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Durham University

Research & business

Should summer-born pupils be treated differently?

(3 October 2019)

Evidence shows that children who are among the youngest in their year at school do less well on average than their autumn-born classmates.

To tackle this ‘summer-born disadvantage’, researchers suggest these children’s test scores should be adjusted according to their age.

Guide for teachers

In a new guidebook for teachers, education experts from Durham and Exeter universities recommend teachers monitor the progress of the youngest pupils in their class in the same way as they do for other disadvantaged groups.

Teachers should assess a child’s progress in tests relative to others at their age, rather than older pupils in their class.

Younger pupils

Research has shown that summer-born pupils can be behind their older peers right through to their GCSEs. They are more likely to have special educational needs, have lower self-esteem, and fall into risky behaviour. 

Older children are also more likely to be selected for sports teams, possibly because they are bigger and better-coordinated.

However, headteachers should not allow parents to delay school entry for their children because this doesn’t stop the disadvantage faced by pupils who are younger, according to the academics.

Proven classroom strategies

The book, What Works? Research and Evidence for Successful Teaching, shows teachers which education strategies are proven to help improve teaching and learning. It complements the influential Sutton Trust-EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit, which both authors played a key part in.

In addition to the advice about summer-born children, the book also reminds teachers that placing children in sets according to their current performance makes little difference to learning outcomes, that poorly managed and supported teaching assistants have little impact on learning, and reducing class sizes has a limited impact on pupils.

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