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Competitions and winter born advantage...

(130 Posts)
Mumto2two Thu 28-Nov-19 10:53:27

In terms of competitions such as Bebras, Primary Maths challenge etc., it does seem that without any form of age adjustment, older children are clearly advantaged.
Our daughter is summer born, so at age 8 had a high merit on Bebras in the 8-10 category, and a high distinction at age 9. Clearly age has an impact..and now at 10 she has to compete against 12 year olds, which seems unfair.
Equally with the maths challenge. She scored one mark less than the 2 winter born kids who were chosen to go to bonus round, which also seems a little unfair. This must surely be a common theme where age is not differentiated in any way?

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TeenPlusTwenties Thu 28-Nov-19 11:20:14

Have you read Martin Gladwell's 'Outliers'?

It covers the advantage of being just after an age cut-off (so old in group) rather than just before (young in group). This hits not only academics (where on average July/Aug pupils do less well than Sept/Oct in GCSEs) but also sports where the impact goes on right the way to professional level.

On the other hand if you have an academic summer born they are way advantaged over a less academic winter born, so count your blessings. smile

Michaelahpurple Thu 28-Nov-19 11:33:26

So how do you suggest they do it? There is a limit to how many exams they can set so there is always going to be groups of children around the cut offs.

clary Thu 28-Nov-19 12:34:33

Really?? Tbh I have never heard of Bebras despite having DC in one school and working in another. There has to be a cut off somewhere. I honestly wouldn't worry about this, it makes no difference to her life. My dd's birthday is in June and she has managed to get to uni. Congratulate yr dd on doing so well and move on.

Mumto2two Thu 28-Nov-19 12:53:50

Of course I know it means little in the grand scheme of things, but it means a lot to her, and her school really bigs it up. She wanted to be chosen to do the bonus round, and her score would otherwise have secured an invite, but for her school deciding they would only put forward the top 2. My eldest child’s school also entered these competitions too, but she was not at all interested and I don’t even know how she ever fared..presumably not great!
I think if it matters to the child, then it’s important. But I agree there is no easy way of redressing the balance without standardising the results in some way.

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sunflowerfield Thu 28-Nov-19 13:11:52

Some 10 years old is way more academically able than 12 years old.
If she was rejected because there were some older children who scored higher, her time will come.
When you are talking about outlier children, few age difference is just an excuse, let alone few months.

IceCreamFace Thu 28-Nov-19 13:14:29

YANBU. The same applies to sport and often by the time the kids are older and the age difference is less significant there's no time to catch up as the September borns have had 5 years of winning races and being picked for teams. Having said that when my DC do progress tests they're all standardised and age adjusted. Likewise 11+ tests are age adjusted too - it's something that should be more far reaching as you say.

Mumto2two Thu 28-Nov-19 13:34:46

@sunflowerfield - You would hope their ‘time would come’, but the problem is, it never will come while they are always the youngest in those non-standardised competition cohorts, and once they reach the next year up, they are again the youngest in that age band. Progress tests, 11plus exams etc..are all age standardised. Perhaps that’s too complex to undertake, but surely some age adjusted allowance should be made, to make it fair for all. Given that these are non-curricular non-taught tests, which require more logical ability than mathematical skill.. and her PMS score increased by 5 marks from 18/25 age 9 to 23/25 age 10..age clearly does make a difference. If adults had access to some accolade or another at work, that was disadvantaged by our age in any way, we would have recourse to challenge it. Seeing her disappointment, it just strikes me as being quite unfair.

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sunflowerfield Thu 28-Nov-19 13:47:31

But you are talking about children who already exceeds their age expectations. Winter born or summer born, they all had same time at school. Just because they were born few months earlier, they don't have extra education, do they? And I have seen very clever summer borns who were way ahead of autumn/winter borns.
If she lost her place by only 1 mark, I would encourage her to stretch her brain, rather than making an excuse that she was born few moths later.

BottleOfJameson Thu 28-Nov-19 14:09:10

These threads always drive me mad with people who don't get statistics. Yes of course there will be a summer born who did better than a winter born in every year group but the fact remains that statistically summer borns are at a disadvantage. That's fact - even up to GCSE they perform lower on average than winter borns. They get picked less often for competitive sport and have less chance of a sporting career as a result. Likewise they have less chance of doing well at maths challenge etc.

It's not the fact that a winter born has had more education (although usually they have an extra year in nursery before school) it's that they started school more readily to learn. Often the class "naughty" child is a summer born who simply isn't ready to be there, they get less out of their early education for that reason and become less confident and often identify themselves as naughty and unintelligent.

Mumto2two Thu 28-Nov-19 14:13:17

Of course, I do appreciate that. But we are not taking about curricular material that is taught in school. Cognitive function is something that very much develops over time, and It is quite clear and well understood by all educational professionals, that a 10 year old can not be directly compared with an 11year old, this is why standardisation exists. National competition organisations should simply address this in some way....

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Crabbdadio Thu 28-Nov-19 14:19:04

Given the apparently huge disadvantages of being summer born I'm amazed anyone still conceives between September and December!


