Monday, July 14, 2008

Born At The Wrong Time

A new study has found that people born in the later part of the school year are less likely to do well, academically. than those born earlier:

The reason for the summer-birth disadvantage is that those children have to sit important exams up to 11 months earlier than their autumn or winter-born counterparts, the report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says.

It proposes a number of reforms to ensure that summer-born babies are no longer penalised because of an “unlucky birth draw”. Chief among these is the suggestion that all school test scores should be adapted to take account of students' birth month, right up to GCSE level.

This sounds plausible as small differences in age can mean major differences among school age children. The effect isn't limited to academia either, a look at the birth dates of Premiership footballers, professional cricketers and rugby players reveals the same pattern:
An analysis of 348 Premiership footballers playing this season shows that 32pc were born between September and November while only 20pc were born between June and August.

In cricket, 34pc of first-class players in the County Championship this summer were born at the start of the school year, compared with 18pc in the last three months.

In rugby union's Guinness Premiership, 30pc of players this season were born between September and November compared with 18pc at the end of the school year.
In other words being born at the wrong time of the year is a major disadvantage in all sorts of ways right through adulthood, and having to keep pace mentally and physically with older children is not always possible. Given the potential wasting of people's talents that the current system creates, it might be a good idea to consider using 6 month age groups for grouping children in schools rather than 1 year groups.


John M Ward said...

I was born in July, so was one of the youngest in my class when I took exams -- which might have a bearing on why I narrowly failed the 11-plus.

There could of course be other reasons, but I cannot reliably think back to how things were for me at that time. It is an interesting matter being raised here, though...

Ross said...

The effect would be at its strongest at a young age, so it does sound plausible. I'm willing to bet that if someone did a study on the birth months of those who took the 11+ that those born in September to November had a higher pass rate than those born from June to August.