Dear Esther and William: Why I Am Trying to Delay Your School Start

Dearest Esther and William

Today you have started your preschool year. You are three years old though really you should still be two.

Born in July but due in October, your exceptional birth circumstances have led me to challenge when you will start school.

By the date of your birth you should be starting school in the next academic year, September 2014.

I would like to try and delay your start until September 2015, when you will actually be just 5 but technically still 4.

I have many reasons for doing this but the main one is this.

It is not your fault that you were born early.

Being born earlier than your 2015 classmates does not give you an advantage over them.

Your first months on earth were awful for you.

Attached to monitors, wired to machines, contraptions and concoctions keeping you alive and helping you breathe.

You should have been born in October without the need for such advanced technological and medical intervention.

But you were born extremely prematurely.

And it was not in any way your fault.

You should have been born on 20th October 2010 and I feel passionately that is the date that should be used to determine when you start school.

If people cannot agree that date, then perhaps the date you came home from hospital, because those earliest days cannot count, you came home from hospital at the end of September. That is when life for you began.

This date would still lead to a school starting year of 2015.

I am not going into this without careful thought and consideration.

It is something I have discussed with family and friends.

With strangers.

It is something that I have read about and researched.

It is something I feel strongly about as a parent and as a teacher.

I know that schools are filled with wonderful teachers and teaching assistants.

People who could give you extra support.

But if you start school when you are 5 then you will not need additional support.

You are bright, intelligent, sociable children

But I do not think that because of that the exceptional circumstances of your birth should be overlooked.

September born children who are bright are not pushed into school early because they are clever.

Why should it be any different for you?

You deserve the time to play.

You deserve the time to develop physically and emotionally.

You deserve to go to school with the children who were born when you were due, when you should have been born.

These are your true peers and the ones that you are most like.

Perhaps by September 2015 William will be able to buy school uniform just like everyone else?

At the moment that would be impossible as schools do not make uniforms in size 9 – 12 months!

Perhaps by September 2015 you will be able to reach the sink to wash your hands without needing a step?

Perhaps in September 2015 you will be more like the other children in your class

And not be treated as the baby as at preschool you currently are.

You need time to become steadier and stronger on your feet.

You have only been walking properly from 21 months.

You need to master coming down stairs confidently on your own.

You do not yet have the strength and stamina of many three year olds.

As well as your own premature start to life

You have had to deal with the premature and sudden death of your baby sister

And all the fall out from such a tragedy

You are not in any way ready to start thinking about school.

And I am not in any way ready to start thinking about letting you go

When I know that you will not make the most of the opportunity yet.

I have thought long and hard about the long terms effects.

Your birthday is in the school holidays anyway so there is no problem with that.

Daddy and I fully intend to be open and honest with you about how you were born and why you have two birthdays.

We will choose a school that understands your complicated beginnings and is sympathetic to the decision we have made.

You, we and they will know why you are in school out of year and understand that really you are in the right year for when you were supposed to be born.

It all keeps coming back to one thing.

It is not your fault that you were born too soon.

And so we are challenging when you start school

I know in my heart it is the right thing to do

And we may get nowhere

And you may start school in 2014 with the support of wonderful teachers and teaching assistants

But at least I will have tried to do what I know to be right in my heart

For you two, my beautiful two

But also for all summer born premature children

Because I have a suspicion that sometime soon

Parents like me will not be having to make a stand

Because their children will be allowed to start school in the correct year for when they were due

Not when they were actually born

Too sick, too small, too soon.

31 thoughts on “Dear Esther and William: Why I Am Trying to Delay Your School Start

  1. Jennie, I wholeheartedly agree with your reasons and your motivation for getting the best for your 2 wonderful oldest children, you are their mum, the person who knows them the best and has only their best interests at heart. Good Luck xx

  2. Hello..your in much pain! I have lost a child in his early teens as well…… had another child …… I was in hospital on my back for 3 mos then our second child was born at 7 mos…same.. tubes ,breathing, hospital … 5lbs when she got home on her due date!…I must say she was so ready for school…I couldn’t hold her back if I wanted….did super well socially & studies!!

  3. Hi Jennie, I’m in the same predicament as you, my daughter was born in June 2010 but should of been September. The problem is for me is that even if I delay her start to 2015 she will go straight into year 1 and effectively miss out on reception completely and that is why ive decided it’s of no benefit delaying her start. Will your school and local LEA allow your twins to start in reception?

