Worrying that younger children are struggling at school has been a concern for parents and educational experts alike for years now – it’s not a new concept. It's why so many couples try to conceive in late winter/early spring months, so that their child is one of the older students in their class.
But a landmark study has prompted researchers to prove that it’s time the government considers tweaking the curriculum to suit the needs of students born between May and August.
Children born in the summer months can be almost a year younger than their classmates – meaning they can often struggle to keep up with the older children. When you’re four years old, a year less learning than your peers can make a huge difference. Worringly, children born in August are nearly three times more likely to report that they're unhappy at school.
In a major new study, looking at 7,000 children, researchers found that the youngest children in a reception class were almost twice as likely to have language and behaviour problems as the older children.
“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 regular their own emotions and behaviours,” the article states.
But despite their findings, the researchers, led by Professor Courtenay Norbury from Royal Holloway University, don’t think that summer-born children should start school a year later – which is something that many parents think is the solution.
“Our findings to 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,” they wrote.
Allowing children born in the summer months to start school a year later may mean that parents have to fund another year of childcare – an expensive endeavour that's not an option for everyone. The researchers instead are pushing for the government to completely rewrite the curriculum that infant schools use. They want it to primarily focus on developing a child’s oral language skills.
“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,” write the researchers. “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.”
Do you think summer-born children should start school later? Let us know in the comments below.
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