Summer v autumn babies: Your stories
The Magazine's recent piece on summer versus autumn babies prompted lots of you to email stories of your own experiences. Here is a selection.
Evidence has been piling up suggesting that children born at the beginning of the school year do much better than their younger peers. Here, people share their experiences of growing up at different ends of the academic calendar.
1. I've always felt lucky to have been born on 1 September. I remember the slight kudos that came with having the first birthday of the school year. I always felt that I could cope well with academic work and in particular I enjoyed having good written and verbal communication skills. As a child I felt mature for my age and I would enjoy the company of adults at least as much as the company of my classmates. I have much in common with my older brother - but not academic ability. I am now professionally qualified and I have a PhD. My brother, on the other hand, left school with virtually no qualifications. His birthday is 2 July. Paul Moorhead, Sheffield.
2. Born in August - suffered from it all my life. When I left school I was still 17, but all my classmates were 18, so I could not spend any time with them in the post-grad celebrations - I couldn't get into the clubs. Election just before my 18th birthday - couldn't vote! And the party I hated got into power. Was in my last year at school before I could drive - Mum had to drive me everywhere. At junior school, as the youngest, I had to do the class jobs. At senior school - people in the year below were older than me - never respected me. August is the worst month to be born in. Katy, Oxford.
3. I am a September baby and remember always being thought of as the "clever one" at school and being chosen to be the narrator in plays because I was the best reader, etc. I went on to academic success as an adult. I don't actually think I was "brighter" than other children just older, appeared better, was challenged further, had my confidence boosted and so the "success" of being older accumulated over time. I deliberately ensured my own children were September babies. My daughter is, although my son let me down by arriving late on 2 October. My daughter has just started in reception and is noticeably taller and more advanced in her language and drawing and understanding. But then she was five when she started school and some of her classmates had been three the previous week and only just turned four. It's a huge difference. Jill, Derby.
4. My second son, Will, arrived three weeks early on 24 August. He started school just after his fourth birthday. I knew he would be disadvantaged as I had only just got him out of nappies, so I taught him to read before he started. He went five days a week to nursery the year before he started school so that he could cope with the tiredness. He went to a private school and the reception teachers tried very hard to persuade me to let him start the following year. But we persisted and lucky for him he was bright and could cope easily. After a year my husband's job moved us abroad and my two sons attended an international school. To my horror, and to Will's delight, he went into kindergarten and spent the next two years playing - no reading, no maths. We returned to England after four years and Will went to the local primary school starting in Year 5. I was really apprehensive that his education would have dropped dramatically but he achieved level 5s in his year 6 Sats. The only disadvantage has been his height, he is always been small for his year, having a brother and father both over six foot, he hit puberty much later than his peers and has only now gained his confidence as he is almost 6ft, too. His older brother is equally bright but is autistic and dominated the family matrix as they were growing up, so Will was left to get on with his school work on his own. Helen, Cirencester.
5. I was born on 20 December, but in Canada the age placement date is 1 January, so I was the youngest in my class all the way through school. I didn't suffer academically, I always got excellent grades and won scholastic awards. I also was a very good ice hockey and an American football player who stood out in my age group, despite being smaller than the other kids in my year. Where I did find myself at a disadvantage was with girls - being the youngest meant things like puberty coming later, and I was the shortest/smallest in my class so I was a less attractive proposition for girls who had lots of "older boys" to choose from. Rich
6. My 11-year-old daughter, Kathryn, was born in June 2000. I am an airline pilot and because of work I had to move to Scotland from England in 2009. Before moving, when my daughter started school in England in 2004, she was just four years and three months. Kathryn was physically smaller than most of her peers, and socially it was a big ask for her. Yet there was very little flexibility or understanding from the English system. Unsurprisingly she struggled. When we moved to Scotland, however, because the year groups are defined from March through to February, her June birthday effectively moved her down a year and she is now one of the older pupils in her class. As a result, her confidence and academic development have significantly improved. In 2012 we are likely to move back to England and I worry that Kathryn's new school in England will look at her date of birth, put the blinkers on and make an arbitrary decision to put her back into her original year group. I'd like Kathryn to continue in the equivalent year group to that of Scotland because she is thriving but I fear bureaucracy and red tape will muscle out our wishes. I believe parents of a summer-born child should have the legal right to choose to delay the start of school. Darren Doyle, Scotland.
