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Following Ed Balls webchat, thread for parents of summer born babies

(325 Posts)
GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 11-Sep-09 17:13:54

We said we'd start this thread, as so many of you expressed an opinion on the Ed Balls webchat thread about summer-born babies and starting school.

BTW, this is a recent thread in media requests on a linked topic.

Will nip over to webchat thread and link to this.


Donnavito Wed 15-Sep-10 20:47:31

my youngests dob is 21 august. he would have gone into y1 but i took him out to home school due to the affect it had on him. his older brother is in the same year as him(th oldest). this really shows the problem up.SATs at 6? no way. we are heing now anyway.

DayShiftDoris Fri 17-Sep-10 00:07:49

My son is a June baby

There are children in his class that were born BEFORE he was even concieved.

And I know that because I looked after their mums on the maternity ward

How there can be an expectation that he will be as developed, emotionally mature, etc as those children is beyond me.

He's recently gone into a new school and a combined yr1 and 2 class. I realised with a shock today that the year 1 child who's party we are going to on Sunday will be SIX... my son has been a school a WHOLE year more but is onle 10 weeks older than him.

Funnily enough now he's in a year 1 and 2 class he's much more settled and his 'behaviour' is no longer a problem....

duchesse Fri 17-Sep-10 00:51:14

If I had known 15 years ago when I was considering the schooling of DS (July 10th, bright but emotionally immature even now at 17) and 10 years ago when considering the schooling of DD2 (July 27th and bright but emotionally immature until about age 12) what I feel I know now, I would probably have done what I intend to do with DD3 (Aug 27th- yes I know, but beggars can't be choosers, plus the maternity unit was really quiet at the tail-end of August)-keep her out of school and away from failure until such an age as I feel she can cope with it, and does not feel as though she is failing at everything. We kept DD2 in nursery for a term longer than standard (she started in reception in January rather than September); quite frankly it made a huge difference for her to be the oldest for a change. Her self-confidence came on hugely in that time, and she felt able to cope with the school setting in a way I know that she would not had she started aged 4yr 1mth.

We had later problems with her due to having to be in the wrong year group while we were in Canada for a year, but thankfully these are resolved now and she is becoming an extremely confident and mature girl. We had to use extreme caution in choosing her schools throughout though. I feel that my son was quite badly damaged by his early schooling and wish I'd home edded him. This was back in the days when reception was a lot more formalised, very little play etc. He responded by doing nothing for his first three years of school. It has had a lot of knock-on effects on him.

I think that until the education system stops blindly crashing ahead with its obsession with keeping age groups homogenous despite emotional maturity, it will inevitably cause children to fall behind due to emotional immaturity rather than academic ability.

shezzle Sat 02-Oct-10 09:58:58

My little girl started school this sept, she was 4 at end of June. Very excited to start and had moved up with her pre-school class so has friends.

It was all going swimmingly for a week when she just came out and said 'the big quick boy spat on me' obviously I went in for a chat and the teacher sorted this out but since then she has been bullied daily by a group of these big boys in her class. The boys are Sept born so a year older.

Having gone in and seen them I have to say from her point of view they look massive and as there are no tables or routine as in YR 1 reception is very chaotic. I agree with learning through play but my little one really is not enjoying it, she loves reading and drawing and just keeps saying she can't wait to go to the next class(she can see YR 1 sitting working and it is far quieter than her room)

I have been in again for chat with teacher because the situation has reached the point where my daughter is frightened of the big boys, really scared. She said she wishes she was a mummy with children so she didn't have to be near them everyday. I watched through the window whilst waiting for her the other day and these kids are rough.

