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.
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.
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 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 mums (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 and a lot can change in the space of just 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 three different counties and so it’s down to just me and the hubby. 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 all with a poem that I found 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…”
Poem Credit: Rosie Dutton
You can find more information on Summer born legislation here:
Special thanks to the Flexible School Admissions for Summer Borns group who have been a wealth of knowledge and advice.
All images are my own and must not be reproduced without permission.