    • Today they said that they would have to go to Y1 but there is guidance from DfE that says they are entitled to go into reception the term after their fifth birthday and so I am fighting for that x

  4. I’m a nursery teacher in Scotland and want to wish you good luck with your fight. I so wish the authorities would listen to parents,after all who knows your twins best??
    You want the very best for your children, that’s why you are questioning this madness.
    If they do insist they start ‘early’ they’ll always have you, a wonderful Mummy who will love,support and fight for them.

  5. And now I think I really do understand your reasons. They DO deserve all of the things you want for them and you’re right. They are too young. They deserve to play at home for a little while longer. The part about school uniforms being made in age 9-12 months really brought it home for me. I really hope you get what you want for your precious babies

  6. As ever, beautifully written and fantastic photo – they really are gorgeous. Sounds like obvious, logical, common sense to me. Good luck x

  7. My friends daughter is repeating year 2 at school. She is July born and the school said she is emotionally more suited to being a year below. Bright and intelligent but not ready for juniors. It is possible and they don’t have to be in school until term after turn 5…

  8. You are absolutely right to do what you think is best. In Scotland I have several friends who have chosen to hold their children at pre-school for an extra year. The determining year runs from March to March rather than September to September, and my understanding (from friends who have actually done this) is that children born Jan-Mar may defer their start to the following year. Parents of children born in December may request it (again based on a friends experience), but it is not automatically allowed. So, the kids end up being the oldest, rather than youngest, in their class – but only by a few months. Good luck, I hope that you are able to work through this with your LEA and get the result that you want, and need xx

  9. Hi Jennie, your twins are gorgeous:) I have twins who were born on 3rd August and their due date was 15th Sept. They’re only 13 months old now but I so feel the same way as you do. I can’t bear the thought of them going to school so early. I wish the authorities made an exception in the case of muiltiples or premature or preterm babies and listened to the parents! perhaps you’ll start something great, fingers crossed and best of luck! xx

  10. Totally understand where your coming from jennie we have been thinking the same for william he starts nursery on the 25th sept and I think it will do him good to mix with other children I just worry about him starting school too soon as he was also due in october good luck with whatever happens you have a gorgeous family and they have a lovely mummy xxx

  11. Good luck Jennie, you are absolutely right and I really hope you win your battle. For me there is just too much to fight about in the school system, so I hope that as long as the children are happy I can just steer clear of it, but if they ever want to go back I will roll up my sleeves and re-enter the fray. I love home education and am grateful for the opportunity to do it, but I can also see the value of parents putting up a good fight to change the system from with in and making it better for others, so good for you for trying xx

  12. Best of Luck!

    Like you have so well said, why should they need support when there’s nothing wrong with their brains – they just need time like they should’ve had. I will find it unbelievable if they don’t take due date into account. xx

  13. I’m 35 and have young children of my own but my mum fought and lost this same battle when I was starting school. I was due at the end of September and was born on the 27th August weighing 4lbs and needing a lot of specialist care. I was obviously the youngest in the year born just 4 days from the end of term and my mum strongly believed I belonged in the year below. My mum is wonderful, so this is in no way meant as a criticism, but I don’t think she even saw me as belonging in that year group, ever. This caused a few battles in my teenage years when she would say “ah but really you should be in year 10 not year 11″ when I’m 15 years old and wanting to go to a house party with all my 16 year old friends!

  14. Jenni, you are doing the right thing, my youngest Mia was born on the 23rd August only a few weeks early, but was very poorly. She has struggled with school, emotionally rather than academically but I wished I could have held her back a year when we returned to the UK, it would have made a massive difference to her,

    You stick with what you know is right.. X

  15. You are their mum and you know best and I wish you all the best with your campaign to give them the best start at school. A couple of things have come to mind as I read. Firstly, there is precedent for non-uniform school starts just across the water as in the Republic of Ireland parents choose whether their children will start school the year they are four or five.
    Secondly, when I was a teacher we had a statement of special needs for one girl that allowed her to go through our primary school junior years in the year group below. This suited her emotional, developmental and educational needs much better. We sent her off to high school, and they disallowed this aspect of her statement. Instead of getting the gentle transition phase to high school and the support of starting high school with her classmates, she was bumped straight into year eight. This prospect is way ahead for you, and not the current mission, but I just wanted to add it as a possible future mission that you might also need to campaign for. As someone who has worked in primary schools for almost two decades, I just want you to know that it is not just kind words and platitudes when I say that the key indicator for children’s happiness and success in primary school is parental love, involvement and support. Your son and daughter have that advantage whatever the decision that’s made.

