School odds stacked against summer babies, says IFS

 
Summer skies Summer skies - but the long-term outlook at school is less favourable for children born in August

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Children born in the summer in England are at an academic disadvantage throughout school, says a report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The study says that among seven-year-olds, August-born children are more than three times as likely to be "below average" as September-born children.

August children are also 20% less likely to attend a top university.

The IFS says the economic consequences facing summer babies will last "throughout their working lives".

The report from the independent financial researchers shows the sharp difference in outcomes between the youngest children in a year group - those born in August - and the oldest, born in September.

Less confidence

Researchers say that August-born seven-year-olds are between 2.5 and 3.5 times "more likely to be regarded as below average by their teachers in reading, writing and maths".

They are also 2.5 times more likely to be unhappy at school at the age of seven and at an increased risk of being bullied.

Start Quote

This suggests that August-born children may end up doing worse than September-born children throughout their working lives”

End Quote Claire Crawford IFS report co-author

This reflects that these August children can be almost a year younger than their September-born classmates.

This achievement gap has not been closed by the time youngsters are ready to leave secondary schools - with August-born teenagers 20% more likely to be in vocational rather than academic study after school.

They are also 20% less likely to be at a leading Russell Group university compared with a September-born teenager.

These August children are likely to have lower confidence and less likely to feel they "control their own destiny".

This accident of birth can have far-reaching economic significance, says the IFS, as underachievement in qualifications at school will be likely to reduce employment opportunities in adulthood.

"This suggests that August-born children may end up doing worse than September-born children throughout their working lives, simply because of the month in which they were born," says IFS programme director Claire Crawford.

This research, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, is intended as a step towards finding a way of tackling the disadvantages of being the youngest in a year group.

The rules for beginning school mean that a child reaches compulsory school age at the beginning of the term following their fifth birthday.

However it is usual to start school in the September after a child's fourth birthday, which means that August babies would only just have reached the age of four when they enter the reception class.

But parents should have a choice about whether a child is full-time or part-time and there should be the option to defer entry until later in the school year.

"Parents now have the choice of a place in reception classes from the September following a child's fourth birthday, so that their child is ready to start school," said a Department for Education spokesman.

"If parents choose to defer entry, they can continue to access their entitlement to 15 hours of free early education in a setting of their choice."

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 375.

    I always thought this was stupid. There is no need to teach children in year groups and in sets of classes. They should be able to start at a certain age and work through the curriculum as an individual, with teachers available on hand.

    They should be able to sit exams whenever to test themselves. If they pass, they move onwards. No year groups, just individuals completing tasks.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 374.

    I was always wondering why my classmates (born in september) seemed smarter than me (born in august). They always had better grades than me in exams no matter how hard I studied. Now I understand!!! But I'm not jealous. Because I always had good fun at my birthday party or holidays during nice summer times, whilst those born in september could only celebrate theirs during school term.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 373.

    Yep I also partially disagree! I my sister and brother were born in July and August. Actually I was the latest 28 August. I agree that there is a tendency to be bullied if you are smaller and this was the case in an all boys school. But I found it a challenge intellectually and out performed most of my peer group. So id say its swings and round abouts.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 372.

    Purely out of interest - what would an 11 year old child born on the 1st September on the playing field - stand against one born on the 2nd September, one whole year before, and yet are in the same year? Assuming The school understood Boolean algebra = err… they didn’t.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 371.

    Statistics do not take into account the innate ability of a child, my August child struggles at school whilst my July child is doing quite well academically but there is only actually two weeks between their birthdays. If the school year ran January to January, the same statistical information would probably relate to November/December babies!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 370.

    I personally don't see how this can be true its all about the individual.
    My sister was born in June and is way above others her age and has been told she is academically gifted.
    My brother on the other hand was born in October and in comparison is as thick as two short planks. Sorry bro :)

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 369.

    I was born in May and started school in March (just before my 5th birthday). There were two classes for each year, the older group starting in September, the younger group starting in March. In the third year of school, the two classes merged and the ones who had started school later soon caught up. This was back in the late sixties and should be considered again.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 368.

    My son was an August baby and although he was planned I always knew it was a disadvantage. We all know that life isn't always fair but we also know that effort can overcome adversity. If parents understand their children are disadvantaged and put the extra time in to help them learn outside the classroom the gulf in development can be reduced.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 367.

    288 Enz.

    Where does it say in the article that no summer born children get into good Universities? Of course a % of summer born kids get into good Unis, it is a smaller % than autumn born kids.

    If you can't understand what the article is actually saying and that your tiny sample of three isn't representative of what happens overall, then I very much doubt you went to a good University.....

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 366.

    Woolfbane #335:

    "Maybe this is all a ready herring and what really counts is the time of year you are born"

    Apparently similar studies in countries with different school years have similar findings related to the local school year, not related to the seasons.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 365.

    Being born in August myself and watching my Son who was born in July go through similar problems I think that some flexibility is needed.
    My first suggestion would be to change the cut off date from the beginning of September to the end of June. As other people have said, a few months makes a massive difference and as we're going to live to a ripe old age one year won't make much difference

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 364.

    Emz - I think I'd rather believe a proper statistical analysis than three instances of anecdotal evidence! Just how good was your university?

    The surprise is that this is a surprise. A friend who is a special needs teacher was producing graphs of the distribution of special needs kids against birth month twenty years ago. They showed three times the rate for summer kids than for autumn ones.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 363.

    Heaven knows how 288 Emz got into a good university with reasoning like that! Emz, your evidence is anecdotal. It may be true in your case, but that doesn't invalidate a survey sample of (presumably) thousands. It's breathtakingly arrogant, really, to believe that your dilettante interest in this subject is worth more that the IFS's scientific study.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 362.

    It would be interesting to note whether this applies to more 'middle class' children who potentially have greater help pre-school with numeracy and literacy via parental input. There is a big difference in children's ability even when they start school and less advantaged children perhaps need a longer 'foundation' period at school to enable a firm grasp of the basics.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 361.

    I was born in August - I took some O level's / GCSE's a year early at 14 - I did not think anything of it - I now see my own daughter born in the summer months- a year younger than some in her class both academically / and emotionally I wonder - will she catch up like I did ?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 360.

    In Northern Ireland children have to be 4 years old before 30th of June to be able to start school on September the 1st which means the youngest they will be is 4 years and 2 months. There will still be a difference in age and ability of course but a line has to be drawn somewhere.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 359.

    My birthday is in June and, yes, I did feel a sense of inadequacy at primary school. I also was bullied, but that was due to others’ jealousy of not being as bright as me. Now I am one of a few of my old schoolmates to have a degree from a top university, and the only one to have his own flat in London and own Mercedes before reaching 30. Success is due to your character, not when you were born.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 358.

    I have to totally agree with this article, I started school in 1978 there were two intakes one in September and one in the spring term. The winter intake children were always ahead the spring intake never caught up, consequently nearly all winter intake went to grammar schools! Whilst none of the spring intake did. QED.
    I see the same situation today with my children who were also summer born.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 357.

    If our youngest was born 3 days earlier he would have started school a year earlier. We knew that he wasn't ready but in the state system (unlike private) there would have been no flexibility. One year on and he is totally ready and having a wonderful time. Why can't we have some flexibility in the state system? It can be the difference between a happy achieving child and one that struggles.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 356.

    From looking at this in a logical point of view it is easy to see that children who are more mature should have an advantage. However there have been plenty of recent studies that show children reach their maturity at different ages. Their IQ can dramatically change between the ages of 4 and 18 - both ways; becoming more or less intelligent.

 

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