Parents have until January 15 to apply for primary school places for children due to start school in September 2018.

But for mums and dads with children born later in the academic year, especially in July or August, the start of school might be an especially worrying prospect.

A child born late in the year might only just have turned four when they’re due to start school, and you might be concerned your child won’t be old or mature enough by that point.

But it is possible to delay your child’s start: here’s what you can do, and some of the things parents should consider.

Do summer babies find starting school harder?

There is some evidence that children born later in the academic year may find primary school more challenging than their older peers.

A child born in September will turn five shortly after the start of term – one born in July could be four for the entire school year.

A child born late in the year might only just have turned four when they’re due to start school

At such a young age, this could represent a significant difference in development. Some parents report not feeling that their four-year-olds are emotionally or physically mature enough to start school yet, and should be allowed to grow up a bit more before starting.

Speaking in December, schools minister Nick Gibb acknowledged there is “a link between the month that your child is born and academic results”, especially in primary years.

Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that, on average, pupils born later in the school year perform worse, academically.

The gap can continue into teenage years: August babies were 6.4% less likely to achieve five GCSEs or equivalents at grades A*–C than those born in September.

I don’t think my child will be ready to start school in September – what are my options?

There are two main options for parents who don’t think their child is ready for school yet.

If you think your child would benefit from just a few more months at home, you can delay their start up until their fifth birthday.

You might, for example, want your child born in June to start school at the start of the spring or summer term, instead of in September. (Children have to start school, at the latest, at the start of the term after their fifth birthday).

Alternatively, you might want your child to start reception in September the year after they would ordinarily start.

You can request this, if your child is born between April and August – but councils don’t have to grant your request.

Call for schools to introduce lessons to prepare children for ‘avalanche’ of social media pressure

How do I apply to defer my child’s start?

At the moment, the decision to let your child defer is in the hands of the individual schools and local authorities.

In 2015, the Department for Education said it would look at changing admissions rules so that children born between April 1 and August 31 would always be allowed to start reception a year later if their parents want – this was reiterated by schools minister Nick Gibb in December, but changes have not yet been made.

So for now, parents rely on the discretion of schools and local authorities.

Contact your local admissions department directly, with any evidence you may have which backs up the idea that your child isn’t yet ready for school.

They may allow you to wait a year, and apply for a reception place for 2019.

Children born later in the academic year may find primary school more challenging
Children born later in the academic year may find primary school more challenging

Agreeing to let you defer is not the same as offering you a place at a particular school – you’d have to apply for reception places the following year, along with all other parents. You can’t apply for a reception place in 2018 and hold that reception place until 2019.

Councils don’t have to grant your request and many authorities say it will only be granted in “exceptional cases”.

You can’t be made to put your child into school before their fifth birthday.

But some local authorities may tell parents they won’t hold a reception place for them – meaning a child born in August could start school at the age of five, but they would have to start in Year One, missing reception.

If you want your child to start school slightly later in the same year they would normally have started in, you should wait until you have an offer of a school place, and then contact the school directly to discuss and arrange this.

You will not be able to keep your child out of school after they turn five, however.

Primary school applications 2018: Can I change my mind after the deadline and can I appeal?

Is it a good idea to defer?

There are a few things you should consider.

On the one hand, there is an educational gap between older and younger children, which could be addressed by letting your child wait and start school a year later.

On the other hand, you’ll have to make sure you have childcare for the extra year.

If you can’t get a place at a nursery or similar institution with other children, their social development may be held back further by spending a year apart from other youngsters.

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