Summer-born pupils 'should have exam scores boosted'

 
Primary classroom All school tests should be marked on a sliding scale according to pupils age, says the study

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Summer-born children should have their exam marks boosted to compensate for being almost a year younger when they sit tests, a report argues.

In England, pupils born in August are less likely to get good GCSEs or go to university than those born in September, the Institute for Fiscal Studies says.

Some may even drop out of school.

The age-adjusted scores should be used to calculate school league table positions, the authors argue.

The report draws on an array of official data, including the National Pupil Database, which contains details of every pupil in England.

Report co-author Lorraine Dearden said: "In a world where everything was fair we would expect the proportion of kids by month of birth who get the expected level at each age to be the same."

But the report finds this is not the case, with a significant gap even at GCSE level. More than 60% of September-born pupils achieve five A* to C grades, compared with less than 54% of those born in August.

Mild special needs

August-born students are also around two percentage points less likely to go to university when they leave school, one percentage point less likely to attend a leading university and one percentage point less likely to complete a degree.

Some 12.5% of August-born pupils are assessed as having mild special educational needs by age 11, compared with only 7.1% of those born in September.

"Our research shows that children who are relatively young in their year have lower self-confidence, lower belief in their academic ability, and are more likely to start smoking younger than their relatively older peers," said co-author Claire Crawford.

The authors argue that being 11 months younger than the oldest pupils in the year when they sit tests is the main driver of the differences in test scores.

It outweighs the effect of having had less time at school in areas where summer-born children start education later in the year.

The report says the solution is to "age-adjust" national achievement test scores, arguing that this "is a simple and straightforward way of ensuring that those born towards the end of the academic year are not disadvantaged by taking the tests younger".

The team analysed scores from the Key Stage 2 tests, which are taken by all pupils in their final year of primary school in England. Primary school league table positions depend on pupils achieving an expected standard.

Sliding scale

They found that August-born pupils scored on average seven points less than classmates born in September.

They conclude that pass marks should rise for September-born children by three points: "So the oldest children would have to perform slightly better than they do at the moment in order to reach the expected level, which would now be an expected level for a given age rather than at a particular point in time."

The marks would change on a sliding scale, with the pass mark for children born in October and November rising by two points; for January and December-born children by one mark; staying the same for February and March children; and reducing by one point for those with April or May birthdays, by two points for those born in June or July, and by three points for those born in August.

The authors recommend that similar age-adjusted scores be extended to other school tests, from assessments of six-year-olds' reading skills to the crucial exams taken by 16-year-olds.

Start Quote

If you started having different exam grades for children born in different months it would be extremely complicated. No one would understand it and there would be disputes”

End Quote Dame Sally Coates Academy headteacher

However, the authors acknowledge that the differences are most dramatic when children are first at school, and lessen as they grow older and the relative age gap reduces. There is no evidence that they persist into adulthood. So the exam results given to prospective employers should be absolute scores rather than age-adjusted, they concede.

'Intensive intervention'

Head teachers warned that tinkering with pass marks could have unintended consequences.

Brian Lightman, of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "Telling summer-born children that they don't have to perform as well as their peers will do nothing to raise their self-esteem, confidence or achievement in later life.

"Employers need graduates who have reached a certain standard of education. Giving some students a grade which is adjusted downwards would lower their standard of achievement when it actually needs to be raised. This will have the opposite effect to what is intended."

Dame Sally Coates, head of Burlington Danes Academy in west London, told the Today programme on Radio 4 that she had not personally seen evidence of a birthday-related performance gap at secondary level.

She suggested that instead of tinkering with exams there should be "intensive intervention for younger children in early primary school".

Dame Sally said: "If you started having different exam grades for children born in different months, it would be extremely complicated. No one would understand it and there would be disputes."

Prof Rachel Brooks, of the University of Surrey, agreed early intervention could help prevent disparities in educational outcome.

She said: "The way in which pupils are grouped can have an effect - streaming tends to compound disadvantage, while summer-born children tend to do better within mixed-ability classes."

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "We trust teachers to put their pupils' results into context when discussing them with parents, particularly for young children where age can have a strong influence on the scores.

"In addition, we have changed the schools admissions code to make it easier for parents to defer their child's entry until they reach their fifth birthday."

