Over half of boys born in February defer P1 entry

More parents are choosing to delay primary school entry – particularly those in the most affluent areas, research shows
28th October 2020, 2:35pm

Around half of boys born in January and February 2013 had their entry to primary school deferred for a year, new Scottish government figures show.

The boys could have started school in 2017, aged 4, and would have been among the youngest pupils in their year. However, 45 per cent of boys born in January 2013 had their entry to school deferred and did not start P1 until 2018. That figure rose to 58 per cent when it came to boys born in February 2013.

Boys were more likely than girls to engage in an additional year of nursery, with the rate of deferral for girls born in January 2013 being 31 per cent, rising to 42 per cent for February.

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Overall, in 2018 the total estimated rate of deferral was 15 per cent, up from 13 per cent in 2017.

Delaying the start of primary school

A Scottish government report collating the figures states: “This increase has been driven by deferrals in the January and February age group, for which the estimated rate increased from 38 per cent in 2014 to 44 per cent in 2018. The deferral rate for those born from August to December remained broadly stable at around 4 per cent over the period.”

Families with children born in January and February living in affluent areas were more likely to defer; for children born from August to December, the rate of deferral was more consistent.

In total, 35 per cent of pupils born in January and February living in the most deprived areas of Scotland deferred entry to primary school, compared with 55 per cent of those living in the least deprived areas.

The highest rates of deferral, however, were for children with additional support needs or a disability.

The report adds: “The largest gap in the rate of deferral between pupils with and without an ASN was for those born in January. The rate of deferral for those born in this month with an ASN was 63 per cent, compared with 35 per cent for pupils without an ASN - a gap of 28 percentage points.”

In Scotland, the school year starts in August with any single school year group usually consisting, in theory, of children born between the beginning of March in one year and the end of February the following year.

All children who are still 4 when they are due to start P1 can defer entry to primary school but only those born in January or February are entitled to an additional year of funded nursery - it is up to councils if they provide this for children born between August and December.

The Give Them Time campaign has sought to change that and, on 2 October last year, the minister for children and young people, Maree Todd, committed to bring forward legislation to extend the automatic funding of an additional year of nursery to all children aged 4 when they are due to start school. 

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, councils have been bracing themselves for an increase in the number of parents delaying entry into P1.

When schools and nurseries closed in March, children missed out on a substantial period of early learning and childcare.

Entering school with coronavirus restrictions in place has also made it harder for parents to meet class teachers in person or to visit classrooms - something felt particular acutely by the parents of children starting school for the first time.