital whole year of early education.

I think an extra year of being a child with no responsibility or pressure can only be a good thing. When I read articles about phonics tests in Year 1 ages 5-6 years and SATS at ages 6-7 years it makes me so sad. When did being a child become so target driven? Aren’t we told by midwives and health visitors that ‘they all learn at their own pace’…why does this suddenly change when they enter the school system? I can clearly remember having milk and slices of apple in the afternoons, and a cosy corner for naps in my Reception class, wow, how things have changed!!

With a new arrival imminent, the extra year at home will be an opportunity for Stanley to further his relationship with James and get to know his new baby brother too, cementing our little family unit. An extra year of developing emotionally and at his own pace. An extra year of learning through play, exploration and love.

We were recently informed at a preschool parents evening that Stanley (despite being one of the youngest in his class) would soon cope with starting school, as he’s really bright. This really hit home for me…a four year old shouldn’t have to cope with anything!! I want him to enjoy going to school, grow, thrive and shine. I definitely don’t want him to struggle to try and keep up with the other older children and have to cope the best he can.

One of Stanley’s little buddies at preschool turns 5 two weeks after starting back in Sept. So Stanley is 9.5 months younger…that is an incredibly long time when you’re four (in my opinion) and a lot can change in the space of 6 months.

And now back to the whole taking the easy route I was accused of…well, I will have three boys under 5 with me 24/7. Anybody who thinks that is easy needs their head examining or doesn’t have kids. Our family is split across 3 different counties and so it’s down to just me and the hubster. They say it takes a village to raise a child, well there will be two of us raising 3 of them!! I’m incredibly lucky that I have a very hands on husband, who will muck in when he’s not at work providing for us all. I’m pretty certain that there will be days where I’ll have reached my limit and be ready to run off. There will be days where I’ll cry. There will be days where I’ll lose my temper and then regret it instantly. I’ll be sleep deprived and surviving on caffeine. But, I’m willing to weather these storms because I know it’s 100% the best thing for Stanley and our family and I know there will be plenty of days where I’ll just relish being in the company of my three beautiful boys, regardless of what we’re doing or where we are.

Although the information and Summer born legislation is out there, it’s still a relatively new admissions process. One that hasn’t been readily adopted nationwide. Staffordshire County Council are the LEA for school admissions here and compared to some they were easy to deal with and we have received a provisional ‘yes’ . They happily told me that they would honour my right to request a Reception start out of cohort for Stanley in 2019. However, I have got to apply for his school place via paper later this year as the online submissions system hasn’t been updated to include deferral. I have also been asked to provide (when applying) my evidence as to why I think a Reception start is in Stanley’s best interests. And they will take into account the school’s position on this when assessing the applications. This isn’t really necessary however, as by law parents don’t have to support their reception application with evidence BUT instead it falls to the LEA to prove why they think missing a year of education (going straight into Year One) is in my child’s best interest. Not an easy route to go down by any means and I’ll be form filling and gathering evidence when I’ve got a newborn to care for too.

Knowing all this I went in to the school (our first choice) once I had received our Reception offer for this year. The Head Teacher was absolutely lovely and fully supported our decision and was happy for Stanley to start in Reception at CSA within her setting. I spent some time with her as a guest observing both a Reception class and a Year one class, which was so so helpful as the difference between the two was phenomenal and confirmed that I 100% want Stanley to start in Reception. I asked for a cover letter detailing her agreement as supporting evidence, so that’s one thing already ticked off the list.

The BIG gamble in all of this…and the only thing that regularly niggles at me…is whether we will get offered our first choice school again in the next round of admissions? If we don’t, then will our offered school be happy to support a CSA Reception start, or will they be championing Year 1? And if we’re successful then there’s the question of whether he will be allowed to stay in his adoptive cohort when he moves up to his next school? Again, the LEA and school would have to provide evidence that missing a whole year of education would be in his best interests. I guess we’ll just have to face any obstacles, and fight the battles as we get to them.

But, as I sit here writing this post, watching Stanley performing a puppet show for James using 3 toy dinosaurs I KNOW with all certainty that this is the best thing for this crazy child of mine.

