In England, children can start school in the September following their fourth birthday. Children born in August starting school at this age are nearly a year younger than their September-born classmates. Going to school is not a legal requirement before children are five. However, for some parents of summer-born children, waiting until then to send their child to school has resulted in them being told their child would have to go straight to year one, missing out on reception and a whole year’s education.
Parliament’s Education Committee was tasked with investigating existing arrangements. It heard evidence based on a number of different cohort studies that showed how children born in the summer months can be at a disadvantage compared to their older peers when it comes to school.
Researchers had found that by age seven, September-born children were nearly three times as likely to be in the top stream as those born in August. They had also found that summer-born pupils were more likely than their autumn-born classmates not to believe in their own ability or think that they have control over their lives, and they were also more likely to be unhappy at school and to be bullied.
Informed by these findings, the Education Committee made a series of recommendations to the Department for Education on this topic. These were designed to improve how school admissions authorities in England handle requests for summer-born children to start reception at age 5 rather than age 4, and to provide greater support to parents.