Information

Education of children outside of their chronological age group

This information page provides information on the education of children outside of their chronological age group. This will include the rules governing education outside of chronological age group for admission to school and for children already on the school roll. 

Introduction

Department for Education guidance states the following on this topic: 

”The government would agree that, in general, children should be educated in their normal age group, with the curriculum differentiated as appropriate, and that they should only be educated out of their normal age group in very limited circumstances.”

The most discernible example of a ”limited circumstance” is admission for pupils who are ‘summer-born’. 

There have been long-established concerns that pupils born towards the end of the school year – in England, summer-born children – suffer adverse educational impacts by virtue of starting school at a younger age than their peers.

To accommodate these concerns, a degree of flexibility is provided whereby a parent may request that a summer-born pupil is admitted to school outside of their normal age group. Please see our information page on ‘summer born admission‘ for detailed information. 

It is important to note that a request can be made for education outside of chronological age group for a pupil already on a school roll when acceleration or deceleration is appropriate. Therefore, it is not limited to the admission stage of the process, i.e when a pupil is starting at a new school. 

There is no statutory barrier to children being admitted outside their normal age group, but parents do not have the right to insist that their child is admitted to a particular age group. 

What does the Guidance state? 

The School Admissions Code (P.25) has a small section on ‘admission of children outside of their normal age group’. 

This section states the following: 

”Parents may seek a place for their child outside of their normal age group, for example, if the child is gifted and talented or has experienced problems such as ill health. 

Admission authorities must make clear in their admission arrangements the process for requesting admission out of the normal age group.

Admission authorities must make decisions on the basis of the circumstances of each case and in the best interests of the child concerned. This will include taking account of the parent’s views; information about the child’s academic, social and emotional development; where relevant, their medical history and the views of a medical professional; whether they have previously been educated out of their normal age group; and whether they may naturally have fallen into a lower age group if it were not for being born prematurely. They must also take into account the views of the head teacher of the school concerned.”

There is no overarching guidance specifically covering the subject of ‘education outside of chronological age group’. Therefore, Local Authorities will often publish their own ‘LA-specific’ guidance on this subject.

This guidance will go into further detail about the process to follow in making the request. 

Below are two examples of policies on ‘education outside of chronological age group’ published by individual LA’s: 

Which factors will be taken into account in deciding to place a child outside of their chronological age group? 

When considering requests for a pupil to be placed below (deceleration) or above (acceleration) their chronological age group the following factors will be considered: 

  • Is the pupil’s development significantly below the expected level for their age range? 
  • Has the pupil experienced problems which have resulted in being out of education for a substantial period of time? 
  • Has the pupil previously been educated in a different year group from the normal one for their age up until that point? 
  • Is the pupil remarkably gifted and talented? 
  • Was the pupil born prematurely and would they have been admitted into the year ‘below’ if delivered on their due date? 
  • Is the pupil delayed emotionally and therefore cannot make adequate relationships with their peer group? 

It will be important to substantiate a request for education outside of chronological age group with strong evidence. The following should be considered: 

  • Does the proposed action respond to the educational needs of the pupil based on available evidence?
  • Has the proposal the strong support of all parties with a legitimate interest in the pupil’s education, including the pupil?
  • Has it been clearly demonstrated that the educational progress which could reasonably be expected of the pupil cannot be achieved by remaining with his or her normal age group by making reasonable adjustments?

Who is the decision-maker?

Child already on the school roll

The decision-maker, in a case of a pupil on a school roll, will be the headteacher. 

Admission to school (request for a child starting a new school) 

The decision-maker, in the case of admission to school, will be the admission authority. However, the admission authority must also take account of the views of the headteacher of the school concerned.

Implications for pupils who are placed outside their chronological age group

  • There is no guarantee that deceleration/acceleration will continue throughout the pupil’s education. Admission authorities are not required to honour a decision made by a previous admission authority. 
  • Where placement in a younger year group is maintained, phase transfers, SATs, GCSEs and school leaving are reached a year or more late. Young people cease to be classed as being ‘of statutory school age’ the last Friday of June in the school year in which they turn 16 years of age. Therefore, if they are being educated in a younger year group the school must make provision for them until the date they are due to leave school.
  • Where placement in an older year group is maintained, the consequence is that the child will reach the next phase transfer, SATs or GCSEs, and school leaving point a year or more early. Young people do not cease to be of statutory school age until the last Friday of June in the school year they turn 16 years of age and as such would have to negotiate transfer early to a school sixth form or Further Education college, which would not be guaranteed.
  • As there is an obligation to be in education or training until the age of 18, a pupil who spends an additional year in school may reduce the time they spend in post-16 education or training which may limit their capacity to achieve qualifications.