Summer-born are stymied from the start

Dr Richard House

That the Institute for Fiscal Studies has entered the fray on behalf of England's summer-born children is to be welcomed - but its proposed "solution" to the problem completely misses the point ("Sun doesn't shine on summer-born children", 10 May). Tinkering with test and examination scores may help to allay the academic unfairness of summer-born children's plight, but it doesn't begin to respond to the emotional and psychological impact of being nearly a year younger than one's peers in what is a highly competitive schooling milieu.

At root, this issue is about England's chronically inflexible schooling system (with children being "made ready" for school, rather than the other way round), and the government refusing to consider that our absurdly early school starting age is at fault. For, at 6 or 7, such age differences have substantially less impact than they do when quasi-formal learning begins at 4.

For far too long, bureaucratic imperatives have taken precedence over the well-being and future life chances of a substantial number of our youngest children. With a parliamentary Early Day Motion in the offing and a new campaign having recently been launched (summerbornchildren.org), the authorities can be assured that the iniquities of the current system will be relentlessly exposed until something serious is done about it.

Dr Richard House, Department of Education Studies, University of Winchester.

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Dr Richard House

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