How Deferral Enabled Me To Thrive, Not Cope

With the ‘Give Them Time’ campaign in the midst of lobbying government, I feel there is no better time to discuss deferral and why I agree that funding should be open to all those who need it.

15 years ago my wonderful mother walked into my nursery, and requested my deferral for the following year. The nursery were quite surprised, as it is very rare that a parent asks for deferral before the option is given – however, my Mum as an Early Years Practitioner herself, knew I was entitled to funding for deferral due to my January birthday and was keen to take up the opportunity having observed me from both the angle of my mum and a professional.

Upon asking her as to why she made this decision, there are a vast range of reasons. In her words, “although you were bright, socially and emotionally you weren’t well adjusted.” To me, this reason has had the largest impact on me. I’ve always been the oldest in my year as a result, which I found was great motivation when I was in school to look out for my classmates and guide them whenever they needed help. While this was a responsibility I made up myself, it was one I took in my and one that I believe developed my interest in teaching as I’d fully decided I wanted to be a teacher before even leaving primary (and a hairdresser on weekends back then, but given up on the latter sadly).  Being given an extra year to mature is something that I feel has had a profound effect on me particularly in the last 2 years. As many my age, my final year in high school to now as an MA2 student has been full of emotional rollercoasters, huge life changes and serious decision making which has at times taken its toll on me mentally. I’ve always seen myself as fairly mature for my age and this maturity aided me, and continues to aid me, through these challenging experiences and I really do think for me, going to school before I was ready wouldn’t have allowed me to have the same level of resilience that I have now as my anxiety levels would be increased from a young age due to the inability to transition that anyone who knew me at that age agrees I would’ve had.

Continuing with the idea of ‘me being ready’, I was able to sit my exams at 16 and a half, while both my parents were over a year younger when sitting theirs – another reason that encouraged them to defer me. I am naturally a massive stresshead. While I know plenty of people who sat Nat 5s at 15 and got better grades than me, I know myself I sat them at a time in which I was prepared and suited me. I get incredibly anxious as is in high pressure situations, put myself under a lot of pressure and can generally be extremely hard on myself as it is and I again believe having that extra year to wait helped me be at a stage in my life in which I was ready to face those Nat 5s head first. I feel this has been exemplified further when reflecting on my transition to uni. I found my transition to uni, particularly moving away, extremely difficult at first (bearing in mind there were extraneous variables such as having spent little time away from home before and some other personal circumstances) but it did come with time. If I had come to uni at 17, I certainly don’t think I’d have coped especially looking back at my personal growth in that year between being 17 and 18.

Socially, within my first year of nursery I definitely aligned with the very early stages of Piaget’s ‘Pre-operational’ stage of development – extremely egocentric. Therefore, I really struggled to form relationships and play with others compared to the way in which I had by the time I’d left nursery age 5 and a half. By then I was certainly meeting the latter end of the Pre-operational stage and starting to put myself in the shoes of others. Whilst I remember being confused and jealous of my peers moving into Primary 1, I blossomed in this second year and was so excited to show my new classmates around, unaware they too had spent a year in nursery – just in a younger class held in the afternoon. Basically, I do remember thinking that I pretty much ran the nursery now as I was the experienced one, which probably correlates with the time I came out my cocoon as a shy caterpillar into a social butterfly – who was ready to take on the next step by the end of the year.

With an EYP mother, she wholeheartedly supports learning through play and knew I would learn the social and emotional skills I was lacking in an environment that was bursting with enriching play opportunities.

One point I do want to emphasise is that deferral is not a one size fits all mould.

So deferral was immensely beneficial to me, but I know plenty who are absolutely thriving and deferral would’ve been completely unnecessary for them. So, if not all children who meet the criteria need it, surely that suggests that some who do not meet the criteria do?

All our children are totally unique and if we are to encourage giving all pupils a level playing field from the start – surely we should be allowing funding for ALL children who would benefit from deferral. This is a huge factor we could be considering in the attempt to close the attainment gap, yet one I have almost never heard discussed during my academic career in teacher education. For parents to be expected to self-fund deferred years means those who can’t afford have their children sitting at a disadvantage before even entering the classroom. It is my hope, with this motion passing in parliament that all local authorities act quickly on implementing this policy to enable us to get it right for every child.


Find out more about the Give Them Time campaign below

Twitter: @GiveTimeScot #ThriveNotCope

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