Summer babies do less well academically in part due to streaming.

(260 Posts)
TwistTee Fri 08-Mar-13 09:42:40

www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-21699054

I read this article with great interest and much concern. My 4 yr old daughter, born at the end of August already shows some signs of a lack of confidence and poor concentration when compared to the older kids in her class. Not surprising as some of them are almost a whole year older.
It worries me that she could potentially always be behind and I often question if we made the right decision in starting her schooling at age 4.
I'd be interested in your thoughts and experiences of summer babies in this context. Any tips on confidence issues?
And does anyone have a view on the issue of streaming as mentioned in the article? Her school are about to sort the kids but have not yet decided how. Her teacher said they might do it by age, ability or random. I was keen on the former as it would mean she stays in a class of 20 as opposed to a class of 30.

Perriwinkle Fri 08-Mar-13 23:28:07

Tafetta I mean parents should view them as individuals. Look at them as individuals and see what they are capable of before labelling them based on the time of year they were born.

As far as I'm conconcerned, it's quite worrying how parents' preconceived notions of what to expect from their children when they start school will be coloured by reading surveys like this before their children even enter school. The same goes for teachers.

There are children of all abilities whose birthdays fall at different times of the year.

There can be some very academically and socially able and confident children with Summer birthdays. In fact, in my DS's class at primary there was quite a few boys with Summer birthdays who were all very able academically and I can remember his Yr 5 teacher remarking that it was quite unusual for a group of "younger for year" boys to be doing so well. This bucks two trends/stereotypes in one go - the first being that girls are usually brighter than boys and the second that Summer born children should be behind those born earlier in the academic year.

I wasn't surprised because I believed it was just a coincidence that this group of individuals had all happened along at the same time.

I don't believe it's helpful for anyone to pigeon-hole and label children in this way. Just treat them as individuals - not as widgets or statistics.

ATouchOfStuffing Fri 08-Mar-13 23:29:42

I am surprised at how many parents seem to know other kids months of birth in their DC's first few weeks. Is there some kind of birthday list sent out to all parents?
We all get labelled in one way or another as will our DC, be it in primary or senior school or at uni or at work. Yes exam marks are important but I think what people are trying to say is that not EVERY child born June onwards is going to be struggling - the words of hope and personal experience for many with older DC's or who are themselves summer babies should be reassuring, not over ridden by a study that is basing it's results on exams we have all pretty much said are unfair and label our kids anyway.

minibird69 Fri 08-Mar-13 23:41:23

I have an autumn born 7 yr old (yr2) and August born 5 yr old (yr 1). My eledest could quite confidently have started school at 4 whereas my youngest would have benefited from starting a year later at 5. The school is wonderful and supportive to both but I do feel that if we had been allowed by our education system to send DD1 when she was 4 and ready (desperate to go!) and DD2 at 5 (ready) then both would be happier - DD1 more challenged and DD2 ready to go. The system is a bit rigid

whistleahappytune Sat 09-Mar-13 08:31:18

Perri I don't think the problem is the parents viewing their children as individuals, it's the school that likes to categorise and pigeonhole. I agree that children should be seen as individuals. Of course.

I think these studies are incredibly valuable, as it does point out via evidence, not anecdote, that summer-borns can be (^can be not must be^) disadvantaged by too early setting and/or streaming. I know that my August born DD who is incredibly bright, got lumbered with a low/middle ability assessment when she was younger, and along with her parents has been struggling to advance ever since.

These studies that you so disparage aren't pigeonholing children. It identifies something that teachers and schools and parents should be aware of, so that children AREN"T pigeonholed.

Donner Sat 09-Mar-13 08:53:40

In Scotland our year starts mid August, not far off the English year but there is an age cut off for entry into the year. The child must be 4 by the end of February so that when they start school they are at least 4.5. Recently schools have shortened this so that if your child has a Jan or Feb birthday then the parents have a free choice to either opt for another year of nursery or send to school.

