COMMONS

Education Committee web forum: Summer Born Children

The Education Committee invites views on the strength of the evidence in relation to the current policy on Summer Born Children and the effect of birth date on student achievement.

Thank you for all comments submitted to the ‘Evidence Check’ forum. The forum is now closed. Comments received will help the Committee evaluate the evidence received from the Department for Education.

The Committee will use the comments to select topics for one-off oral evidence sessions in early 2015.

Evidence

Please read the Department's evidence on Summer Born Children:

Image: iStockphoto

110 Responses to Summer Born Children

Pauline Hull says:
December 15, 2014 at 12:20 PM
On behalf of the Summer Born Campaign group, I would like to submit the following evidence in response to the DfE's 'Evidence Check' memorandum in support of its current policy and impending 2014 School Admissions Code.

1. Important relevant research papers not referred to in the DfE's evidence:
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/12/15/important-research-papers-for-the-education-committees-evidence-check/

2. A detailed response to the DfE’s ‘Summer Born Children’ Evidence Check:
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/12/15/response-to-dfe-summer-born-children-evidence-check-for-the-education-committee/

3. Why missing a whole year of school is a REAL RISK for CSAge summer born children:
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/11/23/illogical-policy-no-warnings-fines-or-imprisonment-for-us-our-summer-born-children-must-miss-a-year-of-education/

4. How moving house could cost summer born children a whole year of education, regardless of initial admissions outcome:
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/05/31/moving-house-could-cost-summer-born-children-a-whole-year-of-education/

5. How mental health and the most vulnerable children are often forgotten in focus on ‘age-normalising’ test scores ('Vital Link Between Improving Mental Health, Delaying School Start of Youngest Children and Reducing NHS Costs'):
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/11/20/vital-link-between-improving-mental-health-delaying-school-start-of-youngest-children-and-reducing-nhs-costs/

6. How the DfE’s new 2014 School Admissions Code will exacerbate the gap between rich and poor:
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/11/19/dfes-new-code-will-exacerbate-gap-between-rich-and-poor/

7. Evidence that admissions authorities do not agree how the 2014 Code should be interpreted, but worse – neither do the bodies to whom parents are being told to turn when they face problems:

a) FOI by Summer Born Campaign group reveals Local Authority Disagreement, Confusion & Postcode Lottery
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/11/28/foi-by-summer-born-campaign-group-reveals-local-authority-disagreement-confusion-postcode-lottery/

b) 'FINAL DECISION’ by Local Government Ombudsman Condones Discriminatory Admissions Practices for Summer Born children
https://summerbornchildren.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/14-june-15-sbc-press-release-lgo-final-decision1.pdf

c) OSA Comments on 2014 Draft Code Confirm Confusion and Chaos Ahead
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/12/02/unclear-code/
Inconsistency of the DfE’s position continues
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/05/03/inconsistency-of-the-dfes-position-continues/

d) DfE updates Summer Born advice – to reduce parents’ contact with Gove
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/05/09/dfe-updates-summer-born-advice-to-reduce-parents-contact-with-gove/#more-697

8. Evidence of admissions authorities not even knowing what compulsory school age is:

a)Norfolk staff newsletter says CSA is 4 – unless the law changes
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/06/09/norfolk-staff-newsletter-says-csa-is-4-unless-the-law-changes/

b) Norfolk Gets the Law Wrong – Again
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/06/14/norfolk-gets-the-law-wrong-again/

9. Why summer born admissions chaos will escalate as more schools become academies:
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/05/31/summer-born-admissions-chaos-escalates-as-more-schools-become-academies/

10. Evidence of how school start flexibility for youngest in year works in Canada ('Gove loves Alberta’s school system – Well here’s how they do Admissions…'):
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/05/29/gove-loves-albertas-school-system-well-heres-how-they-do-admissions/
Claire Crawford, Lorraine Dearden and Ellen Greaves says:
December 15, 2014 at 09:48 AM
Comments on Summer Born Children

Claire Crawford, Lorraine Dearden and Ellen Greaves, Institute for Fiscal Studies

