A mother was celebrating yesterday (Fri) after winning a landmark ruling to send her summer-born daughter to reception class instead of skipping the first year of her education.
The decision could open the floodgates to a tide of similar cases of parents who have been forced to send their children straight into Year 1 despite being almost a year younger than other pupils in the same class.
Rosie Dutton, 30, had hoped to send her daughter Olivia, who turned four last August, to reception this Autumn after deciding she was not ready to start school because of her age last September.
She exercised her legal right to keep Olivia out of school for a year and hoped to send her to reception after she turned five.
In February this year she was told Olivia would go straight into Year 1 – effectively meaning she would miss out on a year of her academic learning.
According to campaigners, her case is just one of 250,000 across the country where summer-born children are being compelled to catch up with older classmates after skipping a year of education.
But after appealing the decision, Staffordshire County Council has finally agreed to let Olivia delay her entry into reception by a year.
Miss Dutton, who is separated from Olivia’s father Ian, 30, will send her daughter to the reception class at Heathfields Infants School in their hometown of Tamworth, Staffs.
The ruling could lead to thousands more parents choosing to hold their children back a year and entering them into reception class after they turn five.
However the Duttons have still been warned that the school could move Olivia up a year to be in her chronological age group at any time.
Miss Dutton, a children’s worker, said yesterday (Fri): “We’ve won the battle but not the war.
“It’s something that will always be in the back of my mind, if we ever move to a different area or she moves to senior school, they could always insist she jumps up a year.
“While I’m obviously thrilled for Olivia, my heart goes out to all those families who did not win their battle.
“We feel hugely relieved after all the uncertainty we faced though.
“Apparently the school themselves made the decision that there would be no problem with Olivia joining reception a year later, so it is good to know they decided that themselves.
“I got the confirmation email of her place on Thursday (16/4) after they told us in February that they had no problem in principle of letting her in.
“But this has been an 18-month battle because I approached the council about it before last year and they initially said she would have to go straight into Year 1 if she started a year late.
“But the Department of Education guidelines say you should be allowed to, so I took a risk and didn’t even apply for Olivia to go to school last year, and now it has come good which is fantastic.
“For the first time I’ve been able to talk to Olivia about starting school with passion and excitement.
“We were dancing around her bedroom when we got the email telling us she had a reception place and the school we want.
“I am certain that the media pressure put on Staffordshire County Council and the school had an influence.”
She has been lobbying ministers for clearer legislation through campaign group Flexible School Admissions for Summer Born Children, which claims many councils are not complying with the Department for Education guidance.
Heathfields Infants School caters for 202 boys and girls aged four to seven, and got a rating of ‘Good’ at its last Ofsted inspection in 2012.