I was surprised to hear that in England as long as the child is 4 before term starts they can start so that some children are just 4. My son would not have coped at this age. My daughter is about to turn 4 and is far more settled and willing to sit and listen. She is interested in numbers and letters but she is still so little and still exhausted by half days at nursery.

All children are different and some may cope just fine. You have to go by your child and I think if there's any doubt about younger ones being ready then if its possible, hold them back. What's the rush? They'll be in full time education or work for the rest of their lives (hopefully).

LaQueen Sat 09-Mar-13 08:59:01

I think it depends very much on the personaility/ability of the individual child. A confident, clever child will always easily hold their own against the rest of the class, regardless of when their birthday is.

Both DH and I, were born at the very end of August - so we were always the youngest in our school year, but it never affected us academically, or socially.

I absolutely agree with setting in literacy and numeracy, right from the word go.

Both our DDs were free-reading by the middle of Yr 1, and DD2 often complained how boring/frustrating she found it, having to share/study a book with a child who was still struggling with Biff, Chip & Kipper.

And, I can remember feeling exactly the same at primary school. I was always desperate to read ahead, and got so fed-up, having to wait for my partner...to...finish...the...page...

Thankfully, the DD's school put them into sets (based on ability) at the start of Yr 2.

But, there is definite movement between the sets - which is a very good thing. DD1 was moved out of the top set for Reading, in Yr 3, for about 3 months - and it was absolutely the right thing for her teacher to do. She'd (well, we had) let her reading slide, she hadn't been concentrating, and so couldn't keep the pace with the other girls in the top set.

3 months of LaQueen's Reading Boot-Camp, soon had her back in the top-set, and she absolutely deserved to be there. She'd worked really hard.

musicalfamily Sat 09-Mar-13 09:19:28

I agree with LaQueen that setting does not seem to equate to birthday order at all in my children's classes.

Teachers on here will be in a better position to relay their observations on a wider scale, but from my own experience of my own children, being an August birthday hasn't held DS1 back in any way really.

LaQueen Sat 09-Mar-13 09:24:14

I'm thinking about the top table, in both the DD's classes.

There's a mixture of older and much younger girls on the top table. I think it's a far more telling indicator to look at the educational background of the parents, as opposed to the child's birthday.

whistleahappytune Sat 09-Mar-13 09:31:35

LaQueen you are lucky that there is definite movement between sets. In many classrooms this simply isn't the case.

LaQueen Sat 09-Mar-13 09:37:51

whistle I think sometimes you need to engineer it. I knew DD1's reading had improved massively, so I mentioned to her teacher all the hard work she'd put in, and the books she'd read. The teacher offered to read with her the next day, and the next week she returned to the top table.

Pozzled Sat 09-Mar-13 10:45:46

Whistle I think schools are having to show a lot more movement in groups and sets nowadays. The school where I work is under a lot of scrutiny right now, and assessment for learning is seen as absolutely crucial. We are encouraged to change the groups whenever necessary, tand children often work outside their groups. For instance, i have really good writers (imaginative, good vocabulary etc) who still don't always use full stops correctly. So when we do punctuation, they will work in a 'lower' group. We also work very hard to ensure that all children are valued and supported as individuals. My classes are really good at recognising that it's not as simple as X is better at English than Y. They know that X chooses excellent vocabulary, Y is really good at varying his sentence structure, Z has the neatest handwriting and so on. But also that their skills and performance change all the time and that they all need to be striving to improve.

It's this treatment of children as individuals rather than pigeonholing as a particular ability which I think should raise achievement for all pupils.

Dozer Sat 09-Mar-13 10:56:06

I find it really annoying on these threads when people weigh in with anecdotes, "well, I was Ok, my Dc is brightest in class" etc. and suggest that parents who worry about their summer-born DC are PFB, over-anxious etc.

