Primary age school children in Edinburgh can now automatically defer starting school for a year – due to the impact of coronavirus on their nursery development.
Previously, parents had to apply to Edinburgh City Council to defer the start of primary school, and to secure funding for a further year in a pre-school setting.
Each year a number of families whose children are due to start school before the age of five contact get in touch with the council, but not all are granted a deferral.
Children who are not five until the following January or February automatically get Scottish government funding for a deferred year if they apply, but those whose fifth birthday falls between August and December are funded on a case by case basis by the council.
From 2023, children born from August to December will also be able to get deferred early learning and childcare places funded by the Scottish Government, and some Scottish local authorities are already allowing parents to automatically defer until the following primary school intake year.
Now, the city’s Green Party councillors have been successful in lobbying the council and achieving cross-party support for automatically allowing parents to defer, due to the disruption caused to nursery learning over the course of the pandemic.
At a meeting of the full council on Thursday May 27, the ruling SNP/Labour administration accepted the proposals, and agreed to offer a continued funded nursery place to the 40 young people not allocated a deferral through application or through the appeal process.
An administration amendment to the Green Party’s motion added: “This offer should be limited to those young people as a one-off one year approach to take account of the lost time due to Covid and will be funded through the additional budget resource allocated to the council post-February’s budget being set.”
Speaking after the meeting, Green councillor Mary Campbell, who submitted the motion, said: “I am delighted that my proposal on funding deferred school starts was supported unanimously this week.
“There is compelling evidence that starting school later, coupled with high quality pre-school provision, is better for the way children grow and learn.
“My proposal means that all families where their child was due to start school before the age of five this August and had applied to defer for a year will now have that deferral agreed and funded.
“It’s what many parents and the Give Them Time campaign have been asking for.
“I have received so many emails from parents about how stressful the whole process is.
“Starting school is one of life’s great transitions so it is vital to get it right.”