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Summer born children ‘suffer’ at school

Academics are calling for a ‘radical shake-up’ of the Early Years curriculum


A study by researchers at Royal Holloway University of London suggests children born between May and Auguststruggle when they first start school.

They say it is because they may be slightly behind in their developmental levels, compared with those born between September and January.

Study author, Professor Courtenay Norbury said: “It is well known that summer born children can be disadvantaged at school because they are the youngest in the class and there is a constant dilemma for parents over whether to delay sending their children to school.

“There have even been suggestions about raising the age of school entry to six years for all children.

“However our study suggests that starting school young may be less of a problem if the curriculum is more in line with children’s developmental levels”.

The research examined 170 primary schools across Surrey.

Experts looked at data from 7,267 children, who started reception class in 2011, from information provided by teachers on speaking, listening and behaviour.

Professor Norbury added: “Our findings suggest that the curriculum is setting these young children up to experience failure in their very first year of school.

“But an even bigger surprise was that across the population nationally, only 52 per cent of all school starters achieved a ‘good level of development’.

“If half of the children in England can’t meet the targets, perhaps the targets are wrong and there needs to be a radical shake-up of the curriculum.”

Nationally, 52 per cent of children achieved a ‘good level of development’ on the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile.

A child reaches compulsory school age on the prescribed day following his or her fifth birthday.

Many parents are more than happy for their child to start school in the September after their birthday but there are also those who feel their child is not ready, especially if they only turned five in August.

The campaign group, Flexible School Admissions for Summer Born Children, claims that evidence suggests summer babies are not always ready for school and are more likely to face social, emotional and academic challenges.

It is calling on ministers to make it easier for parents to choose whether to send their summer-born child to start school at age four or in the following September after they turn five.

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