Summer-born children should have test scores adjusted

Experts argue that children who are younger in their school year should have their test scores age-adjusted

Catherine Lough


The test scores of summer-born children should be adjusted to reflect their age and tackle the disadvantage they face, according to education experts.

Lee Elliot Major, professor of social mobility at the University of Exeter, and Steve Higgins, an education professor at Durham University, have published a guidebook for teachers arguing that summer-born children should be assessed in relation to their actual age, rather than being compared to older classmates.

News: Huge increase in summer-born pupils delaying school

Background: Attainment gap for summer-born pupils 'persists at age 11'

Related: Early schooling helps narrow boys’ disadvantage gap

The expected level of progress would apply to a particular age, rather than a particular point in time, the experts said.

The academics warn headteachers that allowing parents to delay their child’s school entry, would not necessarily help, arguing "this won't solve the birth date effect as there will always be younger children in the classroom who are less mature".

Pupils born between June and August, face a range of obstacles in comparison with their autumn-born classmates. On average, they do less well academically, are more likely to have special educational needs, suffer from lower self-esteem, and engage in risk-taking behaviour.

The evidence suggests younger pupils can remain behind their older peers in terms of their school performance right through to their GCSEs.

But Professor Elliot Major and Professor Higgins said teachers should track the progress of summer-born pupils as they would for other disadvantaged groups and assess these pupils in an age-adjusted way.

Professor Elliot Major said: “Analysis shows summer-born pupils are behind their peers, and this continues throughout their time at school.”

“There are far more autumn-born pupils in the top streams and the oldest pupils in the class are more likely to be selected for gifted and talented programmes.

“Teachers must consider maturity when grouping children into sets or classes according to their achievement, and when marking. We hope this will address this unequal situation, which effects so many classrooms and children across the country.”

On average, pupils born in the summer are six months’ behind their older peers at the age seven, three months behind at 12 and a month behind at 16 – the age when most students sit GCSEs.

In their book - What Works? Research and Evidence for Successful Teaching – published today, the academics said teachers should discuss the maturity of their pupils with parents when talking about their progress.

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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