    • Thank you for your lovely comment. We were really worried about secondary school transition and so we contacted our chosen local senior schools and we have it in writing from them that they admit and educate children out of year x It was a real concern for us. Thank you again for your kind words about us x

  16. Pingback: Read All About It: When Should Children Born Prematurely Start School? | Edspire

  17. Hiya Jennie. I have a young relative who was premature. Not much but the umbilical cord wasn’t working right beforehand, so became an emergency csection. Not early enough to be an official premmie, but for 2 months she never grew so needed help. She is smaller than kids of her age and is same height as my son, despite being years older.

    I can totally see why premmies should be allowed a year’s later start at school if the parents want this. I hope you get this sorted for your twins.

  18. Hi – I think I Tweeted you briefly my story. My boy is a July birthday and was absolutely not ready for school for the ‘correct’ intake. I took advice from various people, including a friend that works for admissions nationally. Her advice was to find a school that is willing to keep them down a year (I found 2 in my town, and there may have been more, but I wanted to keep to the local schools), then get a letter from them to say that they agree to have them ‘down a year’. Then write to admissions and tell them you are keeping them at home as they are under 5, and then apply as normally for the following year, making sure the letters from the schools are included, and at that point, you have an equal chance, following the schools normal criteria. Not all schools (sadly) are aware you can do this, and will start spouting off things like ‘you would be bottom of the list’ – this is incorrect, though you may need to prove it!!

  19. We have done the same for Molly. She was due 28th November and was born 31st July. She is currently repeating her last year of nursery. We made the decision to send her to an independent school as the local authority made it clear we would probably not win a fight. We are fortunate to have this as an option, although how we are going to afford it, I’m not sure! Best of luck with your local schools. Hopefully the recent guidance may have made things a little easier.

  20. Hi Jennie. Funnily enough (well not funnily at all!) my husband has arranged a meeting with his teacher this very afternoon as we are having a few issues. Josh started school in September. He was born at 26 weeks on the 18th July but should of been born on the 20th October too but in 2009! We worried about it but as he is bright and sociable we thought he was ready for school (despite being in age 2-3 clothing!).
    It now appears that he is ‘immature’ (his teachers words not ours) and his attention span and fine motor skills are not up to those of the older children in the class. He is the youngest in the year that he shouldn’t even be in so he is always going to struggle. I really hope he can keep up though as he’s now made lots of lovely friends and he is happy. He struggled from the start but I really think he’s through with struggling and they need to give these children a break! I really do hope that Bliss and everyone else who is campaigning for changes for summer babies can make a difference. Good luck.

  21. Hi

    I feel you are so right. You have to fight for what you feel is right for your children. We were told to think of our sons’s time in neonatal as an extension of the pregnancy, with Ed not being “born” until he leaves. I don’t see why this ethos stops once they reach discharge from neonatal outpatients at whatever age (nearly 3 years in our case). I find this policy of trying to squeeze all children into the standard streaming at all costs strange. I hope it is ok that I add our story here too.

    My son was also premature, born at 29 weeks weighing just 895gm which means he is essentially classed as extremely premature when it comes to development. I feel we are fortunate that his due date was 29th April 2010 (actual birthday 12th Feb) and not summer born. We have just submitted our application for schools and my first choice is a small school which only has an intake of 18 in reception. It would work for us on many levels: due to my son’s nut allergy as finding a school with the policies to keep him safe and with give a great attitude to supporting him emotionally was hard enough. Another huge advantage is that because it is a small school they dual-stream the years. They split the classes between the years initially based on whether they are summer or winter born children. I mentioned to the head my son’s prematurity and they explained it had helped summer born and ex-premature babies bridge the gap before and that it helped enormously. I know dual-streaming would put many off a school but in this case they have over 40 years experience of teaching this way and my heart soared to be honest. The fact that my son might have a chance to catch up whilst having a mixed age group of friends sounds great. He has developed reasonably well so far but you can still tell the difference between him and his peers and we don’t know yet how he will do at school.

    Your determination to get what is right for your beautiful children really resonates with me. If Ed doesn’t get into our first choice then I am prepared to fight tooth and nail through the appeals process hoping it will succeed but knowing I have done all I can whatever the outcome.

    Good luck with it all, I know I am a stranger but I really believe in what you are fighting for and I look forward to following your progress.


  22. Hi Jennie, hope you’ve managed to get the right decision for Esther and William. Wanted to wish you all the best. My ex-27 weeker repeated reception year. Best decision ever, super supportive school, esp. reception teacher and SENCO. He’s Yr 4 now with a statement of SEN and doing well. Good luck with it, stick to your guns, extra time now to play and develop at their pace when they are just starting out will pay all sorts of dividends when they get older. Good luck!

  23. Pingback: Esther and William and #StartingSchool | Edspire

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