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

    Comment number 395.

    I think that this is rubbish. My daughter is 17 and was born in August. She started school in the September after her fourth birthday because she was ready, she could read and write because we had taken the time to teach her. She is an only child and welcomed the stimulation of the school enviroment. Her educational standing is far above her peers who are almost a year older than her.

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    I agree that there is a general trend of under achievement in summer born babies. I am an end of August baby,& was bright enough to pass my 11+. However, out of 130 kids in my year at grammar ,only 2 were born in August. Now I think 11+ is given age weighting to help younger kids. Interestingly, some Sep / Oct kids in my class lost their initial advantage after a year or 2 & started to struggle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    Rubbish! People struggle at school because of woefully inadequte Ofsted inspections, teachers & headteachers, parents who take no interest, a sub-culture which encourages hatred of all things intellectual and & concerted effort by successive governments over decades to debase our education system

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    One child born late August , best friend 2nd September , one currently on tag the other at university studying Mathematics , which one do you think is which?
    Age completely irrelevant, yet another excuse for children and parents for not taking responsibility for their schooling and achievement levels!

  • Comment number 391.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    Research has shown this years ago & still they do nothing. It's not about labelling a child, but allowing for potential difference in development at 4/5 to avoid life long issues. In other countries children can start 1 to 2 years later &/or don't start formal learning as early & so avoid the problem. I was told it's the law on school leaving age which affects England offering flexibility.

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    BBC website headlines:

    31/10/2011 - School odds stacked against summer babies, says IFS

    1/11/2011 - 50% of BBC website readers do not understand the basics of statistical studies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    I'm August born. When I was 7, they put us in a class that was the youngest from my year and oldest from the year below. I've no idea if that made a difference. When I underachieved at school it was for alot of reasons, but my age wasn't one of them - and I caught up as a mature student having learnt lots in a vocational career so it didn't matter anyway

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    All these comments by supposedly bright and successful summer born people who don't understand how statistics work are hilarious.

    Especially Editor's Pick 288 Emz:
    This study doesn't take into account that individuals all have different potentials and abilities

    Er, yes it does. What it doesn't say is that 100% of summer born will struggle.
    Learn how stats work!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.


    Whilst I was only born in 1978, I know that by the time my sister (who was August born) and I took the 12+, those born later got "more marks" to even out the age disadvantage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    I am late summer and was always young in my year. I don't think it impacted academically but it did in terms of social and emotional challenge especially at those key moments of change. I was a year younger than some yet facing the same things. I have never thought about it before today but some things suddenly make a lot of sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    My elder daughter was born in July and she doesn't have a Mercedes.

    I don't know what I'm going to do!

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    This study should serve as a warning to ambitious but misguided parents who believe that their children will benefit from attending school as early as possible. Quite the reverse - teachers have long known that these children, younger, smaller and less confident than their peers, are often disadvantaged at all stages, at least until their late teens.

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    I was born right at the end of July and, yes, I always felt that I was struggling to achieve in the classroom and on the playing field. Nevertheless I didn't do too badly. Recently I was doing some teaching with a top GCSE maths set. Almost all had birthdays between September and February and we did a class exercise on it. There was though small group of swats with July/August birthdays!

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    One thing I notice here with many of the August babies (not me, though) is an apparent sense of insecurity with a need to bolster their self-esteem by trotting out their exam grades in great detail.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    I am 99, have smoked all my life, and still in fine health. Therefore smoking does not cause cancer.

    I despair for those kids who spend their whole school life struggling because they are much younger than their peers, and consequently find school much more difficult than many of those peers.

    Maybe some of the detractors, would consider this if their child was one of those disadvantaged such.

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    My daughter is born In August 9 and She has 3 scholarships at her school and she never got less than A* on any subject. She was taken to Oxford University last term to select collage.

  • Comment number 378.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    I was born in August, and my friend was born in September. Because of the staggared school intakes of the time, I started school in the September following my 5th birthday, and he started school in the February following his - much more sensible. One size does not fit all, and the one intake per year, at such a very young age, is just riduculous. Please change it back again - thank you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    I think it totally depends on the individual child. My daughter was born on 25th August, 7 weeks early. Now in year one and top of the class for reading and numeracy, but she did struggle in reception due to tiredness and lack of social skills. I don't think a blanket rule could or should apply, parents know their children best. There should be more flexibility in the timing of starting school.


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