We wish to provide some brief comments on the Department for Education ‘Evidence check’ memorandum on Summer born children.
We think that the evidence presented in the DfE document is reasonably comprehensive and balanced, and references to our research are relevant and accurate. Our research has shown that:
• Age at test is the key driver of the differences in educational attainment between children born at the start and end of the academic year. This means that children born in August tend to end up with worse exam results than children born in September simply because they are 11 months younger when they sit the tests. By contrast, we found that the age at which children start school and the amount of schooling they receive prior to the test explain very little of the differences that we observe.
• This means that age-adjusting national achievement test scores would be 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 move towards all children starting in September (rather than January or April) should, however, be welcomed as it appears to be marginally better for summer-born children to start school at the same time as their older compatriots on the basis of our research.
• Our research shows that the month of birth effect is linear, so the current system disadvantages all children who are not born in September, not just summer born children, although the effect for them is of course the largest. This means that age adjustment of test scores should be applied throughout the year, not just to summer-born children.
• Age adjustment in our view doesn’t involve flexibility in assessment, but just a simple adjustment to existing reporting:
o Instead of reporting whether the child has reached the expected level, or is achieving above or below the expected level relative to the whole year group, it essentially involves comparing them with children of the same age (i.e. those born in the same month). Moreover, because the effect is linear, the adjustment that needs to be made is very simple.
o We would advocate the reporting of both the age-adjusted and unadjusted measures, however, as the unadjusted measures still indicate the skills that each child has at a given point in time, while the age adjusted measures provide a better indication of the child’s relative performance and how well they are doing given their age.
• Setting out clear circumstances where admission authorities should consider allowing children to start school outside their normal age group is welcomed, and there are clearly good reasons for some students to be delayed (e.g. being born prematurely). But this is not a general solution to the month of birth problem for most students.
o The evidence on the benefits of deferring (starting in Year 1) or delaying (starting reception a year later) entry is at best mixed, as the summary recognises. Even if the evidence was positive, careful monitoring of the policy should be imposed to ensure that social disadvantage is not introduced into the system as a result, e.g. if poorer parents cannot afford to pay for additional childcare and thus send their child to school earlier than might be optimal for them.
References to our work on the subject:
Crawford, Dearden & Greaves (2013a), When you are born matters: evidence for England, IFS Report No. 80 (http://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/6686)

Crawford, Dearden & Greaves (2014), ‘The drivers of month of birth differences in children’s cognitive and non-cognitive skills’, J. R. Statist. Soc. A 177, Part 4, pp. 829–860.

Crawford, Dearden & Greaves (2013c), Identifying the drivers of month of birth differences in educational attainment, IFS Working Paper No. 13/09 (http://www.ifs.org.uk/wps/wp1309.pdf)

Crawford, Dearden & Greaves (2011), Does when you are born matter? The impact of
month of birth on children’s cognitive and non-cognitive skills in England, IFS Briefing Note No. 122 (http://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/5736)

Crawford, Dearden & Meghir (2007), When you are born matters: the impact of date of birth on child cognitive outcomes in England, CEE Discussion Paper No. 93: http://cee.lse.ac.uk/cee%20dps/ceedp93.pdf

Pauline Hull says:
December 15, 2014 at 07:31 AM
On behalf of the Summer Born Campaign group, I would like to submit the following evidence in response to the DfE's 'Evidence Check' memorandum in support of its current policy and impending 2014 School Admissions Code.

1. Important relevant research papers not referred to in the DfE's evidence:
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/12/15/important-research-papers-for-the-education-committees-evidence-check/

2. A detailed response to the DfE’s ‘Summer Born Children’ Evidence Check:
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/12/15/response-to-dfe-summer-born-children-evidence-check-for-the-education-committee/

3. Why missing a whole year of school is a REAL RISK for CSAge summer born children:
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/11/23/illogical-policy-no-warnings-fines-or-imprisonment-for-us-our-summer-born-children-must-miss-a-year-of-education/

4. How moving house could cost summer born children a whole year of education, regardless of initial admissions outcome:
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/05/31/moving-house-could-cost-summer-born-children-a-whole-year-of-education/

5. How mental health and the most vulnerable children are often forgotten in focus on ‘age-normalising’ test scores ('Vital Link Between Improving Mental Health, Delaying School Start of Youngest Children and Reducing NHS Costs'):
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/11/20/vital-link-between-improving-mental-health-delaying-school-start-of-youngest-children-and-reducing-nhs-costs/

