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 Surrey County Council say about delayed and deferred school entry

“If you would like your child to be educated outside their normal age group, the admission authority for each school will consider your request based on your child’s circumstances and what is in your child’s best interests.

“You must state clearly why you feel admission to a different year group is in your child’s best interest and provide evidence to support this. You can contact the local authority for advice, and also see Surrey’s guidance on the education of children out of their chronological year group (PDF).”

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.