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Deferring or delaying admission to school and educating pupils out of their chronological year group

Starting school: deferred or delayed admission to the reception year

Please note: From September 2020 it is the Government's intention that all schools are fully open from the start of term. Children will be encouraged to attend full time. This applies to all children of reception age who are all entitled to full time provision from the September following their fourth birthday. Advice and guidance for parents is available on the Department for Education web site.

In addition to the information on this page, a detailed guidance document is available:

There is also a brief guide specifically on delayed entry for summer-born children:

This page contains guidance on deferring and delaying entry to the reception year. It is written in accordance with the current School Admissions Code 2014. 

The majority of children start school full-time in the September following their fourth birthday.  In some cases parents believe that starting part-time or starting later in the school year would be more appropriate for their child. This is particularly the case where their child was born prematurely and would otherwise have started school a year later. There are a number of options to consider and sources of support and information. 

Parents could speak to the Family Information Service for advice (contact details below). They should request a meeting with the headteacher of the school where they have been allocated, or are hoping to gain, a place. This may include any other relevant professionals to help support them with this important decision.

When making the decision it is important to remember that schools have to work within the Early Years Foundation Stage Statutory Framework. Schools are therefore very aware of the needs of young children, especially those starting school very soon after their fourth birthday.  They are committed to ensuring that the reception class meets every child’s needs. They ensure the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum is a flexible and responsive play-based curriculum which supports this. The EYFS curriculum is also a requirement of pre-school provision.

Some useful information can be found on the following websites:

The 'What to expect when' document may also be useful.  Individual children’s needs will usually be met through the different approaches that teachers should identify and use. With these appropriate levels of support, very few children need to be admitted late to a reception class.

However, parents may choose deferred or part-time entry to the reception year for their child. They may also request delayed entry to reception (i.e. holding their child back a year). Each case must be considered individually and with the best interests of the child in mind.

Summer-born children: delayed entry to school

A child is summer-born if their birth date is between 1 April and 31 August. Summer-born children are not required to start school until a full year after the point at which they could first have been admitted. This is after their fourth birthday.  This would mean that they would be due to enter year one not long after their fifth birthday. Should parents/carers wish their child to be admitted to reception, rather than year one, they may request that they are admitted outside their normal age group. This would mean they would start in reception a year later than normal. This is called ‘delayed entry’.  There are a number of reasons why parents might request for their child to be admitted to school a year late. These include premature birth and concerns about delayed development.

Please see the Brief Guide for more information. You can also refer to the full information booklet, Starting school: deferring or delaying admission to the reception year

Placement of pupils outside their normal age group

It is usual practice in England for children to be educated in school year groups as determined by their date of birth. However there is no statutory barrier to children being admitted outside their normal age group.  Parents do not have the right to insist that their child is admitted to a particular age group. They may however make a request for this to happen. 

Department for Education guidance states that:

‘The government would agree that, in general, children should be educated in their normal age group, with the curriculum differentiated as appropriate and that they should only be educated out of their normal age group in very limited circumstances’.

A guidance document is available here:

Specific considerations relating to delayed entry to the reception year are covered in a separate Cornwall Council document. This includes cases where a child is starting in reception when they should, according to their age, be starting in year one. Starting school: deferring or delaying admission to the reception year.

Need advice?

If you need further information or advice, you could contact:

  • the headteacher where your child has been allocated a place or where you are hoping to secure a place;
  • your child's current headteacher or class teacher;
  • the Family Information Service. They can put you in touch with a representative of the Local Authority if necessary. Telephone: 0800 587 8191;

For advice on delayed entry to school for summer-born children please contact the School Admissions Team. Contact details can be found on this page.