Devon County Council has recently changed its policy for summer born children starting reception at compulsory school age. Previously it agreed all parental requests. Now it will review each request on a case by case basis and consult with headteachers.
1.Please provide the reasons for this change.
Under the admissions policies for community and voluntary controlled schools for 2016-17 and 2017-18, Devon County Council would agree all parental requests for summer-born children to delay admission to Reception to the September following the fifth birthday. The Council is the admissions authority for these schools. This policy was in response to a letter from the schools’ Minister in September 2015 which undertook to amend the School Admissions Code and establish a right for parents of summer-born children to delay admission to reception to September in the next academic year and for the child to then be able to remain in that chronological cohort for the remainder of his or her statutory education. All admissions authorities were encouraged to respond to requests in the meantime as if the Code had already been changed. By the autumn of 2016 there had been no review of the Admissions Code and no indication from the Department for Education that there would be a review and national consultation on proposed amendments to the Code in the near future. The current Code makes specific provision for parents to request delayed admission and for the admissions authority to consider each request, giving clear reasons for their decision. The policy prior to the Schools’ Minister’s letter was compliant with this and the change in policy for 2018-19 was put forward to return the policy to compliance with the Code rather than an anticipation of a change in the Code. It also sought to bring all decisions regarding children being educated out of their chronological Year Group would made on a case by case basis by the head teacher of the school or on his or her advice to the admissions authority. Parents who wish their children to be taught in Year 3 rather than Year 4 for example do not have an automatic right to do so under the current Code, nor do children of summer-born children seeking delayed admission. In the absence of a change in the Code, the policy for 2018 places the decision-making in the same place. Should the Code be amended, Devon’s policy would be reviewed and amended as necessary.
2. Please provide names of who are responsible for this change
The change in policy for 2018-19 was the responsibility of the Cabinet of Devon County Council, as the admissions authority for community and voluntary controlled schools. A new Cabinet will be appointed shortly following the recent County Council elections. It is possible that the membership will be largely unchanged. Details will be published on the Cabinet webpage when available.
3. Please provide notes/minutes of the decision making process for the change
The following is an extract from Appendix 6 to the EL/17/01, report to Cabinet on the Admission Arrangements for 2018-19:The Schools’ Minister gave a commitment in September 2015 that The Code would be revised to establish a right for parents of summer-born childrento delay admission to Reception class until the beginning of the September after the fifth birthday. This would then be the child’s accepted cohort for the remainder of his or her education and be binding at transition. All admissions authorities were encouraged to act on this commitment with immediate effect as if The Code had already been amended. The LA has drafted wording into admissions policies anticipating of a revised Code although the existing wording is compatible with the September commitment: all parents must request delayed admission and all admissions authorities can agree to it. Where delayed admission is agreed, parents would still be required to submit an application in the appropriate admissions round.
It remains for the LA to decide whether to adopt the September commitment for 2018-19 and agree to all requests for delayed admission for summer-born children to community and voluntary controlled schools.A revised Code has yet to be published for consultation and there is no indication that this will occur in the next year. A number of head teachers have expressed concern that this is the position. The matter was discussed in January 2017 with representatives from the Devon Association of Primary Headteachers, Devon Association of Secondary Headteachers and the Devon Association of Governors. It was agreed that a preferred option was to revert to consideration of cases individually. This allows Head teachers of schools to decide the best setting within school for a child as they do for all other pupils. This approach would also be recommended to own admissions authority schools, some of which still operate on a case by case basis.It is recommended to respond to delayed admission requests in line with the existing Admissions Code on a case by case basis and that all own admission authority schools be encouraged to adopt this approach.
4. Please explain why this change is allowed to contradict the determined admissions policy for 2017/18 and 2018/19 which states that where Devon is the admissions authority it will agree all such requests.
Admission of summer-born children outside their normal age group.
For summer-born children, we recommend that parents who are considering delaying admission to Reception to the following academic year discuss their plans with us and any other relevant professionals. If the decision is to go ahead with delayed admission, parents will then make an application in the next normal round (between September 2017 and 15 January 2018 for admission in September 2018). There is no additional priority for admission based on the child delaying admission. Children who delay admission to Reception to the following academic year will have reached the compulsory school age and do not have the option for part-time attendance
 This is subject to the School Admissions Code being revised by the government to establish a parental right to delay admission to Reception for summer born children into the next academic year. The Department for Education has asked all admission authorities to consider requests for delayed admission as if this right had already been established. Devon County Council, as admissions authority for community and voluntary controlled schools has agreed to this request.
This policy only is for admissions in the 2017-18 academic year. It applies for parents who wish their summer-born children to delay admission from 2016-17 to 2017-18. The policy for parents who wish their summer-born children to delay admission from 2017-18 to 2018-19 is within the 2018-19 documents and is extracted here:
We will consider requests for delayed admission for summer-born children, mindful of the request by the Schools’ Minister in September 2015 for admissions authorities to agree to requests. While the admissions authority is responsible for decisions, this will be in discussion with the head teacher who will provide a view on whether the child’s needs can be met in his or her chronological Year Group.
The policies are different in their approach: that for 2017-18 provides for all requests to be agreed while that for 2018-19 provides for each request to be considered on a case by case basis in the context that the Schools’ Minister encouraged agreement.