New “summer-born” rules threaten to widen educational attainment gap

8 September 2015

The Schools Minister Nick Gibb has proposed plans to allow the parents of children born in summer, April 1st to August 31st, to delay their start date for primary school by a year, in order tackle the educational gap between children born in the summer and their classmates.

Under the current system, summer born children regularly enter their first year of school within a short period of turning four years old, and as a result, are learning with children who are 11 and 12 months older than them.

“When you are born matters”, a 2013 report by the Institute for Fiscal studies highlighted the tendency of children born between September – March to academically outperform their summer born classmates. The research found that the effect stretches way into children’s academic life, with children born in August 6.4 percent less likely to gain five GCSEs grade A* – C and two percent less likely to attend university at 18 or 19.

Hence, delaying the starting age of primary education for this group would allow summer born children to start school when they are more developed and prepared, levelling the playing field with other classmates.

However, critics have warned of the dangers of changing the current system. Many have been quick to point out that by making the change voluntary, a maximum 12-month age gap between children (1st September to 31st August) will increase to 17 months (1st April to 31st August), increasing the age gap by 10%.

Furthermore, another danger posed by this system is the fact that children from low income families are less likely to be held back a year due to the additional costs of an extra year of childcare, whilst children whose families can afford to pay will reap the benefits of a delayed start to primary education. This is particularly damaging, as it is will further widen the educational attainment gap between those from disadvantaged backgrounds and their classmates, with the introduction of a two tiered system.