premature babyA friend of mine has an August-born daughter who was born two months premature. Her daughter should have been born mid-October but was instead born mid-August. However, her daughter had to start school in the academic year in which she was born despite her corrected age being mid-October. My friend was unhappy about this from the start as she felt her daughter was emotionally unready to start school but the local authority said that there would have to be evidence of developmental delay from the GP, preschool and educational psychologist for there to be delayed entry. Therefore, my friend started her child in reception with reservations. Frustratingly, after the first term at school, my friend was told that her daughter might have to go down to half days as she was not coping very well. My friend fought this as she works so the school did not push it. Now her daughter is in her second year at school and the teacher is saying that her daughter is behind. Understandably, my friend is angry with the situation. She feels her daughter should not have been in that academic year at all and should be in the year below. Her daughter is actually reasonably high ability for a child who should have been born in October. Compared to other October-born children in reception, her daughter has good numeracy and literacy skills. It is important to highlight that my friend’s daughter spent the first couple of months in an incubator that simulated the womb so she was not experiencing the world like a full-term baby born in August.

Summer-born children are already at a disadvantage academically, so premature summer-born children are at even more of a disadvantage.

What seems to surprise many people is that month of birth affects children even when they are doing their A-levels.

Crawford, Deardon and Meghir (2010) examined the differences between the test scores of children at different ages by looking at their performance in national tests such as SATs, GCSEs and A-levels and university admissions. They found large differences in achievement at age 7 between children born in September and children born in August. This difference was also linear, which means that September born children performed on average better than children born just one month later in October. The difference between the oldest and youngest children in the year did reduce over time but it was still evident at 18-years-old and affected university admissions.

Therefore, imagine the greater problem for premature children like my friend’s child whose corrected age can make them 14 months younger than a full-term September-born child.

In my opinion, parents of premature summer-born children should be given the option of delaying them a year without question by the local authorities.

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