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Primary Education News
News Summer-born children suffer educational inequality, study finds
Summer-born children are far more likely to be placed in the bottom sets than their autumn-born peers
Summer-born children are at a serious disadvantage in the majority of England's primary schools, a major study has found.
Nearly all primary schools divide pupils according to their academic ability by the age of seven. But a study of 5,481 children shows that this means summer-born children are far more likely to be placed in the bottom sets than their autumn-born peers.
August-born pupils are more than twice as likely to be in the bottom set as their classmates born the previous September, researchers at London University's Institute of Education found. September-born children are almost three times as likely to be in the top stream as their August-born peers, the study shows.
Officially, streaming is dividing pupils from a school year group into ability groups for most, or all, of their subjects. Settingdivides pupils from a school year group into ability groups for particular subjects.
Previous studies have shown that dividing pupils according to ability from such an early age can harm summer-born children's development, confidence and behaviour, Tammy Campbell, who lead the study as part of her PhD, said. There is already evidence that summer-born children are more likely to fall behind, be bullied or have special needs.
Campbell found 97% of the children in the study were placed in sets or streams, or divided into ability groups within their class, by the age of seven. Some 18% of the children were streamed. Of these, 71% of September-born pupils were in the top stream, while just 26% of August-born children were. More than 80% were set for three or more subjects.
She said setting or streaming in primary school was "detrimental for social mobility" and perhaps should be left for secondary school.
"This hasty (and potentially premature) sorting and classification may play a significant part in subsequent differentials in attainment (and experience)," Campbell said.
"Evidence suggests that if a pupil is informed (explicitly or implicitly) through their academic placement that they are more or less able, this will influence their subsequent behaviours, and they will enact, to some extent, the role assigned, performing at a relatively higher or relatively lower level."
The previous Labour government encouraged schools to set pupils according to their academic ability. The Conservatives' 2007 green paper, Raising the Bar, Closing the Gap, stated that teaching by ability "stretches the strongest and nurtures the weakest".
In 2011, the Institute for Fiscal Studies found children born in August were less likely to go on to study at top universities than their older classmates.