 

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  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 766.

    741.michellegrand

    It doesn't bother us that those lucky enough to be born to wealthy parents generally do better than those born to poor parents,
    =
    actually no, what bothers me is that we would take from those who worked to give to the feckless - attitude is far more important than money. Sink comps bother me, not private schools.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 765.

    Just another excuse for our third rate education system.

  • Comment number 764.

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

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 763.

    "More than 60% of September-born pupils achieve five A* to C grades, compared with less than 54% of those born in August."

    That's because most of those born in September are virgos, who work very hard, while the majority of those born in August will be leos whose main passtime in preening in front of a mirror.

    See mystery explained by astrology!

    [PS Tongue firmly in cheek here]

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 762.

    I'm a July baby. I was in the top set in primary and secondary school. This is a load of rubbish, and yet more pandering to the idiots who want every single person in the world to be exactly the same. Some children are more intelligent than others. Get over it. This idea would just ensure that summer babies don't try as hard as they can, because they'll get a decent grade anyway.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 761.

    755. humdingerboo
    7 MINUTES AGO
    #754

    Not that I disagree with your post but I'm fairly sure the poster was making a point that children from affluent families have better life chances than those from a disadvantaged background and she is, frankly, not wrong.
    =
    only since the Socialists replaced selection on ability with selection on income - but even then, it is more about parents than money.

  • Comment number 760.

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

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 759.

    Blub...blub... little Tarquin and Charlotte didn't do as well as the other children - it MUST be because of their brithday, not because we as parents don't spend any extra time educating them...

    Complete cobblers! Politically correct morons doing their thing again.

    Some kids are more intelligent than others. Get over it.

  • Comment number 758.

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

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 757.

    756. DevilsAdvocate
    ' ... we were allocated a sink Comp where I had been a supply teacher ... - better to ask why we have sink comps '

    Because they employ teachers who aren't very good?

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 756.

    751. michellegrand
    why do people send their children to private schools?
    =
    mine went private because they were not given any of our 3 choices and when we were allocated a sink Comp where I had been a supply teacher, we chose not to move house to get into a good catchment area, - better to ask why we have sink comps than why a parent pays to avoid them.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 755.

    #754

    Not that I disagree with your post but I'm fairly sure the poster was making a point that children from affluent families have better life chances than those from a disadvantaged background and she is, frankly, not wrong. Increased life expectancy, for example. That is not to say that an individual child from a poor background cannot achieve against the odds but we're talking trends.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 754.

    746. michellegrand
    The advantages money gives a child, well, we won't discuss that.
    =
    So why mention it? Good loving parents give a child far more than money can buy, and it usually shows in school. Ask any teacher. Such parents often sacrifice to pay for their children's education. It beats holidaying, smoking, partying, drinking or drugging your money away and should be praised not denigrated.

  • Comment number 753.

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

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 752.

    749. rockandhardplace
    '745. Perhaps the sample of 4 people from one family is/has to be more than coincidence. '

    Only if it's repeated in thousands of other families. As the say in the States 'Do the math'. Study sample size ... 1.63 million, your sample size ... 4. You keep saying you're not a genius but to be honest you don't need to be to spot which is statistically more reliable.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 751.

    744: I agree we do the best for our children, and that attitude matters, but as a generalisation, if you have money you have a bedroom to yourself, good environment, more mental stimulation, can have private tutors etc. IF you are sure that money makes no difference, why do people send their children to private schools?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 750.

    #749 "We, I are not by any means geniuses..."

    Enough said.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 749.

    742. Jewish but yeah any excuse for a party, thanks for the sentiment. Wonderful these assumptions eh! rather like these so-called 'expert' reports. 745. Perhaps the sample of 4 people from one family is/has to be more than coincidence. We, I are not by any means geniuses but surely by true comparison normal. 748. Simple answer, because they can.

  • Comment number 748.

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

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 747.

    720.bonobobaby

    Would this not ultimately lead to universities and employers looking first at date of birth to calculate how much of a 'boost' the candidate was artificially given in order to achieve their exam grades?
    =
    I'd urge a more radical approach, break the age/school year link. In the 1920's my mother's classes were not fixed age, there could be other benefits with mixed age classes

 

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