Today there were a couple of articles on the BBC that were reporting on findings of a report that the Institute of Fiscal Studies have carried out basically saying that children born in August will not only struggle and be bullied at school, but are less likely to get into top universities and generally struggle their entire life with low self-esteem. So having a son born on the 29th August made me interested in the findings. Miles is the very youngest in his year at school, if he had been born a few days later he would have been the very oldest in the year below. Currently I think he is the youngest in the entire secondary school that he has just joined… scary thought!
In the article an “education expert and former teacher” describes kids like Miles as the “runt of a litter” … can’t say that I have ever felt that when I look at him with his class mates, but I certainly can relate to the problems in the current schooling system and the lack of understanding I think from teachers.
Fortunately Miles comes from good stock and up to the age of 6 or 7 he was always the top of the class and amazing teachers with his reading ability and maths. I would say that during his last few years at primary school I would kind of dread going to parents evenings as even though I would hear the reports of how good his work was and that he was in the top streams for Maths, I would always get the “but, he does tend to be a bit silly and mess around in class”. Numerous times I’d discussed it with the teachers to split him up from the other kids who would tend to mess, sit him by himself if needed, punish him.. whatever was required to make him behave or gain the maturity that was obviously lacking. He then started to fall back on his English and found it hard to write a good story (which is when we got a private tutor in) but there didn’t seem to be the extra help from the school and no real leeway in the targets that were imposed on the whole year group, so Miles was competing with kids nearly a year older than him. In a kids development, a year is a long time and there is so much to learn and take in, which of course makes a difference and should be accounted for in schools.
Parents of course have a massive role to play in making sure that the summer children have the extra support if they need it, rather than falling behind in class and struggling. They need to be encouraged to work that bit harder to keep up with their peers, and to take part in lots of activities to mix with older and younger kids, as age really shouldn’t be a defining factor. Miles outshone most of his year group in the area when he got the 12th highest mark for the 11+ entrance exam to the secondary school, so that was a brilliant achievement for someone who had just turned 10 when he took the test. This achievement only came from lots of hard work and determination to make sure he made the most of the opportunities.
So there isn’t a solution to the problem… as there will always have to be a cut-off point to split up the school years. I reckon that if Miles had really struggled he would have just dropped back a year to become the oldest in the year below, or we could have pushed for it I presume. There is so much pressure on kids (and parents) these days that all we can hope for is that they do the best they can, be as happy as they can, and get lots of support and praise for what they do manage to achieve.