I’ll leave you with a poem that I read and loved:

You wanted me in school today, I should be on my way. But I’m fast asleep in bed, you see I’m not going, we’re not having it your way. I’m only 4, I want to play, That’s all I’m doing today.

Another year to grow and shine, A chance to be a child. For days of fun and freedom, Out playing in the wild.

When I’m five I think I’ll thrive, And be ready for that day, But as you see me with my teddy, Please remember… At just turned 4, I’m not quite ready…”

Credit: Rosie Dutton

All images are my own.

For more information on Summer born legislation click here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/summer-born-children-school-admission

Special thanks to the Flexible School Admissions for Summer Borns group who have been a wealth of knowledge and advice.

35 thoughts on “Ready for Reception?

  1. I really think that it depends on the child. As you said, children grow at different rates and it’s really important that they can have fun, and learn and discover in an exciting way. I find that schools can be really limiting with that these days, as there are so many boxes to check and things to achieve. I don’t like that teachers have to ‘teach to the test’ in a way! Starting school at the right time for your child is so important. We don’t want to push our kids into school when they aren’t ready.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I would have done exactly the same! I’m a teacher (part-time) and although we didn’t think about birth months when we were trying to conceive, both of my children were coincidentally born in the first two weeks of September, which means my son is the oldest in his year and had an extra year before starting pre-school/school and my daughter will be the same. If I had actually planned it, it would have been exactly what I would have planned!! 😂

    It wasn’t quite so much of a coincidence with my daughter, come to think of it! She was due on the 12th September but was footling breach so had to come out early via c-section. They gave me the end of August as my date and I asked them to change it to push it into September. The midwife couldn’t understand why and said, “But surely you want to get her off to school sooner, you’ll save in childcare fees!” They did give me September in the end and so she ended up coming out on my Granny’s 101st birthday which was a wonderful birthday present for her!

    However, other parents may disagree and at the end of the day it’s all about personal choice but well done you for sticking by your decision!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To be honest I never even give it a thought until last summer when I was preparing to apply for his school reception place. It played on my mind and I started to research into the UK compulsory school age and that’s when I came across the summer born legistration. Me and hubby briefly discussed it, but we both knew it was right for Stanley. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have 3 boys, of which 2 are summer babies. They both started school the first term after they were 5. No there wasn’t anything wrong with them they just weren’t ready to go to school. Both of them were able to go into reception. The best thing I ever did. The primary school that they went to were great…but Shire hall just would not understand why I didn’t want them to go to school when they had only just turned 4. I think it’s time it was made more widely know so that you can have the choice. I did this 10 to 15 years ago and have not regretted it at all. They were ready and mature enough to cope with going to school when they were 5. It’s not easy to do but go for it, fight for your child to get the best start. Well done.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sandra, it sounds like you were a trail blazer all those years ago!! In fairness, Stanley’s pre-school manager, school (1st choice) Head Teacher and the LEA so far have been supportive so we’ve been lucky as I know many people have an uphill battle from the start. We’ve now just got to go through the admissions round again, and keep everything crossed that we get our reception start at our preferred school. I’m glad that a bit of media coverage on my blog has helped to get the information out into the public domain. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

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  4. I so wish I had kept my eldest child at home for another year, she was 4 on 26 August and stated school in the September, and I think this has had a huge impact on her life and confidence. She was 39 this year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s why I’m trying to get the message out there Gaye so that parents of summer borns have the choice. So that they can then make an informed decision based on what they think is best for their child. I’ve no doubt that there will be summer born children who start at 4 and absolutely thrive…we’re all different! BUT I believe that parents should be informed of all their options, and that no matter where within the UK everyone gets treated equally as at the moment its a postcode lottery. Thank you for stopping by.