What on earth do I do? I feel like I keep saying it will get easier etc and to be fair she is more than fine with all the other stuff that littlies may struggle with-going to loo changing for PE, eating all her lunch. And she loves the learning side of it all, the teacher presented her with an award for reading in assembly, week two. She just finds it all too noisy and doesn't like being alone with 'the big quick boys' which is really starting to worry me and I don't want her to be put off school.I keep promising she will get used to them and feel I am letting her down. She is really small too

cazzybabs Sat 02-Oct-10 10:17:23

having just had as unplanned august baby this worries me - I teach year 1 and my unscientific studies show over several years those in my top groups are those who have birthdays in sept-dec; altough the 2 brightest children I ever taught were summer born.

I think those who are august ought to choice which year they start school as in th German system...compared to those born in September that is a 1/5th of their life different

Aitch Sat 02-Oct-10 10:24:51

re the scottish system, we are allowed to defer by law if the child is not 5 on the first day of term, however those children who are born aug-dec 31 have to pay for nursery for the extra year. glasgow has just quadrupled the prices, so in effect this means that only people with £3grand in their pockets can 'choose' to defer. it's a disgrace tbh.

anyway, on that note, my dec born has started school and i will never know if it was the right thing to do, it's awful, she's a foot shorter than some of her classmates and just seems so young by comparison. sad

Aitch Sat 02-Oct-10 10:33:13

sorry... the point being that in her class there are some children whose parents DID pay last year when the fees were less, so she has classmates well over a year older.

jackstarbright Sat 02-Oct-10 13:27:47

Cazzybabs - I have never been brave enough to ask a primary teacher this question before - but don't they cover ' normal distribution' in child development, as part of primary school teacher training?

An August born child who is top of your class is an 'outlier' an exception - not someone to use as a measurement of other children and their abilities.

If you are setting in year 1 - you should expect most of the top set to be, on average, the older children in the class.

The worrying thing for summer born children is, that teachers are not made fully aware of this. Child development is chronological and doesn't happen in school 'year group' steps.

cazzybabs Sat 02-Oct-10 13:53:40

so work in my class is differentiated...I don't take any notice of birthdays when sorting out the groups because our school system doesn't...when you do SATS/GCSEs/A-levels so from that angle it doesn't matter when the birthdays are it is just interesting that majority of the top set tend to be older children ... and whilst most of my weaker children are summer born its not as clear cut as the top group tend to be.

but we do test the children and that takes account of ages so it highlights any issues.. for example one of the oldest children in my class was in the core group but his test score worked out below some of the summer born children because he had to get more right - does that make sense?

jackstarbright Sat 02-Oct-10 18:08:29

Well there is a debate about whether SATs should take account of age, and concern that summer borns, on average, perform less well at GCSE.

And, as you point out, a few months difference in age is far more significant to a 5 year old, than it is to a 15 year old.

I'm glad some 'age normalised' testing takes place. But I often see posters (sometimes teachers) claiming because the cleverest child in the class is summer born - relative age is irrelevant angry.

CarrieMe Tue 01-Feb-11 15:57:26

Wow - this is a long thread and I can understand why... We have a DS born 29 August who was due to start in Reception in September (2011). I really didn't want him to start at 4 yrs 1 week so made a case for him to start in Reception the following year making him the oldest in the school year. I was really ready for a fight and had all my local councillors lined up ready but after the Early Years Team got involved we got a big fat YES from the LEA. I got it in writing as I still can't quite believe it Our DS does have a medical condition but not one that would make him eligible for a statement or additional assistance. We have friends with a DS born end of July who is 3, in age 6 clothes and already begging to go to big school. It depends on the child and I can't understand why this is one area where 'Every Child Matters' actually doesn't seem to apply

