While most children will begin school in the September following their fourth birthday, parents also have the option of entering them on a part-time basis or deferring school entry at any point up to until their fifth birthday.

Part-time schooling

Many schools recognise that not all children are immediately ready to start school full-time and so are willing to offer a flexible arrangement where children will only attend for a morning or afternoon during the first term. If you are interested in this option, you would need to discuss this with your child’s school and find out what their part-time provision would be.

However, for other children, particularly those who were born in the summer, it may still be too difficult for them to attend school full-time once January arrives. They may struggle to stay awake in class, become distressed frequently or find it impossible to meet what is expected of them.

Deferred entry

By law, you are able to defer your child’s school place until later in the school year or until they reach compulsory school age. Where entry is deferred, your child’s school place will be held and cannot be offered to another child. Entry will then usually be arrange to coincide with the beginning of a new term or half-term.

If you are the parent of a summer-born child and wish for them to start school in the next term following their fifth birthday, this would involve skipping the reception stage and placing your child directly into year 1. In this case, you would need to apply for a school place during the normal admission round for the following academic year i.e. you will apply for a school place during the correct admission time following their fourth birthday.

deferring school entry

Delayed entry

Delayed entry is when a child is admitted to school in a year outside their normal age group.

For summer-born children or those with a medical or developmental need, it is possible for them to be admitted to a year group below their peers. The learning/admission authority will make a decision taking into account any supporting evidence from relevant professionals that you may have. They will then decide whether to accept your application for a reception place, or to admit your child to year 1 with their normal age-range peers.

The School Admissions Code, written by the Department of Education, states that: “Parents of gifted and talented children, or those who have experienced problems or missed part of a year, for example due to ill health, can seek places outside their normal age group. Where the parents of a summer born child choose not to send that child to school until the September following their fifth birthday, they may request that they are admitted out of their normal age group – to reception rather than year 1.

“Admission authorities must make decisions on the basis of the circumstances of each case. This will include taking account of the parent’s views, information about the child’s academic, social and emotional development, and whether they have previously been educated out of their normal age group. They must also take into account the views of the head teacher of the school concerned.”1

1School Admissions Code, revised draft

What Hertfordshire County Council say about delayed and deferred school entry

“Legally, a child doesn’t have to start school until the start of the term following their 5th birthday. If you’d prefer, your child could attend part time until they reach compulsory school age.

“You could also defer your child’s start date until later in the same academic year or until the term in which they reach compulsory school age.

Summer born children (born between April and August) can only defer entry to Reception class until the beginning of the last term of the school year for which the offer was made. Contact your school if you want to take up a part time place, or defer your child’s start date.

“If you think your child should be educated in a different year group, when you apply send us supporting evidence from relevant professionals and family stating why your child must be placed outside their normal age group.

“For community and voluntary controlled schools, we’ll decide whether your application is accepted on the basis of the evidence submitted.”

Helpful Links

Flexible School Admissions for Summer Born Children –  A support group for parents of summer born children who wish to pursue a reception start at compulsory school age.

Bliss: What is deferring/delaying school entry? – For children who may have special educational needs due to being born too soon, too small or too sick.

Growing up fast – One mother’s experience of deferring her child’s school entry.

When should summer born children start school? – Research review by the Institute of Fiscal Studies.

Advice on the admission of summer born children – Non-statutory advice from the Department of Education.