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School Admissions Code: Summer-born and Premature Children

Volume 664: debated on Monday 9 September 2019

8. What progress his Department has made on further amending the School Admissions Code to ensure that summer-born and premature children can be admitted to reception at the age of five at the request of parents. (912316)

The Government remain committed to making the necessary changes to allow children to start reception at age five where this is what parents want.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer. He will know that it is four years since we had an Adjournment debate on this and two years since I last asked him a question on this. I am very pleased to hear his answer, but can he commit to laying out the timetable as to when the Government might be able to publish that and potentially have a meeting with me to discuss the unintended consequences?

My hon. Friend has been a formidable campaigner on this issue, and I pay tribute to him for his work in this area. He will be aware that since my letter to local authorities the evidence shows that school admission authorities are becoming more flexible when receiving requests for children to start reception at age five.

But of course this will not be right for all children; the majority will do well in reception at age four, and the Government are therefore giving careful consideration to how we will make these changes in a way that avoids unintended consequences.

Does the Minister not agree with me that the best way to get all students, even those who are summer-born, ready for school is proper investment in the early years, and will he therefore pledge today that the Government will do what they said they would do a few weeks ago and ensure our maintained nursery schools get the full funding they need to continue?

The hon. Lady will have been here last week when the spending round was announced and she will know that there is a £66 million increase in early-years funding.

Has there been any discussion with counterparts in the devolved Assemblies to bring in a UK-wide strategy? If no discussion has taken place, when will it take place with the Department of Health in Northern Ireland to ensure that this does happen?

I will be very happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss these issues further, but as he knows we on these Benches are responsible for the education system in England.