Mum seeks action on school starting age

A local mum who feels her son suffered by starting school too early has urged the Education Minister to act swiftly on starting age flexibility.

Helen Stevenson, who lives just outside Ballymena, was responding to new proposals on school starting age flexibility which were issued last week by the Department of Education.

The Department has proposed that parents should have the right to request a year’s deferral of their child’s primary school enrolment where they believe it would be in their child’s best interests.

However, under the proposals, parents would have to provide evidence that their child is failing to meet developmental milestones and requests would only be granted in “exceptional circumstances”.

Her son, Joel (6), was born more than three months early at the end of June, very close to the cut-off point for school enrolment. Had he been born just five days later, he would have waited another year to go to both nursery and primary school.

“Joel faced difficulties at both nursery and primary school,” explained Helen.

“Although the nursery and school staff have all been very supportive, it’s been stressful and challenging. We feel very strongly that the problems he’s encountered could have been avoided had he been able to start a year later. While we welcome the fact that the Department has put forward proposals on introducing a little flexibility, we’d like them to go further and we’re also anxious that some flexibility is introduced as quickly as possible.”