January 15th 2018 is a very important date for lots of parents, it is the deadline for submitting your child’s school admission form. Applying for your child’s place at primary school can be a stressful and anxious time for lots of parents: choosing which school to put as your first choice, will the school with the best OFSTED report be in your catchment area and where will you find the time to go to all the open days? There is a lot to consider and think about and, usually, this is a time of heightened emotions too as sending your baby off to big school is a massive step for the parents as well as their child. The anxiety surrounding your little one starting school can often be a lot worse if you have a summer baby. Leo’s birthday is in August, when we were first notified we needed to apply for his school place in November 2016, he had only been three for a few months and it all felt like everything was happening too soon. I was worried about him being the youngest in his class and there were fleeting moments when I considered holding him back a year. Leo has recently completed his first term of primary school and I am so glad we decided not to hold him back. If you have a summer born child due to start school in September, here is why you don’t need to spend so much time worrying. I definitely could have done with reading a positive story about a summer born child starting school when I was filling out Leo’s admissions form, wondering if I was doing the right thing, so I hope this post brings you some reassurance.
Why you don’t need to worry about sending your summer born child to primary school.
You know your child better than anyone else in the whole world and when it is time to apply for school simply listen to your gut instinct and your mother’s intuition, what is it telling you? Leo started pre school when he was two and a half and by the time school admissions came flying around I knew that, despite being so young, he was ready. Leo thrived at pre school, he grew from an angry toddler into a clever, sociable little boy and, yes my amazing parenting played a part in that (!), but it is thanks to mixing with other children his age and being in a teacher lead environment that really boosted Leo’s confidence and aided his development. After witnessing how much he had changed and grown thanks to his time at pre school, when I sat down to fill in his school admissions form I knew what I was doing was for the best, although that didn’t mean I didn’t sometimes question my decision.
Here in the UK, parents of children born between April 1st and August 31st are able to request that their child does not start school in the September after they turn 4 and instead start the following year. However, after a little research, I have discovered that many schools and councils will not allow a summer born child to start reception class in the following year, instead they have to go straight into year 1. There are plans to change this though, Schools Minister Nick Gibb has called for change, making it so summer born children are able to start school in reception when they are five so as not to miss out on that important first year of learning at school. It is down to each school and local council admissions team to decide what year group your child will be placed in if you defer their school place for a year, if this is something you are considering then it is best to make an appointment with the schools you are applying for and see what their procedures are in this kind of situation. I found that knowing I didn’t have to legally send Leo to school at 4 if I felt he wasn’t ready really helped take the stress away, it was a lovely little comfort blanket cushioning the whole process, like just knowing that option was there if I changed my mind was enough to give me the confidence to fill out his form.
After a very very minor wobble of am I doing the right thing? , Leo started school in September, drowning in his giant school jumper and trousers hanging on for dear life around his waist but full of as much excitement and enthusiasm as all the September born children in his class. The first few weeks were tough though, I am not going to lie to you, by the end of each day Leo was exhausted and grumpy and so very emotional. All this socialising, playing and full on learning was definitely taking it’s toll on him and there were a few afternoons, after yet another meltdown on the car journey home, that I questioned my decision – maybe he was too young for this? There were a few occasions too where I was greeted with stories of Leo’s misbehaviour from his teacher at school pick up. Leo went through a spell of a few weeks in his first term of biting. hitting, pinching and just generally not being very kind to the other children in his class. Every time the teacher came and had a quiet word with me I just wanted to cry, we went through all of this when Leo was 2 but by the time he finished pre school these behaviours were a distant memory – or so I thought.
The one thing that reassured me the most during this time was his teacher telling me that, as the youngest in the class, Leo’s behaviour was something they sort of expected and I really didn’t need to worry. I repeatedly asked the teacher at what point would this behaviour no longer be considered ‘acceptable’ because of his age and she said if things hadn’t settled down by Christmas we would need to talk about the steps we could take to make things better. Things got better though and looking back now I can see that Leo was acting up because he was overwhelmed, just like when he was a toddler in a situation out of his control, he would lash out as that was his way of dealing with his feelings. I also found it really reassuring, whilst in the thick of all the biting and hitting dramas, to know that if it was needed, Leo could perhaps do less hours at school for a while until he felt more settled. His teacher suggested if the bad behaviours continued he could perhaps just do mornings for a little while, the majority of these incidents happened in the afternoon when he was tired, or we could find another way of reducing the hours he spent in school each week.
Luckily, as if by magic, everything clicked into place. The teacher was no longer having quiet words with me in the playground, the screaming grumpy child on the car ride home disappeared and Leo started to really thrive at school. He has just returned now for the January half term and I would go as far as to say that he loves school. He is reading, learning his numbers, trying to write and developing loads more skills and, seeing him as he is now, I can’t imagine him still being in pre school. Despite the sometimes living hell that was that first term, I stand by my decision to send Leo to school as an August born baby. I have seen children who are already five screaming and hanging off their parents legs in the morning, I have had conversations with parents of older children who are struggling with their phonics and have heard from the parents of five year olds that their kids are also exhausted after a day of school, just like Leo is. Whilst some research has found that summer born children can tend to be behind when it comes to things like literacy and are more often considered as having special learning needs than their older peers, this isn’t always the case. Leo, at not even four and half, is thriving at school and every time he reads a book to me or smashes it at his counting games, I know he is right where he needs to be. Yes, his five year old friends may be doing these things even better than Leo but that doesn’t bother me and clearly isn’t bothering his teachers either, who now only have positive things to say about him.
As a mum who did have moments of worry and anxiety when applying for her summer born child to start school, all I can say to you is YOU KNOW BEST. The legal time for your child to start school is the term after they turn five, so if you really feel in your heart that your four year old isn’t ready for primary school then you can hold them back. If you are not sure on what to do for the best, speak to your child’s pre school staff about what they think, I am sure they would have had summer born children in their care on countless occasions and will be able to tell you from a more teaching professional side of things how your little one is getting on and whether they think they are ready to hit the classroom in September. I am a firm believer in following gut and if it is telling you that your child just isn’t ready for this next step then it is probably right. You know how your child copes in certain situations and you are the one who has watched them grow and develop over the years, therefore, you are the person most qualified to decide whether they are ready to start their school journey when they are four or if holding back until they are five is the right thing to do.
Useful further reading ..
Is your summer born child due to start school this September? Have you considered holding them back or do you feel, at age 4, that they at ready? If you have a summer born child already in school, how are they getting on? Do you feel like by being almost a year younger than some of their classmates that their education and development has suffered? I would love to hear your thoughts.
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