6. How the DfE’s new 2014 School Admissions Code will exacerbate the gap between rich and poor:
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/11/19/dfes-new-code-will-exacerbate-gap-between-rich-and-poor/

7. Evidence that admissions authorities do not agree how the 2014 Code should be interpreted, but worse – neither do the bodies to whom parents are being told to turn when they face problems:

a) FOI by Summer Born Campaign group reveals Local Authority Disagreement, Confusion & Postcode Lottery
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/11/28/foi-by-summer-born-campaign-group-reveals-local-authority-disagreement-confusion-postcode-lottery/

b) 'FINAL DECISION’ by Local Government Ombudsman Condones Discriminatory Admissions Practices for Summer Born children
https://summerbornchildren.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/14-june-15-sbc-press-release-lgo-final-decision1.pdf

c) OSA Comments on 2014 Draft Code Confirm Confusion and Chaos Ahead
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/12/02/unclear-code/
Inconsistency of the DfE’s position continues
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/05/03/inconsistency-of-the-dfes-position-continues/

d) DfE updates Summer Born advice – to reduce parents’ contact with Gove
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/05/09/dfe-updates-summer-born-advice-to-reduce-parents-contact-with-gove/#more-697

8. Evidence of admissions authorities not even knowing what compulsory school age is:

a)Norfolk staff newsletter says CSA is 4 – unless the law changes
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/06/09/norfolk-staff-newsletter-says-csa-is-4-unless-the-law-changes/

b) Norfolk Gets the Law Wrong – Again
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/06/14/norfolk-gets-the-law-wrong-again/

9. Why summer born admissions chaos will escalate as more schools become academies:
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/05/31/summer-born-admissions-chaos-escalates-as-more-schools-become-academies/

10. Evidence of how school start flexibility for youngest in year works in Canada ('Gove loves Alberta’s school system – Well here’s how they do Admissions…'):
http://summerbornchildren.org/2014/05/29/gove-loves-albertas-school-system-well-heres-how-they-do-admissions/
Helen Harper says:
December 14, 2014 at 11:28 PM
I am a mother of 2 young children, aged 5 and 3. My eldest has recently started reception, as an autumn born she soon turned 5. My youngest (summer born) child will be 4 and 2 months starting reception in 2015. I have been reassured that reception is play based and that my summer born will be fine. However, what I have seen so far is that my child currently in reception is being taught to read and write and we are told that she should practice this nightly! She is exhausted. This year the curriculum for maths has been increased and they are now expected to achieve in reception what they would have been expected in year 1, last year. THIS IS TOO MUCH! My summer born boy likes to climb, run, jump, dig in the mud, ride his scooter and play cars and trains. He will not be able to achieve the level of work that is expected of him if he enters reception next year. Please stop pushing our overworked teachers to achieve these outcomes with young children. Children learn a lot from play and preschools and parents are wonderful at achieving this. This is not wasted time. Our children are learning, maturing, growing in confidence and learning many life skills. For summer borns, this relaxed and invaluable learning space is cut short and they are thrust into a more demanding situation, school.

Please allow parents to make a decision to send their summer born child to school at a time appropriate for their child. As stated by others starting school in year one is a massive disadvantage as the child misses the gentle settling in time and let's face it a lot of academic work that happens in reception. So I believe a fresh start, starting the term after they turn 5 in reception is the best outcome for many children.

All children develop at different rates, so I acknowledge that for some summer borns starting school shortly after turning 4 works. However, evidence shows that for many summer borns, this leads to a disadvantaged school life. We want to give our children an equal chance of success, not forever playing catch up.

