We do the summer-born a disservice

Stephanie Gibson

In answer to your question in "Born unlucky?", (Feature, 16 August), I always knew my students' birthdays - often to the day, but always where in the year they fell. In my experience, date of birth makes a huge difference, as does being the youngest child.

When I became a special educational needs (SEN) coordinator, I noticed that close to 90 per cent of the children on the SEN register had July or August birthdays. I often felt that their SEN were actually an indication of their youth rather than any cognitive impairment. I taught at least three children whose birthdays fell on 31 August; they were really struggling at school and felt extremely frustrated by our apparent indifference to this issue.

There is, of course, no straightforward solution. If we offer parents the right for their child to start school a year late and to remain in that cohort, the effect will be to move the summer-born problem to Easter-born children.

I do like the New Zealand model, where children start school on their birthday and move up on its anniversary until they are old enough for the impact to be much less damaging. I also think that vertically grouped classes, which used to be very common but have become anathema since the introduction of national curriculums and strategies, can help.

In my view, it is a crying shame and an indictment of our system that we have never really taken this issue seriously.

Stephanie Gibson, Headteacher, St Catherine's Primary School, Surrey.

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Stephanie Gibson

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