APPLICATIONS to start summer born children a year later at school have dramatically increased in Hampshire since the policy was introduced by the Government in 2015.

Known as a decelerated admission, the measure allows parents whose child was born between April and August the chance to delay their entry into school and to start reception class in the September following their fifth birthday.

Children do not have to start school until they have reached the compulsory school age, which is the term following their fifth birthday.

However, under the previous system, children may have missed out on the reception year if, for example, they were born in August and didn’t start school until the following September once they had turned five, resulting in them going straight into year one.

The new system allows them to join the year group below, starting with them in the reception year once they turn five.

Figures obtained by the Gazette from Hampshire County Council (HCC) show that applications have increased from just 33 in 2015 to 139 for 2019 to date.

For 2020 there have already been 133 applications made.

The number of refusals has been relatively small, with none in 2015 and 2016, six out of the 160 requests in 2017, three out of the 110 applications in 2018, six in 2019 and just one so far for 2020.

Helena Walker and Richard Heard chose to start their daughter Bethany Heard at school a year later, following her fifth birthday in August last year.

Helena, a special educational needs coordinator from Kempshott, said Bethany had very mild developmental delays as a baby and she was concerned about her starting school aged four.

The 39-year-old said: “No one seems to know about decelerated admission. We looked into it and decided that this was what we would do because it would be in her best interests. Having an older child, we could see her struggling with the amount of work and she’s in the top ability.

“Why would I want to put my child into the school system earlier than I have to?”

The family looked around various schools and said some headteachers were not even aware of the policy.

However, the headteacher at Hatch Warren Infant School was supportive, and so they applied for Bethany to start in reception there in September 2018.

Helena said: “I felt there was a lack of understanding about the benefits of what we wanted to do. It’s not just about being able to catch up, it’s about thriving. Summer babies are at a massive disadvantage, the system isn’t great. When we applied, we sent off medical stuff she had as a baby but I was playing lip-service because even if she hadn’t had that I still would have made the same decision.”

The mother-of-two said HCC is very supportive of decelerated admission applications, and said she knows people in other counties where few applications are approved.

“We are totally happy with the decision and Beth has absolutely thrived having a second year at pre-school which built her confidence and she’s gone from strength to strength. She’s ready now to start year one.”

Councillor Roz Chadd, executive member for education and skills at HCC, said: “I am aware that there will be some parents who have concerns about their child starting school at the age of four and we adhere to the Department for Education’s School Admissions Code (December 2014) which allows other options for starting school where parents feel their child will not be ready to start school before they are five.”

He added: “These requests are considered on the basis of individual circumstances. The best interests of the child are at the centre of any final decision, which must also take into account the views of the school’s headteacher.”