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  5. My children were lucky as they went to a very small primary school where we were given a choice. My middle child, who has an end of July birthday, started in the summer term. He benefited from starting later as it suited him. I admire your choice.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. european neighbour here… living in belgium. my son, who just turned 3 last week has been at school since april. the law might be 7 years old, but the ‘pressure’ and norm is from 2.5 when they start…. a fact i was pretty appalled by. particularly when he was getting sick a lot and had to take time off. our onthalouder was also only allowed to take babies until they turned 3… so, allowing me to work part time, we didnt really have much choice bit to send him. its good for him because we do speak english at home and hes a talker… he lacks confidence however, in talking dutch… so school is good for him. but…. if the teachers start asking where he is or putting the pressure on when i want to keep him home, there will be feelings expressed…. we do it because it works for us. he plays at school. theres no lessons. he can already count to 20 (in english) and uses words like mediocre when describing a day out at the zoo… so he certainly doesnt need educating any more yet…. hed be a bloody nightmare if im honest! but it works so we use it…. he still has an afternoon nap some days so we tend to have half days later in the week and full days at the beginning. so… just to say…. its kinda frowned upon here to and the age is much much lower… again… 2.5 years old. they have their whole lives facing structure of schools and jobs…. we dont need to rush. and anyway…. its up to us as parents to do the best we want for our kids. its noone elses bloody business.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow Julie, 2.5 years seems ridiculously young!! Here, children are generally expected to start full time at school in Reception in the September after their 4th birthday. However, they don’t legally have to attend school until after their 5th birthday. So there are options to attend part time, start later in the year or defer for a year and go straight into year 1 missing the Reception year completely. If your child is a summer born you also get the option of requesting a Reception start at 5 years old, as not to miss a year of early years education (Reception). Unfortunately none of this is particularly well known and parents can feel pressured to send their 4 year olds to reception full time to comply. I think all children are different and decisions need to be based on them AND what’s best for the FAMILY unit. Thank so much for taking the time to read and comment!

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  7. Dear MuddyMum (loved the name),
    I am glad to hear about someone who dared to make a choice like this for their child, cos they believed it is right. It is not just about packing a child off to school when they are the age. Nope. They HAVE to be ready for it.
    I am currently studying to be an early years practitioner and have felt so many times that the system talks about being fair to every child, letting them grow, learn and develop at their own pace. But does little to apply it into practise. If you think it’s early for your son, you know it best. And that choice should be respected.
    My son is October born. He is one of the oldest is his class, is exceeding in most areas and is very eager to learn. But he will have to stay where he is cos of his age. He actually gets bored and zones out quite often. I wish he had access to more based.on his ability and not his age.
    Where as my friend’s daughter is July born and is in the same class as my son and I have seen the child struggle cos of the pressure from the system, her peers and unfortunately her parents who worry about her not being left behind. If she isn’t ready, she isn’t. Nothing good will come from pushing the child. It only piles on pressure over and over in one way or another .
    I truly understand how difficult it must have been for you to make that decision for YOUR child, while it’s YOUR right as a parent to choose the best for him. Wish you and your family all the best best. I am sure you know what’s best for him and you will know when he is ready.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sandy, I’ll have an Oct born too shortly. What an interesting perspective, I’ve never really thought about the oldest in the year group and how the ‘cut off’ affects them. We all want our children to be engaged and enjoy learning, my concern was that as a summer born Stanley would feel pressure to keep up and have to ‘cope’ with the structure etc when 9.5 months younger than the older ones. But, I would also want my Oct born to feel excited by the curriculum and what he’s learning…I definitely wouldn’t want him to feel bored or switched off. There really does need to be some flexibility within the curriculum and education system as clearly one size does NOT fit all! Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment.

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      1. Congratulations and wish you the best for your new arrival. I had quite a few friends telling me that this would happen with my son in school. But I didn’t believe it until it actually happened. There are schools that give children the extra opportunities by giving them ability suited work. But many aren’t able to afford the extra work, staff and commitment. It’s sad, but it is what is happening.

        I have recently moved home and found a school that is an academy. We are hoping there pukd be no complaints about funding issues or staff shortage here and my son will be able to learn to satiate his curiosity.

