Back or Forward Yearing Policy

Last updated 1 August 2023


Dorset Council strongly believes that children should be educated with their chronological age group alongside their peers except in very exceptional circumstances.

The purpose of this guidance is to provide schools and Admission Authorities (see "Request or recommendation for pupil to be placed outside his or her normal age group once already enrolled in a school" – referred to as ‘back-yearing’ or ‘deceleration’ section) in Dorset with a framework within which to make decisions about whether or not a pupil should be educated in a group outside his or her normal age group and ensure that those making decisions are fully appraised of the potential high cost and the subsequent negative impact of making such changes to the year group within which a child is educated.

While the final decision rests with the Admission Authority. The head teacher of the school or prospective school will be best placed to advise the Admission Authority on the appropriateness of the proposed course of action.

Parents and carers wishing to request that their child be placed outside his or her normal age group must do so through the head teacher of the pupil’s actual or proposed school.

Placing a pupil outside his or her normal age group can have significant implications for the pupil as he or she moves through schools.

This guidance aims to ensure that full consideration is given to both short and long term impact.

There is no requirement for schools to move those pupils who are currently outside their normal age group. It is suggested that in these circumstances the school should ensure that parents and carers are aware of the possible implications of the pupil remaining outside his or her normal age group. This relates in particular to phase transfers. Some of the possible implications are outlined in the section 'Implications for pupils who are placed outside their normal age group' of this guidance document.


The principles behind educational inclusion stress the importance of all pupils being educated alongside their peers in their local communities.

This national perspective is reflected in Dorset Council’s vision for inclusion. The emphasis is on schools meeting individual needs, including those of pupils with special educational needs, through personalised learning.

Expectations of good practice are based upon a child's entitlement to be educated alongside their age equivalent peers. The responsibility for addressing individual needs lies with the school through an appropriately differentiated curriculum.

Personalised learning is at the heart of ensuring that the provision that is made meets the individual pupil’s needs.

The needs of the child or young person need to be viewed holistically. The individual’s social, emotional and physical development and well-being need to be considered alongside educational needs.

Where a child has special, additional or individual educational needs, then their educational programme should be enhanced with appropriate support. The placement of a child or young person outside his or her normal age group is not an appropriate strategy for meeting special educational needs.

There are significant and long-term issues for the pupil, the school and the local authority or academy trust that arise from a decision to place a pupil outside his or her normal age group. These are set out in the 'Implications for pupils who are placed outside their normal age group' section of this policy.

If a head teacher decides to recommend that a pupil be placed outside his or her normal age group, this should only be in truly exceptional circumstances and in full light of the possible implications for the pupil.

Recommendations should be made in accordance with procedures published in this guidance, and with the full involvement of parents/carers and all relevant professionals involved with the pupil’s education.

Guidance on the decision-making framework is set out in the 'The decision-making framework' section of this policy.

Implications for pupils who are placed outside their normal age group

All recommendations and decisions should be made with the following factors in mind. It is particularly important that parents/carers are aware of possible implications for the remainder of the pupil’s progress through the school system:

a) If a head teacher recommends that a pupil is placed in a group below his or her chronological year, then a reduced set of general expectations is in place, and areas of strength are at risk of not receiving appropriate stimulation. If a pupil is placed above his or her chronological year then the converse can happen, although most requests are for delayed rather than accelerated movement.

b) Parents/carers should be made aware that a decision which has been recommended by one Head teacher may be sought to be overturned in another setting.

c) The implications are long term as, once the year/group change has been made, it is difficult to reverse as:

  • the pupil may miss out on a national curriculum year programme of work
  • the pupil may need to join an unfamiliar class group and will need to form new friendships and support networks
  • the consequences of making up a year can be negative for the pupil
  • the above is likely to put additional pressure on an already vulnerable pupil.
  • if the pupil remains outside his or her normal age group, his or her physical, emotional and social needs may be unmet
  • at phase transfers, which could mean a change of school and new friendship groups, pupils will be older than the rest of their new peer group
  • National Curriculum Tests and GCSEs and other accredited courses are completed a year or more late, as assessment takes place at the same time as the rest of the year group in which the pupil has been placed and not in line with his or her chronological age
  • a pupil who is outside his or her normal age group, and reaches Year 10, may choose to leave school at the official school leaving date for their age group– which is always the last Friday in June at the end of the academic year in which he or she is 16, thereby not completing GCSEs or other accredited courses and thus damaging his or her prospects for future employment or further education placement
  • a pupil who does not remain in his or her cohort will experience fractured peer relationships; this is likely be detrimental to well-being
  • a pupil who is moved to a lower age group may well receive negative messages which will impact adversely on his or her sense of acceptance, achievement and belonging

