Today I wanted to share some starting school tips for summer babies. Having an August baby myself, I know that Flea has always been the youngest in her year. And my daughter started school about two weeks after her fourth birthday. She seemed TINY.
In some ways, having a summer baby at school is a good thing. Like birthday parties will always be cheaper because I don’t have to invite the whole class, for starters. But it also means your baby is going to start school when they are much more of a baby than those kids who are almost five. I remember stopping in my tracks three weeks before Flea started school, trying on her uniform. She was still only three years old!
I’d originally planned to send Flea to a Montessori school in Brighton but that idea was scuppered when we moved. I checked out the local church-affiliated primary but it wasn’t for us.
I’ll start by saying it’s a good school. And if you’re a fan of God, it’s possibly even a great school. But there are 35 kids in the reception intake this year, and the reception class shares an open plan with the year one class. Apparently some of the older children will go into the Year 1 class to ensure numbers remain appropriate. While technically the classes are within the mandated size, it does mean two teachers and 60 kids sharing a kind of small, dark, poky space.
I can’t help but think if you’re a summer baby starting school, this would be quite intimidating. So I met with the head and explained my concerns: I told them that Flea was very young, she lacked confidence in new situations and she was also a big sleeper. At not quite four, she was sleeping for at least 14 or 15 hours a night. I wondered if perhaps she could start part-time for a term, or four days a week?
No dice. My summer baby needed to start school full-time or forfeit the place. Oh, and also: “All children are tired when they start school. Give it a few months, she’ll adjust.”
I checked out another school a little further away. Here, there are ten children in the reception class, with one teacher and one nursery nurse. They’re accommodating of summer babies starting school. The school is more than happy for Flea to take a day off when she needs it, or to leave early if she’s tired. There’s a dedicated playground for the reception class with its own equipment and lawns.
I met with the head who said: “Our job is to make your child happy and give her a good start. Whatever she needs, that’s what we’ll do.”
Of course, the second school is a fee-paying school.
After weeks of agonising, I made the decision to send her to the private school. The upside of being a summer baby, it turns out, is that Flea gets a nursery grant for another year, which will help towards the school fees.
It’s a lovely school. I knew she would be very happy and well cared for. But I still wish the state system could have been a bit more flexible.
I hadn’t planned to put Flea into a private school, and certainly not so young. Not to mention the fact that I’ve listened to enough Billy Bragg records to know that private education is generally considered to be A Bad Thing.
But it’s hard to hang on to your principles when you’re putting your child into a classroom with 60+ kids and two over-worked teachers trying to keep up with a National Curriculum and several hundred government initiatives each term. And being in the position of having a summer baby starting school, it’s hard not to worry. I didn’t want Flea to be overlooked, or to be rushed into a full-time academic setting.
What do others think? I’d love to hear from you if you have a summer baby starting school. Are all schools so inflexible? Were you able to find a better solution?