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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.


clam Sun 13-Sep-09 14:49:09

But lilymaid, that might well have also been the case if he'd been born in April. There's got to be a cut-off somewhere. And by the end of Year 6, there can be an ability range of up to 7 years within a class. So some will be achieving at the level of a 14 year-old, and others at age 7. Teachers just have to cater for them all by differentiating the work. Just as would happen if they were in the class below. So, strictly speaking, they ought to be given work matching their ability regardless of which class they're in. Ideally. Not sure it always happens however.
Teachers try very hard not to damn by comparison, beyond the basic observation that Child A might be behaving maturely whereas B is different. But they must nonetheless be catered for, and handled appropriately.

Lilymaid Sun 13-Sep-09 15:22:16

"There's got to be a cut-off somewhere."
Agreed, but there is little chance in the state sector for children to repeat years/drop down years. What a pity that some children are short changed by the system because of this "cut off".
As for differentiating work - yes, I know very well that this is done. However, SATs, GCSEs and AS/A2 are hurdles to be got through by the summer born child at an earlier age than for autumn born children. I'm pretty sure that DS would have fared far better in his GCSEs had he been 16 years 10 months when he took them, rather than 15 years 10 months.
I'd love to see a statistical study of OU graduates as I suspect many of those who go into higher education as mature students were summer born children who under achieved at school.

MoonlightMcKenzie Sun 13-Sep-09 15:25:42

'There's got to be a cut off somewhere'


FWIW I was an August born OU graduate. No A-Levels!

prettybird Sun 13-Sep-09 15:51:21

"There's got to be a cut-off somewhere."

Wrong: there can be a degree of flexibility - as in the Scottish system. You can give parents the genuine choice to defer (not the illogicla one of missing out on a year's schooling), so that there is a degree of overlap amongest the children.

In Scotland children start school aged between 4 years 4.5 months and just about 6 (March cut-off) - although in practice the age range is narrower than that as most of the September-December children choose not defer (not leat of which 'cos the councils usually won't continue the free nursery places). And not all the January/Febraury babies are edferred as they are ready for school. But guess what? because "every child matters" wink, people are able to make a judgement on whether their child is ready.

fircone Sun 13-Sep-09 17:22:04

I think this is a middle class worry.

When I went to the 'starting school' meeting there were quite a few parents who were complaining that their dcs couldn't start school full time straightaway, whatever their position in the year.

I think if flexibility were introduced you'd have all the anxious middle class parents busting to get their dcs into the year below - I know I would!

Fwiw I have two August children. Ds has always been at the top of his class. But he is not very grown up and that really shows when you compare him to older children in the year. He has the double whammy of having a small mother and being bad at PE, so he's done for in the sporty department. In fact it is well documented that anyone of a sporty inclination is penalised by being the youngest in the year.

Even worse, I understand that July and August-borns are well and truly **ed when it comes to getting a holiday job post GCSEs as they're not yet 16 when term ends.

Lilymaid Sun 13-Sep-09 18:04:44

As far as post-GCSE holiday jobs are concerned, these always seem to be few and far between. Most jobs are taken by older students who have already got experience. However, many weekend jobs come available in September when students go off to university, so a summer born child is not at a disadvantage there!

justagirlfromedgware Sun 13-Sep-09 18:10:15

My DS August born, aged 11 has just started secondary. I would say he finally caught up academically last year.

Reception was fine - he has a wonderful teacher who, upon discovering he didn't yet have the muscle control to hold a pencil, devised exercises for him to do, drawing circles in sand. Why he should have been rushed to write at age 4 and a week is another matter, but the first year was generally fine. We then had the misfortune of needing to move him to another school. The school has a wonderful reputation but for DS it was a disaster. Year after year we were told by his teachers how "slow" he was and how "immature" he was. For god's sake, how mature is a 6 year old meant to be? He was verbally put down in the classroom by his wretched teachers, which made him a social pariah in a class where there was anyway an imbalance age and sex so that there was only one other boy like him in age and maturity. One of his teachers would repeatedly say: "oh you're so slow, what's the matter with you" in front of the class (I witnessed this myself when collecting him one day and obviously pulled her up on it, but the damage had been done by then). Clearly he'd been labelled by teacher after teacher as "slow" etc and it was only in Year 5 that a new teacher to the school looked at us at the first parents' evening and said "I don't recognise the child described by my colleagues - he's absolutely fine, what's the problem?" Sadly, five years of put-downs and difficulties socially did their bit in taking away his self-esteem.

Several things have turned this into a happy ending: 1) he made a few good friends out of school who have made him realise there's nothing wrong with him socially; 2) we got him a tutor in year 5 to build up his strength in maths (which he is good at) and the weekly one-to-one and constant encouragement have made him blossom academically and 3) he is now in a new school where he has reinvented himself as the bright, confident, lovely child he is.

The moral of this long story is this: teachers in primary schools MUST have a better approach to teaching summer boys and girls. It is an absolute scandal that, given the absurdity of the rigid intake rules, that there is no programme to ensure our children are given a positive start to their academic life. This isn't just a matter of making children ready for university - it is a matter of making sure they are ready for a life of enjoying learning, not creating years of misery, and in some cases I've seen, turning them off schooling entirely.