The decision-making framework

The following general framework applies to all requests for placing a pupil outside his or her normal age group, regardless of specific circumstances:

  • head teachers should set out why this course of action is being considered and his or her recommendation. This recommendation should be based on written advice from members of other professional groups who are involved in supporting the child
  • in no instance should movement be of more than a single National Curriculum year
  • schools should be able to evidence that this is not a response to unmet need and that
  • the pupil’s educational, social and emotional well-being would be best met through placement outside his or her normal age group
  • there is full parental support and agreement
  • there is pupil support and agreement following explanation and counselling at a level the pupil is able to understand
  • there are clear objectives and time scales to the change, with plans in place to manage phase transfers and examinations if appropriate
  • in all aspects schools are advised to ensure that parent/carers are fully involved in the decision to recommend this course of action, that they understand the long-term implications and that they have provided written agreement (See template agreement to place outside of the normal age group – FORM C at the end of this document, please attach any other supporting documentation)
  • the attached form should be completed and forwarded to the Dorset Admissions Team
  • where the request has been made by a parent/carer but is not recommended by the head teacher, both parties may set out reasons to support their recommendation/ request and these will be considered by the In Year Fair Access Panel. (See Dorset School Admissions website for an application form)
  • completed recommendations/requests will be considered by the local authority’s In Year Fair Access Panel which meets regularly during term time. It will make decisions on the basis of the circumstances of each case and will inform parents
  • any child with an Education Health & Care Plan, requests to move a child out of their chronological year group should be made to the SEND co-ordinator.
  • non-Dorset children / non-Dorset schools. Requests are dealt with and recommendations made by the admitting school, regardless of the child’s home address. For a child with a Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP), where another local authority is responsible for the statement, the school would need to consult with the SEN team of the local authority having responsibility for the plan

Guidance on special circumstances

Medical needs

Some pupils may have significant absence from or intermittent attendance at school due to a medical condition or accident. During the absence from school pupils may have accessed differing amounts of education and as a result will be better or less well-prepared to re-engage with full- time education.

Recommendations in respect of pupils who have missed extensive periods of time from education due to illness or accident should be made on an individual basis and in a multi professional forum.

Further information relating to pupils with medical needs may be found in Dorset's Access to Education for Children and Young people with Medical Needs.

Pupils learning English as an additional language, refugees, and asylum seekers

Depending on their point of entry into the school system, most EAL learners are unlikely to be working at an appropriate level for statutory tests for a significant period.

Back yearing children because they are not ready for statutory tests is not recommended and schools should refer to Department for Education guidance on test administration for detailed information about what to do in such cases.

For late-arriving EAL learners, ie pupils going into Key Stage 4, detailed assessment of the learner’s abilities (including their first language skills), support needs and future career ambitions is essential, along with a flexible approach to timetabling in order to ensure provision meets the learner’s needs.

A pupil arriving in any other year group from overseas with limited or no English would not normally be considered for placement outside his or her normal age group.

Twins or other multiple births

Where twins or other multiple birth siblings have birthdays on either side of midnight on 31 August, the siblings will have been born in different academic years.

In anticipation that parents will want the children to be admitted to a school together, when applying for admission to reception, a parent may specify that both twins (or all triplets, for example) be admitted to the same academic year.

This will mean that one or more of the children is admitted out of his or her chronological cohort.

The expectation will then be that the children will continue to be taught within that cohort as their school career progresses.

Pupils already out of their normal age group

Where pupils have been placed outside their normal age group and that decision is now not considered to be appropriate, the school should meet with the parents/carers and other professionals involved and determine the future course of action.

The school and the parents or carers should have a clear plan as to the future educational arrangements for the pupil. This should take into account how any potentially negative implications will be managed.

A move of school may provide a suitable opportunity for the pupils to be returned to their normal age group. (This will always happen if the placement is at a special school.)

Transfers from one phase to another

Where pupils have been placed outside their normal age group and that decision is now not considered to be appropriate, the school should meet with the parents/carers and other professionals involved and determine the future course of action.

When a child who has been placed in a year group other than their chronological year group, needs to transfer to Junior School, Middle School, Secondary School or Upper school, parents will have to start having discussions with the schools that they intend applying to.

Though schools are encouraged to honour any previous back-yearing arrangements, any Admissions Authority is not under a legal duty to do so and must make decisions based on the best interests of the child.

Families need to have the conversations with the next school as early as possible. The timelines for such discussions and applications are laid out in the below table. If the next schools agrees to the back yearing then the table also lays out when the family need to make the application.