7. I was born at the end of July and, fortunately, I have done just fine throughout my education, gaining straight As and a degree at Cambridge. I always loved being one of the younger ones and it made me feel as though I'd achieved more at an earlier age. My husband (born in November) and I decided to aim to have both our children in the summer months, to prevent them from getting bored at school or feeling they could just coast because they were older and wiser. I am also a primary teacher and yes the difference is marked between some September and August born children, but all the professionals I have worked with have been sensitive to this in their planning, teaching and assessment of infant children. Rachel Dudley, Cheshire.
8. I was a September baby. I started school on my fifth birthday, and spent the first two years of primary school as the oldest child in the year. But my teachers felt I was not being challenged enough so I was then moved up to the year above, meaning I spent the remainder of my education as the youngest in the year. I can honestly say that being the "runt of the litter" did not have a negative effect on my schooling or subsequent experiences. I was never bullied and was above average academically throughout my school years and beyond. Rose Herman, Hove.
9. I was born in the middle of August in the 1980s. I lost my mother at the age of five and missed a substantial amount of school in the first few years. Despite this I passed my 11+ and went on to attend a grammar school, gained 10 A-C grades in my GCSEs, obtained two A-Levels, and one A/S level and studied a BA degree in English Language and Linguistics. I now have a good career and two beautiful children, my youngest is also an August baby. I think that like many things, this is an example of stereotyping people into categories. Polly Gibbs, Surrey.
10. I am the mother of three boys, one of whom was born on the 31 August 2005. He was due to start school in September 2009 according to the local policy. He would have been the absolute youngest in the class, nearly a year younger than some of his classmates. I knew he simply wasn't ready for school, and would benefit from another year at nursery. I wrote to the local education authority to ask if this would be possible, as I knew legally he didn't have to go to school until the term after he was five. They wrote back to say that yes, I could delay his start date by up to a year, but he would still have to join that class. This seemed to totally miss the point, they were suggesting that I could delay his entry, and he could start in September 2010 but into a class that had already been together and at school for a year. Letters went back and forth, I clearly explained that I wished my child to start school when he was just five rather than just four, and therefore be the eldest in the class rather than the youngest. They agreed in the end, and I have to say I have no regrets. He is, in my opinion, (and the school's), in the right class for his age and ability. Susie Quinlan, Hampshire.
11. I was born in mid-July. In all our school photos there was this little person who looked much smaller than all the other kids - up until secondary school certainly - well that was me. When I reached secondary school I shot up to 6ft so kids do catch up mentally and physically. I was certainly behind on my reading at primary school, but this was much more because no teacher bothered to pick up on it rather than the age gap. It was only when my parents realised and spent every night reading with me that I caught everyone up. I was probably ahead of average autumn kids after a good bit of parental reading support. Nobody ever treated me differently either, when I was clearly smaller/ younger as a summer baby, I just went with flow, taught myself to be smarter, more humorous, avoid any confrontations or stand up for myself as required. All my friends were September-January kids - they never seemed intellectually superior, if they were it probably pushed me forward quicker. Being a summer baby has other advantages - my birthday was always the last week of term and we'd have many people round for my birthday parties. John Goodbody, London.
12. My middle child was born on 1 September. She was always the oldest in her class and found it hard to make friends. She could never have a birthday party because no-one was around to make the arrangements a few weeks before. I agree about the disadvantages of the August children, but all extremes bring their problems. Louise Vincent, London.
13. Although it makes perfect sense that a child who is expected to learn the same things and achieve the same standards as another child a year older than them will most probably fail to meet these expectations, I'm suspicious of these findings. My brother is a late summer baby and was one of the runaway highest achievers at his school. My eldest daughter is a late summer baby and she, too, far outstrips almost everyone in her year at school. I'm an early October baby, and although I did very well at school, there were kids almost a whole year younger than me who did better than I did. It obviously doesn't help, but I doubt your age is the biggest deciding factor of how well you do at school. Ross Clark, Northants.
14. Born 8 August, I started at primary school in the year below - being the oldest in the year. But, then, half-way through the school year I was moved up a year, becoming the youngest in the year above. I found it hard to make new friends, lost confidence and struggled to keep up with the work of the class above. I don't feel I ever caught up mentally, as I missed a year of education, and I feel I struggled socially from that point on, ending up being bullied. Might have just been the way I was, but this article really struck a chord with me. Rebecca, Leicester.
15. I am a summer baby, and loved it. Throughout school I was always extra proud because while my reading ability was top with about another two in the class, mine was actually more advanced because I was so young. My son is also an August child and his only problem was the teachers making excuses for him. I certainly didn't get that. The line has to be drawn somewhere - leave it well alone and stop pandering to the children and parents. I never thought for a minute about my son being behind the other children as it was just not even considered when I was in school. Sharron, Wales.