Summer born children at bottom of the class, warn experts and parents

Younger pupils should have their test results graded more favourably than older classmates, to correct the academic disadvantage faced by children with summer birthdays, a new study will say. This is from the Telegraph…

Researchers believe that primary school tests should be “age adjusted” to prevent younger pupils in the year group being penalised unfairly.

It follows an analysis of the academic performance of the entire state school population of England which found dramatic differences in the fortunes of children born in August, the youngest in their class, and their classmates who have their birthdays in September, and are the eldest.

Summer-born children get consistently lower results, are also more likely to leave education at 16, tend to be more unhappy at school and have less chance of getting in to a high-performing university.

The findings, from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, add to growing evidence that August children suffer serious educational disadvantage because they are less physically, socially and emotionally ready for school, compared to their classmates.

In its latest report, due to be published in April, the IFS will conclude that the fairest way to close this “persistent and damaging” attainment gap is to “age-adjust” primary school test scores and GCSE results.

It comes as growing numbers of parents are challenging local authority admission arrangments which force them to enrol their summer born children in full time school when they are barely four years old.

Ellen Greaves, a research economist from the institute who is working on the study, said: “Age adjusting the tests may not solve the problem in the classroom, as August born children are still the youngest. But it is a way of giving parents a better idea of how their children are doing and it may help children’s confidence.”

Under the proposed system, exams results would be analysed to identify the differences in performance between the different age groups.

Then, a statistically complex equation would be applied to all results to take into account the month in which each pupil is born.

It would likely mean, effectively, that those with an August birthday given the biggest boost, and September-born pupils, are benefited the least.

Ms Greaves added: “We have the results of every children in the country, and if those born in summer are doing, on average, half a standard deviation worse than those born in September, then you adjust all the scores accordingly.”

Such an approach is already used in some independent and grammar schools entrance exams. Kent County Council, for instance adjusts the pass mark in the 11-plus test to allow for the child’s age.

The IFS study will stop short of saying that the GCSE results given to pupils should be manipulated in this way, but it will recommend that the same scores are “age adjusted” when given to sixth forms and further education colleges, to prevent summer-born from missing out on A-level places and vocational courses.

The plight of summer-born children has been well documented but has yet to be tackled successfully in policy terms.

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