Adjust test scores for summer-born pupils, teachers told

Teachers should adjust the test scores of children born in the summer term in a bid to tackle the inherent disadvantage facing younger students in the year, education experts have urged.

Pupils born between June and August tend to do less well at school on average than their autumn-born classmates. Summer-born children are also more likely to be labelled as having special educational needs (SEN) and evidence suggests that they can lag behind their peers through to their GCSEs.

Academics Lee Elliot Major, professor of social mobility at the University of Exeter, and Steve Higgins, professor of education at Durham University, have released a new guidebook for teachers detailing advice on how to tackle the summer-born disadvantage.

The book, ‘What Works? Research and Evidence for Successful Teaching’, recommends teachers assess a child’s progress relative to others their age, rather than compared to the class as a whole, which would include older pupils.

This would mean that expected levels of progress would apply to a particular age, rather than a point in time.

The academics said that summer-born pupils are on average six months behind their older peers at age seven, three months behind at age 12, and still a month behind at age 16.

Elliot Major said: “There are far more autumn-born pupils in the top streams and the oldest pupils in the class are more likely to be selected for gifted and talented programmes.

“Teachers must consider maturity when grouping children into sets or classes according to their achievement, and when marking.”

Children usually start school in the September after they turn four years old, but parents of summer-born pupils can ask for a delay in sending their child to reception for a year.

It was revealed last year that parents wanting to delay their child’s start date faced a postcode lottery. Meanwhile, the number of requests for late admission for summer-born pupils almost doubled.

But Elliot Major and Higgins said that headteachers should not allow parents to delay school entry for their children because it does not stop the disadvantage faced by pupils who are younger.

For several years, schools minister Nick Gibb has faced criticism from parent groups for failing to follow up a review launched in July 2015.

When asked about the progress of the review, the Department for Education said it remains “committed to making the change the minister committed to as soon as we are able”.

A DfE spokesperson added: “We have given councils clear advice on how to support parents who want to delay their child’s admission to reception until age five to ensure that families can make the right choice for their child.

“The progress of pupils born in the summer is measured against others nationally with the same prior attainment and statistics have shown that the progress made by young pupils is above the national average from key stage 1 to key stage 2.”