Letter: A level playing field

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The Independent Online
Sir: While it may be true that the youngest in any year group may experience some disadvantage compared with the oldest ('August's child is really up against it', 11 August), as Fran Abrams points out, in England and Wales the summer-born may suffer the double disadvantage of either missing two terms in the reception year (Year R) or being admitted early to a class which is not geared to under-five education.

In Scotland all children are entitled to a full seven years in primary education by having annual admission in the autumn term. Year groups are also more mature in that the youngest to start in the autumn term is four years and six months and the eldest is five years and five months, so that there are no 'just fours' starting school - although, as in England and Wales, there is pressure from some parents for an earlier start.

Since the benefits of under-five education are now generally recognised, may I make two suggestions which would help to level the playing field, and also help ensure at least some under-five/nursery education for all whose parents wish it.

A more mature group could be achieved in England and Wales by admitting in the autumn term all those whose fifth birthday occurred between the previous May and the following April inclusive. This year would be preceded by a year of statutorily provided under-five education.

Since an increasing number of schools already admit children in the autumn term of the school year in which they have their fifth birthday, this could become the norm, with the proviso that Year R should be staffed and resourced as for nursery education.

Yours etc,

PAT NICHOLAS

Honorary Secretary

Campaign for Equal Access to Primary Education for All

Walkern, Hertfordshire

(Photograph omitted)

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