In 2016 I submitted an application to Aberdeenshire Council to defer my December born daughter from starting school that summer until 2017. I was initially refused and met with point blank refusal by the Education Department. I was told that my daughter must start school at four-and-a-half years old and because she had no developmental or physical issues that I would not be able to appeal this decision. However, they were wrong. I did appeal and I was successful.
After much research I realised that I was not asking permission to defer my daughter’s school entry. You do not need permission to defer your child. I was requesting additional funding for a nursery placement for an extra year. This completely changed my strategy. I was not legally obliged to start my child in school before the August after she turned five years old.
My first priority was my daughter. I removed her from her five-day per week nursery class and swiftly enrolled her back to her old playgroup at two sessions per week, which we initially funded. The change in my daughter was immediate.
I could very easily notice the difference between her and her previous peers when she first started playgroup in 2014. The difference was stark and very obvious in terms of maturity. She lacked confidence and did not always want to join in with activities, be seen or noticed and felt self-conscious. She also did not enjoy being in groups of more than two or three children, as noticed by the Playgroup Leader. She was not bonding with her peers. When she moved up with these children to nursery it became even more apparent that she was not ready for a more formal learning setting and it was a horrendous experience. She became withdrawn and weepy. Begging not to go to nursery. The effect on her was so extreme that I am so grateful that I made the decision to pull her out of nursery and put her back to playgroup.
This was the best decision I could have made. Having gone back to playgroup with a new set of younger peers, she thrived. Her confidence was blooming and she was finally forming friendships and bonded with these new children. I believed that this demonstrated that she had found her ‘peer level’ and I documented this and reported within my appeal that I was of the firm view that it would be very detrimental for her mental health and emotional health to be removed from this group of children and their age group and that she should stay with them and move onto nNursery with them. The Playgroup Leader wrote a letter to support this, and I also attached letters of support from my local MP and health visitor.
I argued that it would be a huge disadvantage for my daughter to be cut off from her peers as she would definitely be deferred from starting school until August 2017 as was my decision. Therefore, to deny her a funded place at nursery would be to deny her any access to her peer group with whom she will be starting school, where she would miss out on the bonding and friendship forming stage of her development with them. It would also deny her the opportunity to grow more confident and to have that extra year to adjust to a more formal learning environment in her own time. I argued this would have a huge, detrimental effect on her emotional and mental health and that Aberdeenshire Council would be held accountable.
My daughter secured her extra year at nursery and I did not even have to attend an appeal panel. I made the right decision and do not regret in any way pulling her out of nursery and moving her back down to playgroup.