I have read articles in the press trying to shame parents of children starting school where the child is unable to hold a pencil correctly, not able to write their names, not able to use the toilet unaided. Of course some of them cannot do this, for some children they were still 3 weeks before starting school! They are tiny people expected to do more than they are physically and mentally capable of. Don't set them up to fail. Please give parents the choice of starting summer borns in reception in the year best for them, after all we are the ones who know what the a capable of.
David & Louise says:
December 14, 2014 at 10:33 PM
We appreciate that a summer born child does not have to legally start school until they are 5 years old, and we are aware of the statistics that suggest summer born children under perform throughout their school life. Where we are stuck, is why schools can refuse entry to reception to a child that is starting school at the correct legal age (5) - i.e. the school can currently insist that the 5 year old child must join the class of 6 year olds in year 1 rather than going into the starting year of reception with the other 5 year olds. Also, we have been told that even if the primary school is ok with this, then the senior school can force the child to miss a year between age 11 and 18 in order to be 'bumped' back into the year they would have been in if they had started school a year before the legal starting requirement of 5 years. My wife and I think that all the government needs to do is to set in law that the child has a right to start in *reception* at age 5, and that the child cannot be forced to miss a year to 'catch up'. This approach allows the parents (who of course know their child best) to make the decision without fear of unknown consequences sometime in the next thirteen years.

On a personal note, our own experiences here are very concerning. We have been told it is Kent County Council that is the problem. Whoever is to blame, we are not making much progress. All schools we have looked at have stated that we cannot start our child a year later and that he must start a year before his legally required age. In this case, our son would be four years and one month old. One school would be happy for him to be part time for a little while. Other schools said it would be 'disruptive', or that they would decide whether or not our child was up to starting part or full time, as "they do know what they're doing" - i.e they know our son (who they have never met) better than his own parents.
Akanksha says:
December 14, 2014 at 10:00 PM
Not wanting to repeat what others have already stated, I would just like to say the following
• Each child is different and has different needs and it's a well established fact that parents know their children the best.
• DfE has shown it understands the above by setting up a compulsory school age and by allowing flexibility in terms of deferred or delayed start.
• What seems to have created various issues is the way LEAs interpret the guidelines and most of the times go against the very spirit of these guidelines.
To remove all ambiguity, it would be helpful if the guidelines clearly stated the following:
1) If the parents feel that their child isn't ready for school at a given time, they should be allowed to just state whether their child would benefit from having a deferred or a delayed start at Reception. The children should then automatically be added into the pool of children for next year.
2) The above could be due to any reason - SEN, premature babies or no obvious reason. The key issue should be 'is the child ready?'. If the answer is 'NO', then there shouldn't be any pressure on parents/child to start schooling when the child isn't ready.
3) It is important that LAs trust parents. No parent takes the issue of delaying or deferring their child's start at school lightly. LAs and DfE needs to understand this and show their trust in parents by not insisting on Reports from Educational Psychologists or setting up panels that require parents to fill elaborate forms to justify how their child has needs that should 'allow' the LA to consider their case.
4) The above will save money for the parents (who often have to get private reports that aren't cheap) and for the LA (who set up panels and processes to deal with an 'issue' which isn't an issue at all!)
5) There shouldn't be any attempt to try and bump a child later on during his schooling such that he has to miss a whole year (It's not uncommon to hear of LAs that moved children from year 5 to Year 7 or Year 9 to Year 11 or miss Reception if their parents had asked for a delayed start). Such practices should be looked at, understood and stated as illegal because they damage a child in a big way.

Children need time to play and develop and it would be better to spend time and resources working out how we can delay children starting formal schooling rather than trying to force parents to send children to school when children aren't ready.

LAs have a big responsibility and despite best intentions, the implementation always seems to be bogged down by bureaucratic processes and a general feeling that LAs/Headteachers know better than parents. That can never be the case since a parent knows their child the best. It would be important that this is the centre of any amendment that happens. It should be clearly stipulated that parents should have the final say in deciding when their child starts Reception. All other ambiguities around this ought to be removed.

Any testing of children at such a young age is so against giving the child time to develop at their pace and to their potential. If we set our children to fail, we will have no one but ourselves to blame for a dysfunctional society where more money is spent on looking after people's needs that have been created by the system in the very first place. The whole setup created to help parents and children seems to do just the opposite - we need to work collaboratively else we will let our children down!
Alan Gurbutt says:
December 14, 2014 at 08:34 PM
With regards to the 11-plus secondary school entrance test, a child taking the 11-plus might be born on the first day of the school year, whilst another might be born on the last day. Age adjustments to the raw scores have to then be made to take account of a child’s age.