There is good evidence that it can be a disadvantage. In Scotland, where there is more flexibility, the majority of parents choose to use it.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Sat 09-Mar-13 11:45:27

Dozer I don't think anyone is saying that parents are being PFB.

DS1 being summer born and a boy, I was very concerned about him getting a good start in school and we have been very careful to make sure that we are doing our bit in terms of supporting him in his learning at home, making sure he is eating and sleeping well and encouraging him in his friendships. I go into school and read 2-3 times a week which allows me to see how he is with his classmates, and means that I also have a good relationship with his teacher and TA, and the head and deputy.

LaQueen is spot on that you need to engineer things to an extent to make sure that your child isn't overlooked in a class of 30.

LaQueen Sat 09-Mar-13 11:53:34

Dozer I don't think anyone is being PFB, about it. I actually think it doesn't make that much of a difference, when your child is born.

If a child is clever, and born in July, then there's a very likely chance they will outperform an average abilty child, born in December.

I think the educational background, and the consistent input of the parent (regardless of their educational background) has far more influence on the child's progress through school.

The child of a barrister and a GP, born in February - but, whose parents never bother to sit and read with them, check homework, too busy to have long chats with them...probably isn't going to do as well, as a child born in July, to parents, who aren't highly educated, but do read with them every night, go through homework with them, etc.

Pozzled Sat 09-Mar-13 12:05:46

But Laqueen, the evidence says that it DOES make a difference, it's a well-documented issue. Perhaps a bright August- born child will still do well, but an average or struggling Summer-born child is likely to do achieve less well than the same child born in the autumn.

I agree that it's not the only factor, or the most important one, but it puts some children at a disadvantage. It's important to learn more about the effects in order to find ways of guarding against it. I hope that the effect will decrease considerably now that most children start in September, so they all have the same amount of time in reception. But I don't think we can just dismiss it.

grants1000 Sat 09-Mar-13 12:24:53

"yes some August might learn to read later but it really does no matter at all, because they will do it when the can and when the are ready"

But if it impacts on their achievement in a way which can be measured then surely it is worth worrying about?

The sort of measurement used is just one way of measuring their ability, it only impacts on their acheivement in the minds of parents who frett without need because they think their child is in a bottom group because they are slow or behind others, when that is not the case, they are yonger and it might take them longer to read, what's wrong with that? You are not comparing like with like, you are too obsessed with this one tool of measurement that you think must be set in stone and define a child for the rest of his/her life.

When children are grown and go for a job interview do you think that the fact they learnt to read 6 -12 months after a classmate will have an impact on the chances of them getting that job? No. Because they can read.

It only impacts on their achievments if YOU let it. The way children are assessed and measured by the methods use by G'ovt and school are just one small way of measuring and assessing a child current state and potential. Top is not best with all else being a poor substitute.

"In reality in a class of 31, children are rarely viewed as individuals. Less confident, younger, more average children are forgotten"

Utter and total crap, a good teacher can look after all 30 children needs. All the children in my children's school have always put this first. If teachers can't, they are not a very good teacher.

Is my husband who is 3 years older than me always superior because he must have learned to read before me? No.

Snowylady Sat 09-Mar-13 12:39:47

I hope you don't mind me putting in my 3 pence worth. I am personally August born, a few weeks from being in the year below. It does make a difference when some other children in the classroom are almost a year older in my opinion. Don't get me wrong, it's not a big thing, but I was shyer in primary and I remember certain concepts took me longer (maths especially!), not in a massive way just now and again. Same for some other summer borns in my year and it was recognised by my school as being an aspect - I remember them adding a certain % on top of test results and explaining to the class why they did that. My Sept/Oct born friends weren't happy! I guess the biggest thing it can affect is confidence and I was slower to gain this and was quiet and reserved at primary. I did gain confidence at secondary though! You could say this is more personality related but my summer born friends at school were the same. Things do even out and the best thing parents can do is support and help with confidence - after primary I found my confidence increased and my education did not suffer and I achieved as well as other primary classroom peers!

