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Current position

There have been longstanding concerns that children born towards the end of the school year – in England, summer-born children – suffer adverse educational impacts by virtue of starting school at a younger age than their peers.

To accommodate these concerns, a degree of flexibility is provided in England whereby a parent may request that a summer-born child is admitted to school outside of their normal age group.  (This is in addition to other reasons a child might be educated outside their normal age group, such as following a period of ill health.) 

A school’s admissions authority is responsible for making the decision on which year group a child should be admitted to.  There is no statutory barrier to children being admitted outside their normal age group, but parents do not have the right to insist that their child is admitted to a particular age group. 

Research published by the Department for Education in 2023 found that over 9 in 10 requests for delayed school entry are agreed, with more than a quarter of local authorities adopting a policy of accepting all requests.

Concerns and proposals for change

Concerns have been raised about the manner in which this process operates, in particular that many parents whose request is accepted find that their child’s deferred entry into school may not be into the reception class but rather into year 1, meaning the child misses reception year. There can also be consequences later in education when a child advances to secondary school or moves to a new area.

In September 2015, the then Schools Minister told the House that the Government would consult on changes to the School Admissions Code to amend the code to strengthen the rights of parents to choose when their child enters reception class, and to ensure children remain in the same school year throughout their education if they prefer.

However, these proposals did not lead to legislative change and in July 2022 the Government announced that it had ended its plans to legislate. The announcement stated that the Government believed good progress had been made within the existing legislation, with a large majority of applications for delayed entry being approved, and that the system was now working well.


Schools policy is devolved. This paper focuses on England, but information is provided on the relevant position in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  In Scotland, similar deferral processes are in place, although the differing operation of the school year means those provisions apply to children born during the winter.

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