The Department for Education has told schools and councils that they should consider allowing summer-born and premature children to start school a year later.

The compulsory age for children to enter education is the beginning of the term following their fifth birthday, but the majority of children take a reception place at the age of four.

Research suggests that children born between May and August are disadvantaged by the age gap between them and winter-born children.

Figures produced by the Department for Education show that 22 per cent more summer-born children fail to meet expected requirements in areas such as reading, maths and listening.

The achievement gap between September and August-born children has led the Institute of Fiscal Studies to suggest that test results should be weighted according to age in order to compensate for the disparity.

While parents have previously had the option of waiting until their child is five before registering them with a school, in most circumstances this would mean that their child would miss out on a whole year of education, since they would be placed directly into Year 1.

Campaigners for the group Flexible School Admissions for Summer Born Children claim that all parents should have the right to enrol their child in a reception class at the age of five, if they feel that this is in their best interests, emotionally, socially and developmentally.

They say: “The situation across England is very mixed, and in some areas, parents bounce back and forth between schools and local education authorities trying to establish what the child’s rights actually are. Evidently, the government needs to provide greater clarity.

“[Local education authorities] can help ensure that admissions decisions are based on the best interests of an individual child, and not based on perceived administrative issues.”

Government guidance states that: “There are no statutory barriers to admitting a child of five into a reception class.”

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Do you have a summer-born or premature child? Given the choice, would you prefer your little one to enter a reception class at five-years-old, rather than four? Please share your views by commenting below.