Summer-born children in danger of being left behind, says school study
Mənbə: The Guardian
Summer-born children are at risk of behaviour problems and poor academic attainment in their first year at school unless the curriculum is tailored to take their needs into account, according to research.
The major study found that the early years foundation curriculum in England favours older children with more advanced language skills, and that children born in the summer months – who can be almost a year younger than their classmates – were in danger of being left behind.
Published on Thursday in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, the research found that the youngest children were almost twice as likely to have both language difficulties and behaviour problems relative to older children in the same reception class.
“Our results question whether many of the youngest children in the classroom have the language skills to meet the demands of the curriculum, to integrate socially with older peers and to regulate their own emotions and behaviours,” the authors noted, after surveying more than 7,000 children in reception classes in Surrey.
Summer-born children – defined as those born between May and August and so little over four when they begin school – were perceived by teachers to have lower levels of language ability and have more instances of reported language and behaviour problems.
The cut-off date for school entry means a child born on 30 August and one born on 1 September in the same year will enter reception a year apart. But the researchers cautioned that allowing summer-born children to delay entry by a year – a solution favoured by some parents – was not the answer.
“Our findings do not provide clear guidance about the optimal age at which a child should start school, or whether deferring school entry for a summer-born child will benefit that individual,” the article states.
Previous research suggests deferring school entry is an option that favours wealthier and more educated families with the financial resources to fund an extra year of childcare.
“If this practice were widespread, it could further serve to disadvantage vulnerable children, who by virtue of their impoverished social circumstances are already at increased risk of language impairment, behaviour difficulties, and slow academic progress,” the latest study says.
Instead, the researchers, led by Professor Courtenay Norbury at Royal Holloway, University of London, recommend the government rewrite the early years’ curriculum to concentrate on developing the oral language skills that many younger children were found to lack.
The paper notes that recent changes to the national curriculum have increased the demands placed upon reception class teaching.
“If children start school with inadequate language to meet the social and academic demands of the classroom, behaviour problems may increase through frustration, peer difficulties and experience of failing at academic tasks,” the paper states.
“Developing oral language skills or ensuring academic targets reflect developmental capacity could substantially reduce the numbers of children requiring specialist clinical services in later years,” the researchers conclude.
Previous research has found that the educational disadvantages of a summer birthday persist into later schooling. Other suggested policy changes have included applying an age adjustment to national achievement test scores to overcome the penalty associated with a summer birthday.
A Department for Education spokesperson said it was reviewing the issues raised for summer-born children more widely, including those born prematurely.
“Our reforms are raising the quality of early years education and childcare, and by doubling the [childcare] entitlement for working parents we are helping to ensure more children are ready to make the transition to school,” the spokesperson said.
“We know the best teachers tailor their lessons for all their pupils’ needs and our streamlined early years foundation stage profile places a stronger emphasis on the areas which are most essential for a child’s development and a greater focus on the key skills children need for a good start in life.” Oxunub (269) dəfə