Cleek Fri 11-Mar-11 14:08:43

I really don't like to say a child is bright or not bright based on their academic development. I believe that some children are more academic than others because of their personalities and interests. Some children like books, drawing and talking may appear to be more ready for school earlier than those who don’t. Both of my dds are summer babies. I believe they would do a lot better if they could start their reception at 5 yrs old rather then 4 yrs. Especially for my younger one as she is still very much like a toddler and completed her potty training just before September just in time to start reception.
My second child is very quiet and more interested in construction toys. I just had a meeting with her teacher this week her learning record is showing that she is quite behind at school. I worry that if she will ever be able to compete with her peers. I am planning to pay to send her to a homework centre for extra support but the centres don’t accept children until they reach six. So it means that she cannot get the support before she is in year two. It will be little late to prepare her for the Key stage I SAT. Only if she was a autumn baby she would be able to get the extra support while she is in year one. Summer babies have less pre-school education and have less time to get extra help to prepare them for SAT. So summer babies are disadvantaged!

lingle Mon 14-Mar-11 18:23:47

CarrieMe - just saw this - that is very very exciting! Do you mind saying which LEA you are in?

I have just had a lovely parent's evening about DS2 (now 5.7 and in reception because we were allowed to year-defer too). It was so great - all the teacher talked about was how his reading and writing and numeracy were coming on, and how he and his friends get the giggles on the carpet and have to be separated. Then we did the usual happy-sigh "he just needed more time, didn't he?"

I just wish all children who really need it could get extra time.

yumummy Sun 04-Mar-12 20:22:43

anyone interested in doing something about this? Its not just the overwhelming majority of common concerns raised in this thread but research also tells us that summer born babies, particulalry boys, do not gain from starting school so young. i have spoken to my LEA who said that if the school was willing to defer whole entry for a year then that would be OK but one could not ever be able to do this through the usual LA application system. Come on, that's just not good enough. There are so many people and evidence as well that would support a different system. I think its time for more than just grumbling together - a petition or lobbying or something at policy/political level needs to happen. Anyone game?

lou2321 Mon 05-Mar-12 12:39:01

I am not sure that grouping the children into 'summer' babies is entirely right, some children are ready for school at 4 and some aren't, regardless of their birthday.

My niece is a September baby so was practically 5 starting school but would definitely not have been ready for school ANY earlier as socially and emotionally she would have struggled on the other hand my DS1 attended the local infant school with his pre-school once a week and when they questioned me as to why his name wasn't on the list to start September I pointed out that he was not 3 until the following month so had over a year to go (he's a Feb baby so was 4y7 starting school). He is socially and academically working above many of the Sep-Dec born children.

My DS2 is April born and yes he will be one of the younger children and is only just showing the signs of being ready for school now as he is coming up 4, but his pre-school prepares the children so well for school and ensure they work through the EYFS properly making sure they are emotionally and socailly ready. Luckily at the school he is going to they go in straight away, none of this phased entry, I think that makes life even harder for the younger ones as they are excluded from possibly their nursery/preschool friends.

All in all, I guess what I am saying is that it depends on the individual child, if they attend pre-school for a reasonable length of time and sessions I can't see why it should hinder them at all when their birthday is! I may be completely wrong but do speak from some experience of 2 DCs and also I run a pre-school.

lou2321 Mon 05-Mar-12 12:42:01

Surely there are some Sep-Dec babies where the same thing applies ie they are not ready even at nearly 5??

gramercy Tue 06-Mar-12 09:27:03

There was a Jim Rose government report on this. I think one of the problems with deferring is that it is in conflict with some influential educationalists who point out that it would generally be the middle classes who would wish to defer their child's entry, thus affording them the opportunity to have a leg up/level the playing field, whatever, whereas the struggling summer pupils of less ambitious parents would suffer all the more.

I'm not saying this is right, especially since I have two August-born dcs and I would have loved to have put dd in the year below, but it is a point that gets trotted out by the powers that be.

TinkerTills Thu 29-Mar-12 15:01:33

I’m due an August boy this year. To those who know the literature, or have more experience in this field I have a number of questions….

The research by IFS that everyone is referring to paints a pretty drastic picture. August borns less likely to go to university, less likely to get 5 GCSEs, more likely to take drugs, drink and generally rebel. Why we just don’t do what the entire rest of the Western world does and build flexibility (holding back and moving forward) into our school system I do not know!