Timelines for discussions and applications

Current and Future School Chronological Year group (A) Actual Year group (B) Actual Year Group when family start discussions with next school (September) Application made when child’s Actual Year group is – normal deadlines apply Application Deadline
Infant School to Junior Year 2 Year 1 Year 1 Year 1 15 January
First School to Middle Year 4 Year 3 Year 3 Year 4 15 January
Primary School to Secondary Year 6 Year 5 Year 5 Year 6 31 October
Middle School to Upper School Year 8 Year 7 Year 7 Year 8 31 October

When a family and any of the preferred schools are in agreement with the continuation of the back-yearing, then the families need to fill in form D and have it signed by the school.

This needs to take place before the application deadline for transfer school places based on a child’s chronological year group.

We would advise that a transfer application for a place at the next phase of school is submitted at the appropriate time for a child’s Chronological Year Group, which can then be withdrawn if schools agree to continue any current arrangements.

Where a school does not agree to the back-yearing

If a preferred school does not agree to continue the existing back-yearing arrangements, then families have two options:

  • option 1 – The family may make a transfer application to enter the child’s chronological year group at the next school. They would thus miss the final year at the infant, first, primary or middle school
  • option 2 – The family could keep the child at their current school and then make an In-Year application into the child’s chronological year group in their next school. There is no guarantee that there would be places if the school is oversubscribed. The child would miss the first year of the next phase

Timelines for the applications

School Type Child’s Chronological Year group Child’s Actual Year group Option 1 Option 2
Infant School Year 2 Year 1 During Year 1 to join Year 3 in Junior School – make application by 15 January. Year 2 to join Year 4 in Junior School (In Year Application in May/June prior to end of Year 2)
First School Year 4 Year 3 During Year 3 to join Year 5 in Middle School – make application by 15 January Year 4 to join Year 6 in Middle School (In Year Application in May/June prior to end of Year 4)
Primary School Year 6 Year 5 During Year 5 to join Year 7 in Secondary School – make application by 31 October. Year 6 to join Year 8 in Secondary School (In Year Application in May/June prior to end of Year 6)
Middle School Year 8 Year 7 During Year 7 to join Year 9 in Upper School – make application by 31 October. Year 8 to join Year 10 in Upper School (In Year Application in May/June prior to end of Year 8)

The school and the parents or carers should have a clear plan as to the future educational arrangements for the pupil. This should take into account how any potentially negative implications will be managed.

A move of school may provide a suitable opportunity for the pupils to be returned to their normal age group. (This will always happen if the placement is at a special school.)

Deferred entry to reception class

Every child must legally start their full-time education the term after their fifth birthday. However, a September admission date is expected to be maintained for the majority of four-year-old children in Dorset.

A parent having applied for a place in September, may wish to defer the entry until later in that academic year but not beyond the point at which they reach compulsory school age and not beyond the beginning of the final term of the school year for which the application was made.

This action will not result in the pupil being placed outside his or her normal age group and is therefore outside the remit of this policy.

With deferred entry the pupil is placed in the appropriate age group. For more information contact the school admissions team: 01305 221060 or

Where parents/carers consider a deferred entry will be of benefit to the child, the parents/carers must contact their preferred school for further information and agree a date for entry to school for the child.

The date of entry must not be beyond the start of the final term of the academic year (Foundation year) or beyond the start of the term after a child turns 5.

If the parents/carers do not take up the place at the agreed time, the place will be considered vacant and offered to another applicant.

This applies to all schools.

Parents/carers opting for deferred entry need to be aware of the possible implications. The child will miss part of the Foundation Stage curriculum and also the period of induction that the pupils starting in September will receive.

Delayed entry to school – joining Year 1 – summer born children

A summer born child is one that is born between 1 April and 31 August.

Parents/carers of a summer born child may decide that they do not wish their child to start school after their 4th birthday and instead start school the September after their 5th birthday but remain in their chronological age group by joining Year 1

This is a parental/carer decision but families must be aware that the child would miss the whole of the Early Years Foundation Year – Reception – which is a key element in the educational journey of a child.

A parent/carer must fill a reception application form in the normal way for a place in Reception in the September after the child’s 4th birthday.

They must also submit form A – confirming that they do not wish to have a place in September after their 4th Birthday but intend for their child to join a mainstream school in Year 1 – the following year after their 5th birthday.

Parents/carers will have to make an In-Year application for a Year 1 place. This application may be submitted during the summer term prior to the child joining Year 1, but a decision on the application will not be made and communicated to the parent until after the summer half-term.

Parents/carers must be aware that schools are prevented from taking more than 30 pupils into a Year 1 class – so if schools are generally full, it may be very difficult to gain a place at their local school if they do wait for a Year 1 place.

They can’t reserve a Year 1 place either.

