Delayed entry for summer-born children

This fact sheet is aimed primarily at parents of summer-born children who want to complain to the Ombudsman about a decision by a council or other admission authority to refuse their request to delay their child’s entry to reception until compulsory school age. A summer-born child is one with a birthday between 1 April and 31 August inclusive.


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. Parents also have the right to decide not to send their child to school until they reach compulsory school age. A child is of compulsory school age at the beginning of the term following their fifth birthday. This is the parents’ decision to make and not one the admission authority can overrule. A child is of compulsory school age at the beginning of the term following their fifth birthday.

The Admissions Code also allows parents to ask the admission authority for a place for their child outside of their 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 ask the admission authority that they are admitted out of their normal age group – into reception rather than year one (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 admission authority must decide whether, after reaching compulsory school age, it would be in that child’s best interests to start in reception or year one. 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.

If an admission authority simply decides a child should start Reception at the normal time, it is applying the wrong test.

Admission authorities must make it clear in their admission arrangements how to ask for admission out of the normal year group.

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.
  • Usually, you should complain to us within 12 months of when you first knew about the problem. If you leave it any later, we may not be able to help.

For more information on how to complain, please read our step by step process.

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?
  • did it decide what year it would be in your child’s best interest to start school into, at compulsory school age?
  • if it decided the child’s best interests were to start at compulsory school age into year one, did it properly consider the potential impact of admission to year one without first having completed reception?
  • 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 a complaint we have considered

Ms X’s daughter, Y, is a summer-born child. Ms X applied for a school place for Y in the normal admissions round, with an expected start date of September 2019. Later Ms X found out about the option of deferring entry to school. She told the Council she wanted Y to start school in September 2020 and join reception, rather than year one. The Council refused her request, saying it had taken account of the views of the headteacher of the school she had applied for. It offered Y a place in reception in September 2019. We found that the Council had applied the wrong test. It had looked at whether Y should start reception in 2019 or 2020. Instead, it should have considered whether, when starting school in 2020, as Ms X wished, Y should join reception or year one. It did not consider whether it would be in Y’s best interests to miss reception. The Council agreed to review the decision in line with the Code and guidance, apologise to Ms X for the flawed decision-making, and pay her £150 for her time and trouble. It also agreed to review all decisions for summer born children asking to delay entry to reception to 2020 and improve the information on its website.

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

We provide 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 we aim to get it put right by recommending a suitable remedy.

February 2024

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