Delayed entry for summer-born children

This fact sheet is aimed primarily at parents of summer-born children who want to delay their child’s entry to reception and are considering making a complaint to the Ombudsman. A summer-born child is one with a birthday between 1 April and 31 August.

Background

The School Admissions Code requires school admission authorities to provide for the admission of all children in the September following their fourth birthday. There is flexibility within the admissions system for parents who do not feel their child is ready to start school. Children can attend school part-time and parents can defer the date their child starts school until they reach compulsory school age. A child is of compulsory school age at the beginning of the term following their fifth birthday.

The Admissions Code also allows parents to seek a place for their child outside of the normal age group. This includes situations where the parents of a summer-born child choose not to send their child to school until the September following their fifth birthday. The child’s parents can then request they are admitted out of their normal age group – to reception rather than year 1 (referred to in this factsheet as ‘delayed entry’).

Decisions on delayed entry are taken by a school’s admission authority. In many schools this will be the council. In other schools, such as academies and church aided schools, the governing body is the admission authority and is responsible for decisions on delayed entry. We recommend you start the process by contacting your local council for more information.

The Admissions Code states that admission authorities must make decisions on delayed entry based on the circumstances of each case and in the best interests of the child. This includes considering the parent’s views, information about the child’s academic, social and emotional development, and whether the child was born prematurely. Admission authorities must also consider the views of headteachers.

When telling a parent of their decision, admission authorities must set out clearly the reasons for their decision.

My application to delay entry for my summer-born child has been refused. Can I complain to the Ombudsman?

In some cases, yes. But the Ombudsman cannot question decisions if they were taken properly by an admission authority. You can complain to the Ombudsman if your request for delayed entry has been refused by a council as the admission authority of a community or voluntary controlled school. We can also look at complaints about delayed entry to foundation or voluntary aided schools.

How do I complain?

  • You should ask the admission authority if it has a process for reviewing decisions. We normally expect people to have completed the admission authority’s own process before we will become involved.
  • You should normally make your complaint to us within 12 months of realising that something has gone wrong.
  • To complain to the Ombudsman phone our helpline on 0300 061 0614 (8.30am to 5.00pm, Mondays to Fridays). You will be able to discuss your complaint with one of our advisers.
  • You can text us on 0762 481 1595.
  • You can complete an online complaint form.
  • If your complaint is about the refusal of a nursery school place you will not be able to appeal to an appeal panel so you can complain to us as soon as you have had your complaint considered by the admissions authority.

Complaints about school admissions are usually urgent so it is important that you contact us about your complaint as soon as you can. We will then try to deal with it as quickly as we can.

If you can consider my complaint what will the Ombudsman look for?

We consider whether the admission authority has done something wrong in the way it went about dealing with your request for delayed entry. Some of the issues we can look at are:

  • Did it follow its published process?
  • Did it take into account your reasons for asking for delayed entry?
  • Were the headteachers of your preferred schools consulted?
  • Has the admission authority explained its decision?

What happens if the Ombudsman finds fault?

The Ombudsman cannot overturn an admission authority’s decision. But if we find that something has gone wrong in the way your request for delayed entry was considered, we may:

  • ask the admission authority to reconsider its decision, or
  • recommend that the admission authority reviews its procedures, so that the problems you experienced do not happen to other parents.

Examples of complaints we have considered

Mrs X complained that a council made a decision about her request for delayed entry without considering the views of the headteacher from her preferred school. The Ombudsman found that the council had asked the headteacher if they thought delayed entry was in the child’s best interests. The council did not receive a reply but went ahead and considered the request anyway. It then refused the request. This was a breach of the Admissions Code and caused Mrs X injustice in the form of avoidable frustration, and time and trouble in making her complaint. The council agreed to review the request taking into account the views of the headteacher and to review its procedures. It would also review the decisions it had already taken on delayed entry.
Mrs Y complained about the way the council dealt with her request for delayed entry for her twin children. The Ombudsman found no fault in the council’s actions. It had a procedure for considering requests for delayed entry and had taken into account Mrs Y’s views. It had considered what the Headteacher of her preferred school said and properly dealt with her complaint. Because the decision was properly reached the Ombudsman could not question the council’s decision.

Other sources of information

Our fact sheets give some general information about the most common type of complaints we receive but they cannot cover every situation. If you are not sure whether we can look into your complaint, please phone 0300 061 0614

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman provides a free, independent and impartial service. We consider complaints about the administrative actions of councils and some other authorities. We cannot question what a council has done simply because someone does not agree with it. If we find something has gone wrong, such as poor service, service failure, delay or bad advice and that a person has suffered as a result the Ombudsman aims to get it put right by recommending a suitable remedy.

September 2017

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