Achieving a delayed start for twins in a Richmond-upon-Thames by Josephine Wyatt

I started looking into the possibility of ‘delaying’ my twin girls last autumn when the deadline for school applications was looming. Being summer born, they would be expected to start at just 4 years and 3 weeks which to me seemed ridiculously young.

After having a very stressful and long drawn out ‘settling in ‘ phase at their nursery, which lasted nearly 4 weeks, it was clear that if settling them into a lovely laid- back and creative nursery with a class of 25 and 6 teachers was so difficult, then they would not be ready for school a year later in September.

They only really settled in with 1:2 attention from their amazing key-worker so I started looking into the possibility of starting them at age 5 (compulsory school age or CSA) and discovered a huge amount of very valuable information and support by following the ‘Summer born Campaign’ on Facebook .

This showed me that I could apply for a school place in Sept 2017 (when they would be just 4 years old) but provide an application in the form of a formal letter to ask for a Reception start for my girls at CSA along with ‘evidence’ to support my application. I spent hours trawling through sample letters from the files in the FB group and studying the Government’s code for summer born admissions. I eventually got my letter ready with a lot of help from another local mum who is a teacher and far more eloquent than me! I also got a great supporting letter from Tamba and also a very supportive letter from the girls’ nursery.

My grounds for ‘delay” (this is a horrible term but is the easiest way of describing it) were:

  • the girls were a month premature and would have naturally fallen into the following year group if born at their due date
  • they were both emotionally and physically not ready for school which was highlighted by their exhaustion after 2.5 hours a day at nursery
  • they could not dress themselves or go to the toilet unaided, needed help hand washing, encouragement to eat snacks and moving from one activity to another
  • most importantly, they needed constant support from their keyworker, which they would certainly not get when in a class of 30 pupils to 2 teachers.

It was massively stressful going through the application. I unfortunately got no support from my partner but I found Tamba, the Facebook group and local mums trying to do the same immensely encouraging. I am happy to share my letter and also the supporting letter from our nursery to anyone wishing to write their own application for a CSA reception start for their twins.

I am not alone in believing strongly that 4 years olds are much too young to start school and that a child learns infinitely more at that age through free play than formal learning.
Reception may well be play-based but year 1 certainly isn’t and evidence shows that the pressures of pushing more formal learning onto youngsters who are simply not ready can be very detrimental.

My advice to anyone who is not sure that their summer born twins may or may not be ready for school next year is to make the application but to also include a request for a Reception start at age 5. This buys you time if you get a ‘yes’, as I did, so you can make your final decision when the time comes.

Also, I would strongly advise searching for a nursery which is sympathetic and supportive of starting your children at a later age. Go for an independent nursery rather than the state nursery of the school you wish to apply to, unless you know that the Head Teacher of that school will be supportive.

When you do the school tours, ask specific questions of the Head Teacher about where they stand with CSA reception starts. I believe the schools in Richmond-upon-Thames will be getting more acquainted with the admission code as more parents are requestin ‘delays’.

A group of Richmond and Kingston parents are currently lodging a formal group complaint to the LGO against the local education authorities for not complying with the admissions code and for not answering particular questions about the applications that were refused.

I am hugely relieved that I have got another year before starting the girls at school and I am 100 % sure that I made the right decision. With that decision made, I can really enjoy and savour this last year of freedom!

Useful resources:

Richmond/Kingston – Flexible Admissions for Summer Borns:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1449241545367504/

https://summerbornchildren.org

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/389448/Summer_born_admissions_advice_Dec_2014.pdf