Summer-born and the living isn't easy

7th June 2013 at 01:00

Dr Richard House ("Summer-born are stymied from the start", Letters, 17 May) empathises with parents and early years teachers alike over the plight of summer-born babies. Poor wee mites.

Now, we have a summer-born baby in the family, born on 24 August, and we have had to enrol him in an independent school in the UK and insist that he be "held back a year" because we know our child and we know that putting him into the government-ordained class will ensure his failure in the education system before he starts on the journey of life.

I trained as a teacher in New Zealand and for many years taught new entrants in that country: that is to say, children whose fifth birthday falls on the day they start school. That is the only criterion for entrance into the first class at New Zealand schools. They generally stayed in my class for about six weeks and then moved into Year 1. They could stay longer, dependent entirely on their progress.

I taught them their alphabet - names and sounds and how to write them. After time in my class, they could read simple texts, understand numbers 1 to 10 and write their names. Above all, they were settled into school and ready to learn. Children fed into the Year 1 class about three times a year. I started at the beginning of the year with one or two children. These first ones, who quickly became "old hands", could then support the next new entrant, and so the class was always evolving.

It's a simple system and it works well. New Zealand has no "summer babies". There is a bit of an influx in spring but these children have usually moved on by the end of the academic year.

I sometimes wonder why New Zealand appears to be the only country, of which I am aware, that does this.

Sandra Greenslade, Luxembourg.

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