Starting School: A Year Too Soon

14/04/2015 17:52 | Updated 14 June 2015

starting school when born prematurely

This week, like many parents, we will discover which primary school our son will attend when he begins his school life in September.

I face this news with mixed emotions. He's ready to start school, I'm ready for him to start school (or at least I will be!), and yet he shouldn't be starting school.

Due in October, but born prematurely in August, my son will be starting school a whole academic year earlier than had he been born full term.

He loves to learn, has endless questions and has thrived with his development at nursery. He is confident, bright and happy. He continues to meet all his milestones, keeps up with his peers and fills me with pride – yet he will still start school a whole academic year too soon.

He's ready and he's not ready.

Like many children born prematurely we have ongoing medical needs with hospital admissions and frequent doctor's appointments. A simple cold or cough cold can knock him for six, but he is a trooper and soldiers on. Smaller than his peers I often worry, but I know how tough he can be – I have seen how tough he can be.

I face September and the start of school with mixed emotions.

Pride, huge pride at my little boy who takes everything in his stride; who has overcome so much and who is ready to take the next step.

Trepidation that he might not be ready, that everywhere I look I see headlines telling me summer born children struggle, that my first instinct was to delay his start.

And sadness, sad in my heart that I know his prematurity has lost him a year; a year in which to play, a year in which to grow, a year in which to prepare and a lost year with his mum and younger brother.

I fully support the call from charities such as Bliss and the Summer Born Campaign to allow greater flexibility in the schools admissions process; and strongly believe that parents must be able to delay or defer school entry without fear that their child will miss out on reception year.

But what if, like me, your child is ready? Ready, but still too soon. Ready, but still missing out on a year. As a mum I usually shout loud about parents knowing best – but here is a case where I would have liked the decision taken out of my hands. For my child, born too soon, to begin school automatically acording to his due date. There would have been no difficult decisions, no 'what ifs' and no anxious wondering whether we were doing the right thing. We were never meant to start school life this September, but the fate of prematurity sees my little boy arriving early once again!

Information about delaying or deferring a school place can be found on this excellent guide from Bliss.

This article was republished with kind permission from the blog The Smallest Things ...campaigning for babies born too soon. You can also follow on Twitter and Facebook.

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