P1 deferrals fall as fewer parents ask to delay start

The first day at school
The first day at school
Have your say

THE NUMBER of parents choosing to delay their child’s entry to primary school has fallen over the last year following a series of city council roadshows.

Education bosses want to reduce the number of parents choosing to wait until their children turn five before sending them to school and have been targeting parents via a number of roadshows.

It has been suggested that the fall has also come about as parents look for ways to reduce the cost of childcare.

If a child’s birthday is between mid August – the start of the school session – and the end of December, the funding for an additional year in nursery is provided at the discretion of the council. This is called discretionary deferral. The number of discretionary deferral applications is down 20 per cent over the last year, from 109 to 87.

Councillor Paul Godzik, the city’s education leader, said: “Between 2005 and 2010, Edinburgh has had the highest number of children in receipt of a deferred entry to Primary 1. This was three times higher than figures for authorities of a similar size and was continuing to rise.

“We have been working with parents to help them weigh up the pros and cons of deferral and to understand how we can effectively support children to make the transition to P1. There isn’t a blanket approach to this. However, we will continue to work with parents with the aim of understanding each child’s individual needs and how these can be best supported.”

Council chiefs previously said the decision to wait until a child turns five when they could take up a place aged four at primary school costs the authority more money.

Although it may be a cheaper option for some parents to send their children to school at the age of four due to childcare costs, senior Tory councillor Jeremy Balfour said financial costs should not be a deciding factor behind the council’s moves.

Papers set to be discussed at the education committee next week state that there has been a reduction in the number of discretionary deferrals over the last two years, which has enabled the council to meet an increasing demand for pre-school places across the city.

However, Gavin Corbett, a Green councillor on the education committee, said: “Greens have consistently called for parents to be given discretion over deferrals. The evidence for earlier school starts is unclear and across Europe, children generally start school later than in Scotland. Indeed in Finland, children start school much later, coupled with excellent pre-school services, and Finland is always held up as the real gold standard for education.”

Tory education spokesman, councillor Jason Rust, added: “It is vital that parents receive proper guidance and support, but I don’t see it as a bad thing that the number of deferrals have reduced.”