Mumto2two Thu 28-Nov-19 14:21:46

Thank you @BottleOfJameson, it is incredibly frustrating. Yes our summer born child may well already be a high achiever in a high achieving school, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that where there is no age-adjustment applied, she is disadvantaged. Educational psychology very clearly recognises this, and if a 10 yr old who has an IQ of 150, is pitched against an 11yr old who has the same IQ, in a test that measures logic in some way...the 11year old will inevitably do better....

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randomsabreuse Thu 28-Nov-19 14:25:11

In some sports the age cut off is 1st January so autumn born DC will struggle there... They don't have it all their own way. Also in women's sports I think age is less of an issue once over about 13 - my main sport has had 14 year old senior world medallists in women's events - minimum age to compete internationally is 13 - because girls grow less and earlier than boys!

user1480880826 Thu 28-Nov-19 14:25:55

But in the examples you give your daughter performed really well despite being born in summer. So I’m not really sure you are personally proving good evidence that she is disadvantaged.

I’m not disagreeing that birth dates have an impact but in your daughters case she seems to be immune to it. Similarly the most intelligent person I know was born in August. There will always be exceptions to the rule.

sunflowerfield Thu 28-Nov-19 14:37:20

"These threads always drive me mad with people who don't get statistics."

I am not talking about statistics though. OP' dd is an outlier, from what she describes.

BottleOfJameson Thu 28-Nov-19 14:38:08


She is statistically disadvantaged. In GCSEs summer borns are unfairly disadvantaged and there have been recommendations about adding age adjustments. Why should a bright summer born get an 8 in their GCSE (which is a good grade) when an otherwise identical September baby gets a 9?

Mumto2two Thu 28-Nov-19 14:40:33

I’m not sure what you are saying user148...if you understand standardisation, then ‘doing well’ is not the issue here...
Yes she has done well. And for a summer born 10 year old, has done exceptionally well. However as the competition is not standardised or age adjusted in any way, and the school has purely taken top 2 scorers, who are also very bright kids..and are both already 11. They may all have similar higher level abilities, but the youngest will be at a cognitive disadvantage. And contrary to previous Educational Psychology terms, this is a very real and measurable difference...

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BottleOfJameson Thu 28-Nov-19 14:42:41

@sunflowerfield The argument was "well some summer borns do better than winter borns so those kids haven't been disadvantaged". This is clearly nonsensical. The fact is age adjusting the tests make them fairer since all through secondary schools there is a disadvantage to being younger. The evidence shows that this disadvantage occurs through all abilities not just at the lower end. OP's daughter is at the higher end of ability but is still disadvantaged. (If she took the test again in 9 months she'd do better hence she's at a disadvantage compared to a child 9 months older). Age adjustments are a very simple way to account for this difference. Where not much difference occurs there is very little age adjustment. It's standard practise and has always happened in the 11+ otherwise grammar schools would be mainly Sept-Dec kids.

Bloomburger Thu 28-Nov-19 14:48:59

Seems a whole lot of pressure for a 10 year old!

CripsSandwiches Thu 28-Nov-19 14:52:35

Age standardisation is a no brainer. In other areas e.g. sport it's more difficult (you can't give one kid a 1.4 second head start at sports day) and you can see that even in adult sports where all the athletes are fully grown you get clusters around the age cut off for that country.

TeenPlusTwenties Thu 28-Nov-19 14:52:56

Mum You need to take it up with the school. Your DD qualified for something, it was the school that chose to leave her out.

thehorseandhisboy Thu 28-Nov-19 14:54:23

Yes, and in sports size makes a huge difference too, in terms of strength/stamina and getting selected for competitions.

Not surprisingly, children born nearer the beginning of the academic year are overall taller and stronger (yes, I KNOW not all, the tallest child in my dd's class was also the youngest).

This is particularly apparent during puberty and associated growth spurts when children often solidify their view of themselves as 'good at' or not 'not good' at sports.

However, for an external competition whether academic or sporting, I can see why the school wants to select the 'children who are the best at the moment', rather than the 'children who are relatively the best'.

I would suggest less emphasis on competition and more on enjoyment, but that's never a popular view.

I can really see the difficulties being a small, left-handed summer born boy has caused my 10 year old son, all of which are relative not absolute, but nevertheless long-term and enduring.

sunflowerfield Thu 28-Nov-19 14:56:21

I am foreign, and yes I get that in England people talk about this all the time. But in my native country, I never experienced this. Children who takes entrance exam for junior high(yr7-9) have to take exactly the same test there is no age adjustments. Everyone need to take entrance exam for high school(yr10-12), and there are no age adjustment either. And I've never heard parents of children born around age cut off point (not summer in my country, so early spring born would be the most disadvantaged in my country.) complaining about it.

Mumto2two Thu 28-Nov-19 15:40:17

@CripsSandwiches I agree there are far too many variables with sport, as this is something that requires varying degrees of different physical based skills, so naturally size & shape will often determine a particular strength! However, logic based tests require cognitive function...and that’s something that is measurable to a greater degree, and clearly positively correlated with advancing age and increasing maturity.

@sunflowerfield Wow that’s quite interesting. Is this Europe or beyond? Given the fundamental principles involved, I’m surprised that there is no age adjustment at all. Perhaps in the pre computerised era, but today it would be very discriminatory to select for schools without standardising.

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