As stated, it is well evidenced that children who are born premature have poorer outcomes at school; more so if being born in the summer means they fall into the wrong year group.

A parent of a child born premature will most likely be unaware that, even though 11-plus test scores have to be adjusted to take account of their child’s age, there still isn’t enough evidence to decide whether delaying starting school will address the disadvantages s/he may face in just one year.

Premature birth frequently involves white matter injury that affects long-term neurologic and cognitive outcomes that are not compensated for, or repaired before 11 years old (1). This means the standardisation of age for the 11-plus at the time of transition to secondary school is unlikely to compensate and will be discriminatory.

There is also a risk that insults to the brain of the nature encountered at the time of premature birth can reduce the resilience threshold for seizure activity (2). Therefore, the high levels of stress encountered in the lead-up to and within the high stakes 11-plus test may lead to a child having a seizure or stroke.

The DfE has a duty of care to ensure that children such as my daughter who are born prematurely are not discriminated against or placed at risk for their health.

(1) Pediatric Research (2003) 54, 672–679; doi:10.1203/01.PDR.0000084083.71422.16

(2) Alan Gurbutt’s meeting with Consultant Neurologist (name provided upon request) at Lincoln County Hospital November 4 2013
Sarah L says:
December 14, 2014 at 06:18 PM
A child's emotional health and well-being are fundamental when it comes to their life-long learning, their happiness and their academic achievement. I feel deeply saddened that these don't seem to be factored in at all and that the so called "evidence" relates to how well a child may or may not do academically. I am a professional working in CAMHS (Child & Adolescent Mental Health) and we are seeing increasing numbers of children as young as eight with severe mental health problems. Low self esteem is often at the core. My daughter is October born so turned five only a few weeks after starting Reception. That additional year of play has helped her enormously in so many ways. My son however is Aug born and if forced to start school age four and a couple of weeks then that fragile self esteem and sense of self which is forming now will be halted and taken over by the pressures and expectations of school. His growing internal locus of control will be knocked and the external locus of control will be more likely to grow. We are failing our summer born children and those born prematurely. An extra year of play and a chance to grow and develop without the pressures and expectations of school is what will give so many of those who are not ready for school the opportunity to thrive not just in Reception and Year 1 but for the rest of their lives :)
Sarah L says:
December 14, 2014 at 06:18 PM
A child's emotional health and well-being are fundamental when it comes to their life-long learning, their happiness and their academic achievement. I feel deeply saddened that these don't seem to be factored in at all and that the so called "evidence" relates to how well a child may or may not do academically. I am a professional working in CAMHS (Child & Adolescent Mental Health) and we are seeing increasing numbers of children as young as eight with severe mental health problems. Low self esteem is often at the core. My daughter is October born so turned five only a few weeks after starting Reception. That additional year of play has helped her enormously in so many ways. My son however is Aug born and if forced to start school age four and a couple of weeks then that fragile self esteem and sense of self which is forming now will be halted and taken over by the pressures and expectations of school. His growing internal locus of control will be knocked and the external locus of control will be more likely to grow. We are failing our summer born children and those born prematurely. An extra year of play and a chance to grow and develop without the pressures and expectations of school is what will give so many of those who are not ready for school the opportunity to thrive not just in Reception and Year 1 but for the rest of their lives :)
Sarah Leonard says:
December 14, 2014 at 05:27 PM
My son is a 31 August baby and we waited as long as possible to see where he was at developmentally to apply for a deferment. When I called the LEA i was told that only an exceptional case would be accepted and that it would need professional evidence, like that from a doctor. The child's nursery teachers would not be considered as suitable evidence. My application was rejected because of a lack of professional evidence and despite letters back and forth the LEA would not answer my questions or consider an appeal.

My son started school in September, part time. He became increasingly unhappy and anxious so after numerous meetings and failed attempts to settle him the school agreed that it would be best for him to repeat reception in 2015. I have since been told by the LEA that because he has already been allocated a place that we cannot re apply and that they will be allocating the school with their full quota. This means that my son will be left without a school place.

Not only does my case demonstrate the difficulty as a parent in being able to prove that you know what is best for your child but it also shows how the system is failing to support children who need to repeat a year.