“Great oaks from little acorns grow.”
14th century proverb

  • When should children start school? | Dickinson School Consulting

When should children start school?

The UK’s Department for Education recently announced that admissions rules are to be changed so children born between 1st April and 31st August will be able to go into reception a year later than some of their pre-school peers. The news that summer babies are to be allowed to start at the age of 5 rather than 4 is receiving a mixed reaction from parents, so we consider the arguments for and against.

There is no denying the fact that the younger children are, the bigger the difference in 1 year’s development: so the discrepancy between a child turning 5 during their first term of school and one who remains 4 until their first school summer holiday can be huge. This effect is reduced elsewhere in Europe, where, for example, German children start school the year they will turn 6 and Danes only when they are about to be 7. By this time developmental differences between one year and the next are greatly reduced, so the season of birth is far less important.

Here, studies have concluded that children relatively old in their year can be at an advantage academically, while a child born on the “wrong” side of the cut-off date is at almost twice the risk of having language difficulties and behaviour problems reported by their teacher at the end of the reception year. Although such difficulties diminish over time, summer-born children can be more likely to have special educational needs and do less well in their GCSEs.

Therefore, you would think permitting summer babies to start school a year later would be met by universal approval, but not everyone is convinced by the change. Whether that is due to economic factors – some working parents may not have the luxury of keeping their children from starting school for an extra year – or because a younger sibling is keen to follow their elder brother or sister to school as soon as possible, thankfully the main reason for doubting the necessity of this change is that reception classes are so well geared up for making the adjustment from nursery to school. They factor in lots of time for outdoor play, and teachers recognise that children develop at different speeds.

Of course, at the heart of this is the fact that we are all individuals and there may not be a satisfactory “one size fits all” solution, so we welcome the change. Recognising that parents and teachers are best placed to decide what is right for a child, and adding flexibility for summer-born children to start reception a year later only seems fair.

Thankfully, the British boarding schools we work with recognise this individuality and continue to nurture their students’ development at their own pace, right up to the age of 18. Can we help you find the right one for your child?

Photo courtesy of Ashville College