The Fight

Summer 2

This time last year we knew which school we were taking our first born child to.

He was 3.

He wasn’t toilet trained and he hated being a part from me (he’d never left my side when we went to play gyms and only occasionally at play groups, he even followed me to the toilet at friends’ houses and had a hissy fit if I snuck away for a wee!!)

“He’ll be fine!” Was the reply most people gave me.

I honestly didn’t think I had a choice, I was just going to have to turn up and hope some kind person would peel him off me and I’d run away sobbing. I was terrified. Meanwhile everyone put it down to me being an anxious mum or overprotective and message kept ringing out.

“He’ll be fine!”

Somehow I discovered the Facebook group “Flexible Admissions for Summer Borns”. The people on here literally saved my sanity and gave me the strength to accept he wouldn’t be fine.

When I took ownership the problem I was able to find a solution.

We decided to fight the long and unknown battle to delay his entry to school. You are allowed to send your child to school the term after they turn 5 (CSA – Compulsary School Age) but for my child that would mean missing the whole of reception and I wanted him to have a full education-just not yet. So I fought for entry into reception at CSA.  This involves filling in a form and sending evidence to the LEA of why you want your child to be delayed.  For the record we didn’t believe we were delaying him or keeping him behind we believed he would be going with his correct cohort as he was a late August born. Born a few weeks later this wouldn’t be an issue.  But for the sake of using the correct terms in the process we were delaying him.

We were very fortunate that the head teacher and early years staff of the school we had a place at were all very supportive of whatever we wanted to do. They would support our application or they would support our son in school.

I love my children but half the time I’m not sure how good I am at parenting two children at the same time and having a 1 and 3 year old was proving tough. The thought of having them both at home for the next year was awful.  Plus the cost of an extra years childcare and finding a new pre school seemed all too much.  I was reminded that this decision was nothing to do with what was best for me or what I wanted but what my son needed.  I realised that giving him an extra year at home could quite possibly be the best gift ever. (Someone please direct him here when he’s 16 and hates me because he’s got an extra year at school to do!!!)

After two weeks of deliberating, crying, worrying, not knowing what the heck to do. We made the decision to delay him.

And so the fight began

His current Pre school didn’t support us, they said educationally he was at the right level.  They failed to see him as a whole person, they failed to see that emotionally and physically he wasn’t ready.  I was devastated.

Health professionals wouldn’t support us.  Their role was to support children in school, so if they supported our application they were saying they couldn’t do their job

Some friends and many acquaintances thought we were nuts and we had several conversations that felt we were having to defend ourselves.  We were prepared to do this as we believed people needed to understand what we were doing but also the issue was rarely talked about and I wanted others to know what was possible.  But it was exhausting.

It’s a very emotive subject. Many people we spoke to had summer borns in school or had been summer borns themselves and they were fine. I wondered if people felt like we were judging them for their decision. I was so overwhelmed with our unfolding story that I didn’t have time to judge others. We made our decision based on what we thought was right for our child. It was exhausting.

We had a tough decision to make because we wouldn’t know if we’d been successful until December. If we didn’t win he’d have to join school in January or go straight into Year one in September.  It felt like a massive risk but we decided to cross the bridge we were at. He wasn’t ready for school now.  Holding all this in our mind and not knowing the outcome until December ..was exhausting.

One of the hardest things about this was trying to prove to strangers errr I mean professionals that this was in his best interest. When he was a new born I was told by several professionals that “Mummy knows best”. When did that change?  In the last 3 years apparently I know best. And it’s taken me about 3 years and another child to realise that heck yes, I do know best about my child.

Only for it to be taken away from me.

I had a horrid fight with his previous pre-school asking for their support and I actually got the opposite. She said if she was asked then she would have to disagree with me, he was ready. I remember saying to her that she didn’t even know him and had never taught him she was just the poor soul that had been chosen to speak to me (probably because no one else dared!!)

How on earth could a stranger choose his fate?

How on earth could anyone challenge what I know about my son?

Had he been permanently attached to their sides?

Had they watched him meet all his milestones much slower than everyone else?

Did they live with this sensitive and emotional little soul?

The application was written and it was time to wait.

3 professionals would be given our report and they would make a decision.  We were invited to a panel in December to ask and answer questions regarding this. Once we’d submitted the report we were able to get on with living our lives and our mantra really was, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”  However, the week before panel I wasn’t sleeping, I was having panic attacks and generally feeling pretty awful.

Head of admissions phoned me a few days before the panel,

“You need to hear what I am saying, 3 professionals (including an educational psychologist) have read your report and have all unanimously agreed that your son needs another year at home, you don’t have to come to panel. Do you understand what I am saying? They agree with you!”

She really understood what we had been through and wanted to make it clear that my fight was worth it. I am so grateful that she took the time to speak to me.

Leeds LEA are unusual actually. Many LEA’s do not support parent’s wishes to delay and this is a massive issue we are fighting in government at the moment.  If you do get agreement you need to get the head teachers permission of the school you want to go to and many many head teachers do not give their consent.  My story has been a nightmare but there are other parents going through this who have had bigger battles to fight.

But that day we celebrated.

All was left was to start the process of applying for schools all over again and hope we got back into our original school!!!

Don’t go anywhere, Part 3 explains how I got over all of this and how I can help you.

Much love

Nicola xx

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