It is harder for staff in teacher jobs to raise the achievement levels of pupils born towards the end of the academic year, a new study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has suggested.
Its research confirmed that pupils born in August are 6.4 percentage points less likely to achieve five GCSEs at grades A*-C than those born in September, as well as being less likely to go onto university and have faith in their own academic ability.
Moreover, the IFS's analysis revealed that August-born children were also 5.4 percentage points more likely to be labelled as having minor special educational needs by the age of 11 and more prone to engaging in risky behaviours, such as smoking, at younger ages.
The IFS concluded the ages at which pupils sit tests has the greatest bearing upon variations in their performances in them, rather than the ages at which they started school or the amount of schooling they received before sitting the tests.
It therefore recommended that this discrepancy be remedied by age adjusting national achievement test scores, with the new scores being used to calculate school league table positions.
Furthermore, the IFS said that the adjusted scores could also be helped to determine entry to schools selecting on the basis of ability and potentially for guiding the assignment of pupils to ability groups.
Report co-author Ellen Grieves remarked: "Age-adjusting the cut-offs required for pupils to achieve particular grades would ensure that no child is prevented from going on to further or higher education simply because of the month in which they were born."
However, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has expressed its scepticism over the IFS's proposals.
ASCL general secretary Brian Lightman stated the best way to tackle the problem of summer-born children falling behind is for primary school teachers to give them targeted help and support from the early years stage onwards.
He said that lowering their pass marks would mask rather than address this problem and do little to raise the self esteem, confidence or achievement of the children in question.
Posted by Tim Colman