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  8. My son is now 23 and I did the very same thing for the very same reasons all those years ago, trust your instinct (my second son was a December baby and you do notice a difference at that age) at 23 he has a bag full of GCSE’s, A-Levels, a 1st class honours degree and a dream job in his chosen field it did him no ‘harm and didn’t hold him back’ there is so much pressure from other people to conform. I have friends from Sweden and Denmark they seem to have it right when it comes to formal education – good for you! Good luck with baby number 3 and enjoy these next precious months all together.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for sharing this so openly – I’ve just found this post via a Hull Daily Mail article my friend sent me because she knew I could have written this word for word! I’m in Beverley and have chosen not to send my just-turned-4 August babe to school this year. ERYC refused our request to apply for a reception place next year at CSA and long story short the Local Government Ombudsman is currently investigating their decision making. Who knows what will happen next….! Wishing you all the best in your journey to achieve what you want for your son! Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s such a postcode lottery, it really is and that needs to change ASAP! Our original request was accepted easily and the HT of our 1st choice school supports us too so we’ve got our provisional ‘yes’. But we won’t know for sure until we get the results of the admissions round next April. I really hope the Ombudsman overturn the LEA’s decision for you. Thank you for taking the time to read my post.

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  10. Good for you! My eldest is ‘winter born’ and so was almost 5 when he started reception and more than ready! His brother is 20 months younger but only 1 school year below him, being a July birthday. We really, really notice the difference. They are both in junior school now. We considered delaying his start but he was desperate to go to school like his brother and I think it would have done him more harm than good. He’s quite a clever child but he’s expected to reach targets and achieve 8 months before his brother was and, naturally, that affects confidence. He’s doing just fine, generally, but we do notice the difference. So please that there are more options now for summer borns and that people like you are spreading the news!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Rachael, thanks for stopping by. Stanley is our only Summer born, the new arrival will be one of the oldest within his cohort with an early Oct birthday and James is February born. I think had Stanley have been the second born we would have had to think a lot more about our decision, as like you mentioned, once children have an older sibling at school they want to go and follow in their footsteps. Which is only natural, there is a big pull towards being ‘a big boy’. Stanley is enjoying his second year at preschool and has already told me about his new friends. He’s also loving being the biggest although that’s only in age as some of the younger ones still tower over him, bless! I think having the choice is key, starting at CSA isn’t for everyone and some summer born children absolutely thrive starting at 4. But the choice should be readily available to parents and schools and authorities should support both options equally. I’m hoping my little corner of the Internet helps to get the message out there!! Thanks for reading. 😊

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  11. I love hearing and reading other like =minded summer born stories. You will not regret it(although I’m sure you know this already!). Teddy started last week and was so much more happy, confident and ready. I was so sad to see another first time school Mummy come to me upset that her August born son isn’t coping already. My heart went out to her. I have had so much support after a few usual standard comments from misinformed parents. I just hope that the government make this standard across the UK.My summer born journey isn’t over as my fourth is August born and we have to move every few years with work, so Teddy and Florence will be an ongoing case! glad I came across you on the fb site x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Charlotte, I’ve only just realised that I didn’t reply to you…baby brain at work!! You are so brave and committed to doing what’s best for your children, I can’t imagine having to keep going through the same old challenges every time you move!! Stay strong 💪🏻 x

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  12. Good on you! Maisie had just turned 4 when she started school as her birthday is the end of August. I stood on that first day thinking wow she was just 3 years old last week! She caught up by year 1 but I remember reception being a little difficult for her. Nothing major but another year of play wouldn’t have hurt.x

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  13. I think you’re amazing and well done you! I’m a teacher and I completely agree with you. Children are so pressured at such a young age, it can majorly effect them later on.
    Learning through play is the best that they can do and I think it’s really brave of you. So well done. Xxx

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  14. I think it’s all about choice, personal choice myself, knowing Stanley I think it’s the right choice, he learns so much from play, and enjoys everything to do with being outside, and he’s such a happy funny kid, I love his little ways, he always makes me laugh ( which is good ) just like my own son did at that age, it will make no difference whatsoever with his education, but remember as parents we are all different and your choice is always the right one.. there are children who will benefit from early schooling also..but I’m sure as a parent you will know this yourself.

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    1. Exactly, what’s right for us might not be right for another family, but it’s great to be able to have the choice now. And, of course I will have another two who I can’t defer so I will eventually have a foot in both camps so to speak. I did have a wobble after Stanley attended his preschool leavers party, but after some digging I found out he was only upset because he didn’t get a class photo…not because he wasn’t a leaver, but because we were on holiday when it was taken!! He’s excited to be the biggest butterfly come Sept, because he will be able to run the fastest apparently!! Which just goes to show his priorities when it comes to preschool 😂

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