Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 16 Apr 2009

Is there anything that can help schools provide better for children with summer birthdays? My grand-daughter falls into this category.

Hillary's Advice

You’re right to ask this question. Children who go through school as the youngest in their class are less likely to succeed at sports, be chosen for a grammar school, or do well at GCSE. There is even a link with teen suicide.

Last year Ed Balls, the Education Secretary, rightly suggested there should be more flexibility over when children start school. But a new report on the primary school curriculum says children should start school the September after they turn four, although possibly part-time. At the same time the new curriculum for the under-fives steers children towards formal education even before school starts.

However Balls has specifically said that teachers need to support younger children and not let them “get elbowed out by younger children” and this is something that parents can remind schools of if they see a problem.

It is vital that summer-borns aren’t penalised or mocked for being slower to master skills, or less physically developed than their older peers, and that teachers support them fully and allow them to go at the right pace. This does not need special research or resources, but a complete understanding of the issues and a caring and bullying-free culture that allows all pupils to be themselves. If a school is not providing this, parents of children who are young in their year groups need to arm themselves with information and demand that it does.