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 415.

    There seem to be many people who believe that their own personal and anecdotal experience (i.e. survey sample = one, or a few at most) invalidates this study (survey sample = many thousands). Can they really be so ignorant? It's so disheartening ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 414.


    What is really worrying is that you are allowed to teach with such a poor understanding of probabilities and what might lie behind the 'attitude and apathy'. I had hoped teaching had moved on a bit since I was at school.

  • rate this

    Comment number 413.

    I was born in May so I was a late starter. I was bright however I enjoyed learning. The problem seemed to stem from Rites of Passage as I grew up - I was getting these later than my classmates and felt odd about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 412.

    I was born on December 29 and was always the youngest in my class. Apparently, they didn't have the same rules then as they do now. I also did well academically and athletically. I am very shy by nature, so I don't know if that accounted for social awkwardness or not. I suspect it didn't have much to do with my being a bit younger than everyone else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 411.

    In Scotland, February/March born children are the oldest in a year and children born in the February the year later are the youngest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 410.

    (contd from previous post... ) Those that showed an aptitude for the sport were at the right stage of physical development when selection for "elite" training came round and benefited from the extra coaching and training that they received after that. They then excelled above all their younger counterparts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 409.

    I totally disagree. Not only was I the youngest in my year (late August) but I also got place at an excellent University and now teach English to 11-18 year old students. I see very little evidence in my day to day teaching of students progress being hindered by anything other than apathy and attitude.

  • rate this

    Comment number 408.

    Do people who live longer than the average life expectancy also think they have "proved that wrong" too?
    It's not a survey it's a study.
    Anyone know what "mean" or "distribution" means? It was taught at school...

  • rate this

    Comment number 407.

    Its not exactly suprising. They are younger, and therefore less developed..!? I do wonder who has time to anaylise / state the obvious.
    Back to work..

  • rate this

    Comment number 406.

    This reminds me very much of Malcom Gladwell's book "Outliers". As an example, he looks at professional ice hockey players in Canada and found that the vast majority were born between Jan - Feb...

  • rate this

    Comment number 405.

    @400 & 401

    You obviously consider yourselves rather intelligent so I'm struggling to understand why your grasp of statistics is so poor.

    I was born in August, lacked confidence and struggled at school. Left at 15 with 2 O levels. Finally went to university in my late twenties and graduated with a first. Thankfully, I managed to pick some basic understanding of statistics along the way...

  • rate this

    Comment number 404.

    It's impossible to generalise like this- my son was born at the end of August and just qualified as a doctor from Cambridge!

  • rate this

    Comment number 403.

    I think it makes a little difference ,my sons one born early june the other mid october the june boy was amongst the youngest in his class and suffered a little from bullying , the october lad was one of the oldest and always felt ok about school so yes i think it makes a small difference , both my sons are well adjusted and have degrees.

  • rate this

    Comment number 402.


    I love proving surveys wrong!
    Yep, and when you do, be sure to let us know as you have done nothing of the sort in this case.

  • rate this

    Comment number 401.

    What nonsense! Its down to the child and their pre school education. I was born in late August but could read and write before I went to school. I then lost 6 months to polio and the teachers banging the pen out of my left hand, passed my 11+,left with my A levels when I was 17 and graduated before my 21st birthday. All these years later I still think of my education as ongoing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 400.

    I love proving surveys wrong!
    I have 11 O'levels, 4 A-levels, a diploma, two bachelors degrees - one of which I passed with first class honours, and a masters.
    I was born in August, in one of the most economically deprived regions of the UK and lived for years in what would be called a sink-hole estate.
    Where did I go wrong?
    I refused to live to my stereotype.

  • rate this

    Comment number 399.

    The journalist has misunderstood the information from the IFS. The August born children are disadvantaged because they are younger, not because August is in Summer. September is also summer, but they are the best performers, because they are the oldest, most developed, biggest and therefore not bulied etc. The article should have been titled "School Odds stacked against the youngest starters".

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    I was the youngest in class being born on 1st September, my best friend was the eldest born on 13th September, as my birthday occured during the summer holiday I was allowed to leave school at 14yrs 10mths! this was much too early and have felt that I should have been made to stop on a further year as I was far too immature academically and emotionally.

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    I was the absolute youngest in our year and had many of the social issues related to in this story, but I was always academically in the top stream . I also went on to university but I feel there needs to be a system of different entry points for children rather than one size fits all Canada has a system of split classes , while hated by parents it seems to work for the children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    At a young age 7 or 8 months difference can make a huge difference in development. My first boy was born in November and he is advanced compared to the other children both physically and mentally. My 2nd was born in August and will be the youngest and probably smallest in his class. This will no doubt have an affect on him as he grows up.


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