NotanOtter Sun 13-Sep-09 19:56:35

fircone - by gcse year ds had 2000 in the bank - all of it earned

he is august 20th

drosophila Sun 13-Sep-09 20:13:24

I know someone who lied about the DOB of their child and to this day it has never been discovered. Not sure how she managed it as I would have thought she would have to produce a birth cert at some point. The child is now in the 6th form.

lingle Sun 13-Sep-09 20:21:53

OK let's turn it around.

Does anyone think it would be a bad idea to move to the Scottish system?

dogonpoints Sun 13-Sep-09 20:26:23

Research was carried out recently in Scotland that showed that the youngest boys did tend to suffer academically and that this disadvantage lasted throughout secondary school. I remember reading it in TESS.

NotanOtter Sun 13-Sep-09 20:26:45

yes i do
they have to catch up sometime

Lilymaid Sun 13-Sep-09 20:39:56

Link to recent item on BBC News site.
Story of identical twins seems astonishing (or is it an urban myth?)

clam Sun 13-Sep-09 20:40:18

Catch up with whom/what? The school cohorts are based on an arbitrary cut-off date. If you know that your child is young compared with their class peers, then you know_ to treat any comparisons with a pinch of salt and compare them with their actual contemporaries in real life, even if they are in the next class down.
And they'll learn what they learn when they're ready to absorb it, irrespective of when the education authorities say they should learn it.
When my DCs were in reception, had their teachers said "oh, they're a bit behind the rest of the class in reading" or whatever, I'd have shrugged and said, "that'll be because they're nearly a year younger than many of the rest of them. They'll be fine." As indeed they were.

dogonpoints Sun 13-Sep-09 20:43:07

But dioesn't it make more sense, clam, that those young children who are behind or noticeably more immature are just held back until the following year instead of saying all teh way through school 'oh they're a year behind'. Just put them a year behind.

And re 'they'll be fine'. Well, research suggests not as fine as they could be if held back.

NotanOtter Sun 13-Sep-09 20:43:32

agree clam
by staggering the entrance the child just gets less education imo
they all take exams at the same age regardless of age
i like 11+ system of a wee bit of age weighting

dogonpoints Sun 13-Sep-09 20:45:04

No, staggering not good. One entry date but with the option of holding back the youngest until the following year.

NotanOtter Sun 13-Sep-09 20:48:49

i am the opposite to the majority here
i am a wildly pushy parent academically blush yet the only month of the year which i will not try for babies in is december (resulting in september born)
i think being younger instills drive and a work ethic in a lot of children
sailing in top of the pile results in a lazier attitude

clam Sun 13-Sep-09 20:58:45

OK, well what defines "the youngest?" End of August? Whole of August? All summer term-borns? Or anyone who fancies it?

And what happens to the intake of the next class, when a non-defined number of kids are denied a place in reception because there are kids from the year above whose parents have elected to hold them back?

Lilymaid Sun 13-Sep-09 21:04:08

It is fine to be "wildly pushy parent academically" if your child is developmentally up to it. DS2 just could not manage academically up to the age of 15 - and then it all started to fall into place. He will now happily do A2 maths problems/discuss the articles he's read in the Economist etc. On the other hand DS1 never had any problems academically - it all came easily to him, so a "wildly pushy parent" would have found no problems there.
DH only really took off academically in the 6th form - he "failed" his 11+, got unspectacular O Levels at 16 and an Exhibition to Oxford at 18.

NotanOtter Sun 13-Sep-09 21:11:02

i enjoy any challenge so the less able of my dcs benefit more from my leanings iyswim

what i cannot abide is a 'dont need to work to be top' approach
my older in the year have suffered from this - fine in small pond - awful when chucked out to sea

blithedance Sun 13-Sep-09 21:32:23

I don't have any worry about my children's intelligence, it's their developmental immaturity that will put them back in the very early years. Can you really force a child to hold a pencil or manipulate shoes/buttons before their fingers are strong enough, any more than you can force them to walk before they're ready?

dogonpoints Sun 13-Sep-09 22:43:51

clam, the 'youngest' are usually those born in teh last two months prior to cut off date, although some children younger than that can be held back based on discussions and opinions of nursery teachers.

What will happen to the intake of the next class? Absolutely nothing. What do you think might happen? Parents and teachers are generally sensible and will not hold a child back unless they think there is a reason for doing so.

It has been working like this in Scotlan for a long time. There are no ill effects.

prettybird Sun 13-Sep-09 22:45:25

Actaully Notanottter - in Scotland they don't all take exams at the same age - they take exams in the same year. The one thing in Scotland that is rigid is that you have to spend 7 years in primary school. So, if your parents choose to defer you (which is where the flexibility is: there is an overlap in the age range within a school year, so that kids can be more than year older - or younger - than you), you *still spend 7 years in primary school. And then in secondary, if you choose to go all the way to the "end", you spend 6 years in secondary school. 13 years schooling in Scotland, if you do the hwole whack and don't leave as soon as you turn 16. (Actually, there is even more flexibility in Scotland, as it is possible to go to Uni after 5 years rather than 6, but that is a whole separate topic grin).

It is still possible to be a "wildly pushy parent" in Scotland and get your Febraury born child into school "early" - but only after an educational assessment that supports the need of the child to do so. But it is rare.

dogonpoints Sun 13-Sep-09 22:51:19

What do you mean by your last sentence, pretty? Lots of Feb birthdays start school at 4.5

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