School system a 'postcode lottery', parents say, after Wakefield Council policy found to be 'misleading'

Campaigning parents have branded the school admissions system a "postcode lottery", after Wakefield Council was told part of its own policy was misleading.

Tuesday, 2nd June 2020, 4:56 pm
Updated Tuesday, 2nd June 2020, 5:32 pm

Parents of children born between April and August can ask for them to have their place in reception class deferred for a year.

But the council's policy, which was updated in February, suggested parents needed "substantial" evidence from a professional to support this request.

The Schools Adjudicator said that did not comply with government guidance, after a member of the public raised the issue anonymously.

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Summer born campaigners want more the schools system to be more flexible for April-August babies.

The council says it accepts the findings that its policy was "unclear" and that the wording will be changed.

The ruling was welcomed by the Summer Born campaign, members of whom claim April to August babies have to play catch-up with their peers, academically and are, proportionately, more likely to struggle.

They say the education system should be more flexible to accommodate their needs and that in some parts of the country, children missing reception year are being forced to go straight into Year One.

Campaign co-founder Pauline Hull said: "It’s very important that parents understand their rights about the compulsory school age and that the council cannot just deliberately take that reception year off that child.

Parents say guidance from the Department of Education is being applied differently across the country.

"The onus is on the council to prove that it would be within their child’s best interests to miss reception year.

"It is indicative of the postcode lottery we have at the moment, where some head teachers accept parents’ rights on this and some don’t. Some local authorities accept it and some don’t.

"It makes a mockery of the education system really."

Speaking anonymously, the member of the public who objected to the council's policy claimed the authority's stance had been "unfair and unjust".

"That one year in reception can make a massive, massive difference to a child," they said.

"The government recognises that reception years are very important in a child’s development. We’re seeing that now with early years being the first back in school.

"I’m sure there’s a lot of parents who may want to hold their child back in reception from September because coronavirus has taken out so many months of their education this year."

Andy Lancashire, the council's director for education and inclusion, said: "We accept the view of the Schools’ Adjudicator that some of the language used to explain the council’s policy on schools admissions for summer born children may have been unclear and we apologise for any confusion this may have caused.

"We are amending the wording to clarify our position.

"Our policy remains the same - all parents have the right to apply for their summer born children to start school a year later, if they feel this is in the best interests of the child."

Local Democracy Reporting Service