Summer born children lag behind at school?


A story in The Telegraph caught my eye this morning. A study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that summer born children are at a disadvantage throughout their time education lagging behind peers by the age of seven. My two eldest children are summer born – had the eldest been born two weeks later she would have been in the Year Group below. My children are academic high achievers and labelled as “gifted and talented” but only one teacher has ever mentioned the fact that they are summer born – making their achievement more notable.

I was a primary teacher for 14 years and during my training it was never mentioned that when considering a childs attainment the time of year they were born should be taken into consideration. Being nearly a whole year younger than the rest of the class makes a huge difference to attainment for most children. When teachers do not take into account the age of the child relative to that of their peers a child can be labelled as behind. A child can make a huge amount of progress in the space of a few months – going from being a non reader to a reader for instance, but our school system fails children when not taking all factors into account when assessing progress.

Children are ready for academic learning at different ages – I started one of  my children in an Early Years Unit a whole six months later than her peers because I knew she was not ready for school. I took two of my children out of the system to home educate them because the one size fits all education was not working for them at that time. One child is still home educated the other starts back in a new school today

Parents must be empowered to take a more active role in deciding when their children start school – there is room for more flexibility in the system especially for summer born children. So parents – if the teacher is telling your child is behind and the child was summer born – ask them to think again!

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9 thoughts on “Summer born children lag behind at school?

  1. I know our school does take it into consideration, at nursery and reception level certainly. I’m not sure how far that extends into the school. There is a noticeable ability gap between the older and the younger children and the schools expectations of the children and their abilities are linked to their age.

    I myself am a summer baby, actually being the youngest in the year. My mum didn’t start me in school until I was 5. Whether this was the right or wrong thing to do I don’t know. My son is one of the younger ones and he’s miles behind people who are born in September but that’s to be expected I think but he is more than ready to be in the school learning environment, it just takes him a bit longer to learn.

  2. I agree with you. I have the opposite problem – my September-born daughter being the oldest in her year. Since she is bright she got very frustrated spending an extra year in nursery when peers a week older began school. Now, of course, she realises being older can be an academic advantage.

  3. E’s birthday is the end of May so this is something I have worried about. A year is such a huge proportion of a 4/5 year olds life that it can’t be a surprise to teachers when they are not all at the same point academically. My worry is that the way teachers and parents react to an initial difference in ability tends to lead to a longer term difference in confidence and interest levels that will prove a much bigger problem. I guess the key is going to be how can teachers both make allowances for these differences but still be trying to bring all kids up to the same level over time and what can we do to help this happen?

  4. In the end it all comes down to awareness and schools that build age differences into their planning sharing this good practice with other schools.Teachers need to build up confidence in summer born children who can feel that they are behind their peers and reassure parents that they will catch up to the rest of the group. It is a good point about the difficulties of differentiating work in a class where you have both high achieving September born children, summer born children fighting to catch up and evry level in between – it’s all about good teaching.

  5. i agree with the study, in most cases thats true,but not in all, i too have 2 Aug children my home ed teen did not do very well at school, was never ready to start school even when i started her later then the others, she got behind at around 7, never really caught up to the others,so i pull her out of school at 12, and started to home ed, she improved, however my eldest who is also an Aug child thrived at school, was always ahead of the others in her class, so much so i had to pull her out school, to home ed her, but i agree that the one size fits all does not fit all children.

  6. Ah, interesting point. Do you think that ‘labelling’ children contributes to their self-perception of being behing and therefore perpetuates the cycle?

    • I do think that children get a sense of where they are in relation to the rest of the class even if nothing is said to them by parents or teachers about them being “behind” It is all too often the child that labels themselves as not being as clever as the rest of the class when in fact they are simply younger and on a different part of the learning curve. We not only need to remind teachers and parents
      about age differentiated learning but build up the self esteem of summer born children and reassure them that they are doing well.

  7. I have 2 boys born in the summer and it worries me greatly. I taught secondary Englsih for 6 years, never once was it mentioned or considered. I also taught a fast track GCSE class (started English GCSE in year 9) where one of the girls was born on the 30th of August. She was then being graded her English GCSE when she was nearly 2 years younger than some candidates. Some subjects it doesn’t matter as much as it is based solely on talent.But English, which the government puts at the top of the credible scale with maths, it is important. So of the English ~GCSE, literature and writing is about maturity and responding maturely to texts, prose, contemporary issues – how can a whole year of “growing up” and life experience not make a difference with this?

    Great post by the way.

  8. I have never thought of this issue since my eldest Blondie is a October child and Bonny, my second, born August 29 (Poor Bonny, I wish I had known before moving to the UK) is only 1.
    We have found a very interesting video on you-tube about education from Sir Kenneth Robinson. For those you do not know it and are broadly interested in education, it is really worth the time spent.
    http://meheandthem.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/changing-education-paradigms-by-sir-ken-robinson/#comments
    Me & The Girls.

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