Is my only choice independent school if my unborn son needs to be held back?
Does holding back a child do more harm than good?
Are you better off starting your child at school and seeing how they go? Or is that damaging?
Is the real comparison of interest achievement between august borns held back a year and those attending school in their “real” year group?

Going back to the IFS research, does anyone know if they controlled/ adjusted for the obvious variables such as socio-economic status, mother’s level of education, gender, race/ethnicity, full-time attendance at pre-school/ private nursery, birth order, even height?!!

Thanks to anyone that can point me in the right direction with some answers!

lingle Fri 30-Mar-12 12:55:31

re your choice:
- position is different in Scotland, Ireland, etc.
- independent schools have very different attitudes to each other. Those focussed on the 11+ may be very inflexible.
- can't open the NY Times article.
- "are you better off starting....." . tricky, because unless you change school altogether, they are likely to realise that they are being separated from an established peer group so their confidence may be affected. The decision point is the year before they start school.
- "Is the real comparison...." . Yes. So if you compare my son in Year 1 to a similar child with similar birthdate in Year 2, that would be a sensible comparison. My son's profile is middle-class, supportive parents, language delay but then rapid progress and no learning difficulties. As a Year 1 child now he needs no support and is thriving in all areas except social skills where he just about manages and is learning/progressing. In Year 1 a year ago he would have struggled in all areas.

Yumummy. I'm not prepared to lead on this but if you have the energy to start a petition/campaign I will support you by testifying about our positive experiences of deferral. A friend of mine has been campaigning about elective caesareans for 8 years and through sheer persistence played a real role in changing the rules. Persistence is all. The problem is that once your own child's position is settled one way or another you tend to move on, hence the lack of an established campaign.

jackstarb Mon 02-Apr-12 09:02:16

Yumummy - I'd also be happy to be involved in a campaign to get something done about summer born disadvantage. We did talk about running this as a 'Mumsnet Campaign' several years ago. But it rather got stamped on.

Having looked at this for years, I'd have to say that gramercy's point has some validity - flexibility to defer would be taken up more widely by those parents who value education. Which could make things worse for some summer born dc's from poorer homes.

I think this is the main reason why the unfair treatment of summer borns by our education system is tolerated.

But there are other options. Not least, making all primary teachers aware of this issue [sadly many don't appear to truly appreciate it].

lingle I'm pleased your ds is doing well.

lingle Mon 02-Apr-12 09:17:36

yes Jackstar I remember Ed Balls saying that (indirectly) to us when we got him on the webchat.

It is a real issue but all that would be needed is a study of the Scottish system.

jackstarb Mon 02-Apr-12 12:25:44

I believe England has the world's the most inflexible education system when it comes to deferral and holding back a school year. We also have a bigger 'long tail' of underachievement than many other developed countries. No proof that it's a causal relationship - but it's very possible.

I'd see school start deferral and dropping back an academic year as a smallish part of an overall attempt to improve the achievement gap of summer born pupils.

I've seen many other ideas and options, but until the problem is properly recognised and accepted, then nothing useful will be done, on any scale at least.

lingle Mon 02-Apr-12 12:39:10

looks quite grand but was basically just two really annoyed women who wouldn't give in and ended up with a seat round the table when the government and the NHS decided how to change its position.

all this issue needs is someone to not give in.

jackstarb Mon 02-Apr-12 14:31:18

Well I'm nearly there lingle smile. I actually got myself invited to the IFS conference on the Summer Born attainment Gap (and launch of their latest report) but sadly I couldn't attend.

Next time something like that comes up, I'll see if I can get a group of interested Mumsnetters together for it.

lingle Mon 02-Apr-12 20:30:46

that's great jackstarbright, good on you. holler for me (I have the private messaging thing now) if there is anything I can do in writing (I'm in Yorkshire).

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