Monday, July 12, 2010

Break Up The School Year.

I was reading something about the effect of being born at the right time of year has on a child's chances of becoming a professional footballer- my view is that the evidence for such an effect is pretty strong even if the biggest populariser of the idea, Steve Levitt, probably bungled the data by lumping together a bunch of countries where the cut off date for school is at different points in the calender.

Anyway sport is trivial in the grand scheme of things so that isn't too important, except for the fact that it reveals a more important underlying truth- that being born later in the school year hinders children's development more generally:

Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies two years ago found only 53% of girls and 47% of boys born in August reached the expected educational level at age seven in state primary schools in England, compared with 80% and 70% of those born in September.
So if we want to increase standards in schools and help all pupils achieve their potential, why not split the school year up? Instead of each class consisting of a cohort born within a 12 month period, why not have them born within a 6 month period? It might be more expensive, although only for smaller schools, and it would probably require a rejigging of the whole school calender, but there isn't any reason that should be set in stone. The expense may be offset though by having fewer behavioural difficulties and needing less in the way of additional assistance for late born children as they will be less likely to be misdiagnosed as having special needs.

Plus we could end up with a better football team!


Matthew said...

You'd need two sets of exams, which wouldh't be cheap, I guess, unless you decided not to have exams until the effect had been sufficiently diluted.

[A teacher once explained to me that the problem was those born in August initially seem much more behind (becuase they are) and then they get less attention by teachers because of that and it snowballs]

Ross said...

True, although don't resits already happen at a separate time if the year? Obviously far fewer people sit them but how hard can it be?

Pavlov's Cat said...

Goodness, I was only discussing this the week before with a teacher friend.

As a June baby, I certainly felt it in the sports arena, always the smallest, always picked last, coordination just that bit slower. Till in the end you didn't even bother standing up.

When I moved to Senior School (very much a Rugger /Cricket establishment) the difference was even more apparent.

The 'years' 1st 15 and 1st 11's were packed with Sept-December birthdays. Come 'games' and PE Lessons the rest of us were left to circuit training or Cross Country.

Learning wise, not so much, but I'm smart me.

But others, I have to wonder if it is indeed a deck stacked against you from 5 years old.

In fact the teacher friend even considered holding her youngest (July baby) back a year, due to his size, compared to other that would be in the same year. But child care arrangements put a stop to that.

Ross said...

PC- the effect on educational performance may be stronger among those at the margins between success and failure, rather than among those who exceeded what was expected of their age range anyway.