Admission of children outside their normal year group

Apply for your child to be educated outside their normal year group.

1 Overview

The Department for Education (DfE) expects pupils to be educated in their normal chronological year group.

It is the view of West Sussex County Council (WSCC) that the majority of children will complete their statutory education in school years according to their chronological age, and that moving children into other year groups is not usually in their best educational, social or emotional interest.

Once a child has been admitted to a school it is for the headteacher to decide how best to educate them. Any consideration to move a child to a different age group should be based on sound educational reasons and made by the headteacher in consultation with the parents.

Find out which is the normal year group for each age range.

Only in exceptional cases should a child be educated outside their normal year group. This does not cover pupils who have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). Consideration of admission outside their normal age group for these pupils needs to be made by the Special Educational Needs Assessment Team (SENAT).

2 Apply for delayed admission to Reception class

By law, children must start their full-time education in the term following their fifth birthday. In West Sussex your child may start either full or part-time in the September following their fourth birthday. You can find further information about summer-born children starting school on the DfE document Advice for parents, September 2020.

This guidance specifically relates to children born between 1 April and 31 August (summer-born) who become of statutory school age in the September following their fifth birthday. The majority of parents of these children are happy for their child to start school in the September following their fourth birthday.

Options already exist for parents who feel that their child is not ready for full-time education, such as part-time attendance or starting later in the academic year. This can be discussed with the school once the offer has been finalised.

Schools in West Sussex all support access to a high-quality differentiated curriculum for all pupils. This should ensure that a pupil’s curricular needs are met without a delayed start into school being necessary other than in exceptional circumstances.

The curriculum for 4-year-olds is the same in reception as it is in nursery; largely based around learning through play. This allows the child to have an individual learning journey and make good progress from their starting point. Teachers in Reception classes are very experienced in meeting the varied needs of the youngest children and tailoring learning activities appropriately to each individual child.

The School Admissions Code states that parents of summer-born children have the right to choose not to send their child to school until the September following their fifth birthday. So, the decision to start at statutory school age is for parents. Parents of summer-born children may request that their child’s entry into Reception be delayed until the following academic year. This includes parents of children who were born prematurely and who would have naturally fallen into a lower age group if they had been born full-term. 

However, there is still no automatic right to a child being able to start in reception class where that is not their normal age group. Each case must be considered under its own merits and a decision made by the admission authority for the school. It is for individual admission authorities to consider requests. WSCC is the admission authority for community and controlled schools. One admission authority cannot be required to honour a decision made by another admission authority on admission out of the normal age group. Therefore, parents should consider whether to request admission out of the normal year group at all of their preferred schools, rather than just their first preference school.

Completing the form

Parents should complete the delayed admissions request form below before the closing date of 15 January and include any available evidence from professionals detailing why there is a need for their child to start in the Reception class the following year.

Delayed admissions request form (external link)

Submitting the form will generate an email to the email address you have provided containing personal data relevant to the application. Submission amounts to consent to using the email address provided for this purpose.

If a parent is applying for an academy or aided school they must contact their own admission authority schools directly. If the request is agreed, evidence from the school at the time of application will be required.

Parents must also apply by 15 January for the admission of their child in the September following their fourth birthday. This ensures they have a school place if the delayed entry is declined.

If a delay is agreed

If your application for delayed entry is agreed, your child will not be allocated a place at a school in the September following their fourth birthday and you will need to make a fresh application for a school place in the following September. The application will be considered in line with the published admission arrangements for the school alongside all other applications for that September. You will not necessarily get a place at your preferred school.

If a delay is agreed, it is not possible for the council to provide written confirmation that a child would remain in the same cohort throughout their academic career. This will be the decision of the admission authority of the school at which future school places is sought. However, the DfE guidance is clear that an admission authority must make a decision on the basis of the circumstances of each case and will need to bear in mind the year group the child has been educated with up to that point.

Other factors to consider

There are other factors that you need to be aware of relating to the decision to allow your child to have a delayed entry into Reception:

  • It may affect your child’s ability to participate in sporting/social activities with classmates as many organisations base their age categories around standard school year groups.
  • Your child will be eligible to leave school on the last Friday in June of the academic year in which he/she turns 16, even if this is at the end of Year 10 rather than Year 11, and may choose to do so.
  • If your child starts school prior to compulsory school age he/she can benefit from a staggered start, whereas starting when they are already five years old means they have to attend full-time from the very start.
  • If your child needs to change school (for example, if you move house or when they transfer to the next stage of their education) there is no guarantee that the admission authority will continue the arrangement to work outside of the normal year group.
  • If your child is being considered for an EHCP, you must notify the case worker assigned to your child. Any decision on a delayed start to Reception will form part of the assessment and it is normally only in extreme cases that the SENAT will support a child being educated outside of their chronological age group, as all schools should be able to manage your child’s needs with appropriate support within the normal age group.
  • Issues may emerge later, associated with the funding entitlement of working outside their chronological year group and these may impact on the provision and/or a future school/college’s willingness/ability to maintain the pupil’s placement out of year. Post 16 funding is given according to age, not the year group, a child is being educated in. This may mean that your child will only get funding for two years rather than three, which may impact on the courses available to them.

3 Apply for back classing

A back-classing arrangement is when a child who has already been in receipt of education repeats an academic year. This includes where a child has had a delayed admission and is now transferring to junior or secondary school.

It is expected that applications for back classing are submitted by the child’s school. Parents should discuss any issues with the school. If the child is not in school, please contact the relevant Pupil Admissions Team.

4 Apply for acceleration

An acceleration arrangement is when a child who has already been in receipt of education advances an academic year.

It is expected that applications for acceleration are submitted by the child’s school. Parents should discuss any issues with the school. If the child is not in school, please contact the relevant Pupil Admissions Team.

It is rare for a pupil to be accelerated to start school in the September of their fourth birthday. Parents should contact the relevant Pupil Admissions Team.

5 Further information

The document below provides further guidance on delayed admissions, back classing, acceleration and deferred places. It also explains how we deal with these applications.

Last updated:
30 April 2024
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  • West Sussex County Council will only use this email address to respond to any issues raised.