Department for Education
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More options for parents on when their children start primary school

All children can start school from the September after their fourth birthday under proposed changes from 2011


Free full time early learning and childcare outside school for children not ready to start school


Parents of summer-born children will get greater flexibility over choosing when they start primary school, under proposals published today by Children’s Secretary Ed Balls.


Local authorities already have a legal duty to make sure all children have a place at a school at the compulsory school starting age of five.


But ministers want to ensure that every parent has the option of starting reception class from the September after they turn four, in the proposed changes to the mandatory School Admissions Code.


It means that all local authorities will now have a legal duty to give parents the same flexibility and choice over reception start dates.


Parents with children not ready to start school will be entitled to free full-time early learning and childcare, in maintained nursery schools and classes or in private, voluntary and independent sector provision.


The changes, published for consultation today, will come into force in February 2010 and apply to admission arrangements from September 2011 once adopted. It means that parents will be able to:


• choose when their children can start primary reception classes full or part-time in the September, January or April after their fourth birthday up to the compulsory schooling age of five – at the point they judge their children are mature enough to start and younger children will not necessarily have to start later in the school year;


• choose a free full-time place in other early learning or nursery settings if parents judge their children are not ready for reception – so their children can still access the Early Years Foundation Stage on a full-time basis; or


• choose to hold back from formal childcare or school up until the compulsory school starting age of five – as parents can already do now.


Today’s consultation comes after Sir Jim Rose’s Primary Curriculum Review, published in April this year, was accepted in full by ministers.


Sir Jim recommended that summer-born children should start primary school in the September after their fourth birthday - subject to discussions with parents taking into account their views of a child’s maturity and readiness to enter reception class.


He pointed to evidence that many children born in July or August are at greater risk of poor outcomes than children born earlier in the school year – with a potential knock-on effect throughout their school careers where they sit formal tests and exams with classmates 10 or 11 months older.


But he stressed it was right that parents had the choice of starting from the earliest possible point after their fourth birthday – so those children who need the most support could start formal schooling at the earliest possible point.


And he said the transition from early years should be smoothed to primary by extending active, play-based learning, particularly for ‘summer-born’ children.


Early Years Foundation Stage figures released last week showed that over 23,000 more children reached good level of development than prior to the introduction of the EYFS in September 2008 – with the gap between the lowest achievers and their peers has also narrowing.


Children’s Secretary Ed Balls said:


“It is really important that children hit the ground running when they start primary school. There is clear evidence the sooner summer-born children start good-quality pre-schooling, the sooner they close the gap on their peers.


“I want all standards for all children. We have put unprecedented investment to expand and strengthen the nursery and early-years sector; introduced the Early Year Foundation Stage so disadvantaged kids do not lose out; and are now implementing Sir Jim Rose’s reforms to make reception stage exciting and enjoyable for all.


“It is down to parents to make the decisions about when their child starts school.


“Parents of summer born children rightly want much greater say in how when their children start primary school – whether it’s in the September, January or up to a whole school year after they turn four.


“We know that not every four-year-old is going to be ready for reception at the same time – so it is important families have the choice when to start full-time or part-time classes or have free early years’ provision if they want it.”


Editor's Notes
This press notice relates to 'England'

1. The four-week consultation on the points of entry into reception class is published at:


2. The proposed changes to the School Admissions Code are:


Admission of children below compulsory school age


For admission to the 2011-12 school year, and subsequent years, admission authorities for primary schools must provide for the admission of all children in the September following their fourth birthday.


When determining the arrangements for primary schools the admission authority must make it clear that:


a) the arrangements do not apply to those being admitted for nursery provision including nursery provision delivered in a co-located children’s centre;


b) parents of children who are admitted for nursery provision need to apply for a place at the school if they want their child to transfer to the reception class;


c) attendance at the nursery or co-located children’s centre does not guarantee admission to the school;


d) parents can request that the date their child is admitted to the school is deferred until later in the school year or until the child reaches compulsory school age in that school year; and


e) parents can request that their child attends part-time until the child reaches compulsory school age. Admission authorities must accommodate these requests where it appears to be in the best interest of the child.


Deferred entry to primary schools


Admission authorities must allow parents of children who are admitted to the school before they are of compulsory school age to defer their child’s entry until later in the school year. Where entry is deferred, admission authorities must hold the place for that child and not offer it to another child.


The parent would not however be able to defer entry beyond the beginning of the term after the child’s fifth birthday, nor beyond the academic year for which the original application was accepted. This must be made clear in the admission arrangements for the school.


3. Sir Jim Rose’s final report of the Primary Curriculum Review, was published on 30 April 2009, and a Written Ministerial Statement in response was published at:


He recommended that:


“The preferred pattern of entry to reception classes should be the September immediately following a child’s fourth birthday. However, this should be subject to well informed discussion with parents, taking into account their views of a child’s maturity and readiness to enter reception class. Arrangements should be such as to make entry to reception class an exciting and enjoyable experience for all children, with opportunities for flexible arrangements such as a period of part-time attendance if judged appropriate.”


The Secretary of State accepted all of the reviews recommendations in a Written Ministerial Statement which is available at:


In addition, he set out his intention to make funding available so that, where parents have a strong preference for their child’s early years experience to take place outside a school setting, they will be able to access full time early years provision in other settings from the September after their child’s fourth birthday.


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