If a family can’t gain a space at their local primary/first/infant school because they have decided to exercise their rights under the 'Deferred entry to reception class' section, then they will be responsible for transporting their child to the school, that has places, if their local school(s) (those within 2 miles Shortest Walking Distance) are full.

Delayed entry to a reception class – summer born children

Where a child is summer born and parents/carers wish to consider delaying their child starting school in the reception class until after their fifth birthday they will have to discuss this directly with the head teacher and/or the admission authority of the proposed school(s).

These requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis and with reference to this guidance.

If a parent/carer applies for a reception place to be taken up after the child’s fourth birthday and is allocated a place in the normal transfer round and then subsequently wishes for their child to enter the school in reception after their fifth birthday – they will have to make a new application in the next application year and surrender their current place/application.

Their application will be considered afresh and no guarantee will be given that they will get a place at the same school in the subsequent allocation as it will be subject to the relevant admissions code and the overall number of available places.

If a parent has deferred entry into reception and subsequently decides to re-apply for a reception place for the next academic year after the normal 4+ closing date, then a new application will have to be made and will be considered as a late application and a place cannot be guaranteed at the preferred school.

The application will be subject to the oversubscription criteria should applications be in excess of the places available.

A parent is required to make an application for a school place for entry in September after the child’s fourth birthday. If the parent intends to apply for a delayed entry they must then get agreement from the school or schools that they intend to apply to and fill the form at the end of this guidance prior to withdrawing their original application. One form, form B for each school applied for is required.

They will then have to make a further new application for the new intended year of entry subject to the timelines in the Co-ordinated Scheme.

Once the parent/carer and school agree to the delayed entry into reception, the form B should be completed by the parent and signed by them and the head teacher to confirm the arrangement.

Once a summer born child has delayed entry in reception in September following their fifth birthday – the ability to engage in a part-time timetable or graduated start will not be available as it would be to a 4 year–old as once a child has reached 5, they are required to attend full time.

If all or some of the schools reject the request for a September start in Reception after their 5th birthday, the family has the following options:

  1. withdrawing the current Reception application and resubmitting an application the following year to those schools that have agreed the Reception start after their 5th birthday
  2. withdraw the current Reception application and fill form A stating that they intend to submit an application the following year for a Year 1 place - see section 'Deferred entry to reception class' 
  3. allow the existing Reception application for a place after their 4th birthday to go ahead and be processed for all preferences.

If none of the preference schools agrees to the September Reception start after their 5th birthday – the Local Authority will continue to process the application for a Reception start after their 4th birthday unless form A is submitted by the parent.


Request or recommendation for pupil to be placed outside his or her normal age group once already enrolled in a school – referred to as ‘back-yearing’ or ‘deceleration’

Parents are requested to discuss this option with the school prior to completing form C

Form C is to be submitted when both the Admissions Authority and the parents are in agreement for the ‘back-yearing’ or ‘deceleration’.

A child cannot be back-yeared/decelerated into a class that is full and subject to Infant Class Size legislation (Reception - Year 2)

If a parent and Admissions Authority agree that a child enrolled in the current reception needs to repeat the reception year the following year, then the family needs to make a Reception application as soon as possible as it will be considered as part of the Coordinated Point of Entry Application Scheme.

They must also submit form C.

A child cannot be back-yeared/decelerated into a Reception group that already has 30 children, as this would be a breach of Infant Class Size legislation and thus it is imperative that once the Admissions Authority has agreed that a child may repeat the Reception Year, that an application is submitted to the LA for a place under the normal coordinated scheme processes

Admissions authorities in Dorset

The decision-making body is dependent on the type of school.

The decision maker for placement outside normal year group for these schools is the head teacher or governing body who make a recommendation to the Dorset Council Admissions Authority. The Admissions Authority may accept the recommendation or refer the request to the In-Year Fair Access Panel:

  • community schools: their admission authority is the local authority
  • voluntary-controlled schools: their admission authority is the local authority

These types of schools act as their ‘own Admissions Authority with their governing body deciding the outcome:

  • academies: their admission authority is the academy trust
  • foundation schools: their admission authority is the governing body
  • voluntary-aided schools: their admission authority is the governing body


All the forms can be downloaded with the PDF version of this policy 



The decision to educate a child in the cohort above their chronological peers.

Deceleration/ Back-yearing

The decision to educate a child in the cohort below their chronological peers.

Deferred Entry

To defer participation in the Reception cohort until later in the academic year but not beyond the child’s 5th birthday or the start of the last term of the year.

Delayed Entry

To seek a place in a mainstream school after the child’s 5th birthday – either as a Reception child (a request by parents) or as a Year 1 child (a choice of parents).