Are children born in the summer really at a big disadvantage?

The government is delaying plans to let children born between April and August go to school a year later over fears that parents will use the change to play the system. So can the date you were born really shape your life chances?

Twelve months ago the government announced plans to allow summer-born children to start school a year later. Why hasn’t it happened yet?

Schools minister Nick Gibb wrote an open letter to schools and local authorities in September 2015, announcing plans to change the rules to allow children born between 1 April and 31 August to start primary school a year later. At the time, the move was welcomed by parents of summer-born children, who have long argued that their offspring are at a disadvantage because of their relative immaturity within a class. But this week it emerged that while some authorities have been pressing ahead with change, the government is delaying because of fears that some parents might try to play the system.

Parents play the system? Surely not. What are they hoping to gain?

Gibb, speaking during a parliamentary debate, said there were concerns that some parents might use the change in policy to double their chances of getting a place at a popular primary school. Competition can be fierce for successful primary schools, particularly because of an increase in the number of school-age children, which has been putting pressure on places for a number of years. The government has become worried that some parents of summer-borns might use the changes to make two applications to their preferred school, applying once when their child is four and again when they are five. So ministers have asked for more time to consider how to best implement the changes to avoid “unintended consequences”.

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