DfE school entry guidance for premature-born children


The Government is asking local authorities to consider the school entry age of premature and summer-born children on a case-by-case basis, rather than applying a blanket admissions policy. The Department for Education (DfE) has published Advice on the admission of summer born children, which aims to clarify what rights parents have to decide when their child can start school.

Most children in England start school in the September following their fourth birthday. However, campaigners have long argued that premature-born children may have specific developmental needs which can be addressed by delaying or deferring their school entry. The DfE document confirms that parents can apply for their child to start in Reception class in the term following their fifth birthday, if they are concerned that their child may not be ready for school.

The Advice has been produced in association with Bliss, the special care baby charity, and has been informed by the experiences of parents who have tried to delay their child’s entry to school. Many parents say they had faced significant battles with local authorities or had received conflicting and inconsistent information depending on their local admissions authority.

Rebecca Rennison of Bliss welcomes the DfE’s clarification of the current situation, calling it a “positive first step”. However, she argues that the Government needs to go further and review the school admissions code if all premature born children are to be allowed to start school at a time right for them.

The DfE’s Advice on the admission of summer born children can be found at:


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  1. This is an interesting idea. I am a secondary school SENCO.

    We have been looking at children born later in August who are almost a year behind their peers. It is difficult to sometimes observe the emotional stress these children are under due to actually being a year younger but due to admission policies they are forced into a secondary school possibly a year too early.

    Definitely something to consider.

  2. This is a very interesting and long-overdue proposal. I did my Master’s dissertation on a pair of twins who were in precisely this position – birthday 31st August, 3 months premature and had NIC – and who remained with persistent language and literacy problems despite intensive intervention throughout primary school. I would agree with taking a case by case approach, but it might be more beneficial if it isn’t only parents who can request it but early years settings who can recommend it.


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