QuickLookBusy Sat 09-Mar-13 12:44:19

Yes, research after research shows summer born dc are at a disadvantage. Because someone can say "well I or my dc are fine" doesn't mean the research is wrong.

It even affects university chances. Less summer born dc go to university.

Every govt goes on about "educations the individual" but they refuse to do anything about this problem, despite huge evidence to show that starting school at 4 years and 2 days has a detrimental affect on many children.

Pozzled Sat 09-Mar-13 12:52:01

grants1000 You seem to be assuming that month of birth affects the age at which children learn to read and nothing else.

This is not the case, it affects achievement in many measurable ways- a quick google makes this clear.

It is a statistical effect, so of course it won't matter for every child, and of course other factors are also important. But please don't dismiss it out of hand without knowing all the facts.

lljkk Sat 09-Mar-13 13:10:27

The problem with a flexible intake system is that it gets abused and results in increased social inequalities. It also creates higher risk of social problems, and emotional unhappiness undermines achievement far more than any age disadvantage. The most informed and more affluent parents defer the most, less informed parents & those who need school-as-childcare defer the least. Plus you can argue that flexibiity should go both ways, I've heard stories of parents demanding that their child should be allowed to start school a year early, too.

I would like flexibility (only up to 1 yr behind usual cohort) and only for very narrow circumstances, mostly when SN is formally identified by age 5 or premature birth (say before 40 weeks gestation).

Theas18 Sat 09-Mar-13 13:16:28

Gosh I didn't know primaries streamed beyond sitting on different tables to potentiate differentiated work.

My eldest (late july birthday) now 19 was in a study at infant school about this. They had groups for things and sets for english and maths from year 3 up. She always kept up/lead her peers academically (but was rubbish at sport- being younger or just a bit rubbish? hmm).

I do think we need to try to treat all as individuals

lljkk Sat 09-Mar-13 13:29:05

Ours does not stream like that, Thea. The kids move around ability groups constantly and I was under impression this was very much best practice and Ofsted would frown at a primary not seen to have very porous ability groupings.

Local Secondaries stream from early y7, BUT I have heard many stories about kids moving up and down the ability groups, especially at start of y8 or y9. Knowing they can move groups is often an incentive.

There's a local girl with late August Birthday who is one of the best in the county at several sports (now in y8).

GoByTrain Sat 09-Mar-13 13:40:26

I am an August child and I think I was very very very disadvantaged by being an August child. (Not helped by the fact that I was the youngest in my sib-set too so got less one-to-one with my parents.)

I was often in the low, or lowest, streams at school. It became a self-fulfilling downwards spiral.

And so, because of of all the streaming, and low sets, and low expectations, I began to think I was pretty thick (as opposed to just being a bit younger, which may have been the reality).

As a footnote, I think we probably do catch up (eventually) so I did pull my finger out for A'levels, did well, and went to Oxford.

whistleahappytune Sat 09-Mar-13 13:51:32

Pozzled I'm glad to hear that this is going on in your school. Do you think this is widespread? I have to say that this doesn't happen in our school. Can my DD transfer to yours?

LaQueen, consider how freely you identify a young child, a young child as being either "bright" or "average". How on earth can you condemn a kid to being not so able/thick at seven or eight years of age? This is the kind of pigeonholing that I feel is so damaging and antithetical to real education.

Pozzled Sat 09-Mar-13 14:03:40

Whistle I don't think it's widespread yet, but I think it will start to become so as the new Ofsted framework kicks in. Teachers and schools now need to show progress for every single child in every lesson- that won't happen if the same children always sit on 'top table'. Even if the 'top table' are all on a 3a or whatever, they won't all have the same needs. Even more so for the 'bottom table' who will probably have a complex mixture of reasons as to why they're there.

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