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An early start does not guarantee success

The recent research on "School entry and the impact of season of birth on attainment" published by the National Foundation for Educational Research notes that annual entry to primary education is now the most common policy among local authorities.

The main reason given for admitting younger four-year-olds was to give summer-born children more time at school. The results showed that there was no apparent relationship between length of schooling and the key stage 1 results in LEAs with different entry policies. In the main, May-to-August-born children did less well than those in their peer group. A similar finding was made in the NFER analysis of the 1991 KS1 results published last year. However, those results did show that length of schooling had a positive impact on the attainment of the autumn and spring-born; those who had three terms in the reception year (Year R) did better than those who had only one or two terms.

Why should this be so? The answer could be that the younger four-year-olds are too young to be admitted to a class which may not be suited to their stage of development. As it is, in England and Wales, they are a whole year younger than the statutory age for primary education.

While believing that all children should have the right to an equal length of primary education, the Campaign for Equal Access to Primary Education For All (CEAPEFA) does not advocate "early entry" unless it is to a class which is staffed and resourced as for nurseryinfant education.

Also, parents should have the right to withhold their child from primary education until they are of statutory age, without forfeiting the right to education in Year R, if that were thought to be in the child's best interest.

There are other options for annual entry which might be more beneficial to the summer-born, and which are set out in CEAPEFA's free leaflet which I can send to anyone who is interested.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, where annual entry for all is already practised, the youngest in the year group are respectively four years six months and four years two months.

Would it not be fruitful to find out whether there is as great a discrepancy in the achievement of the younger pupils in the year group in those countries, and whether or not that discrepancy persists up to GCSE and A-level or their equivalent, as it currently appears to in England and Wales?

PAT NICHOLAS Honorary secretary Campaign for Equal Access to Primary Education For All 1 The Maltings Walkern, Stevenage Hertfordshire

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