Friday, 15 September 2017
Being born at the right time.
Our youngest grandchild was one year old a couple of weeks ago, right at the start of September. I mentioned this in conversation with a friend who commented that it was a pity she was not,born a few days earlier as then she could have had a full year extra in school. Oddly enough, before this little girl was born, when it became clear she was going to be born by Caesarian section, my daughter was offered a choice of dates: late August or early September. She quite deliberately opted for September, wanting her child to be one of the oldest in her school year rather than one of the youngest.
Both my friend and my daughter have worked, and in my daughter's case still works, in primary education. So both of them have seen the difference that can exist in a reception class between the September-born children and and the August-born children.
Our son was born in early July and consequently when he started school he was four years and two months old. In his class was a child whose birthday was early in September. Thus, when he started school he was almost exactly ten months older than our son. They were pretty much the same height and build, both had wild curly hair and were amazingly similar in looks. I can remember having to remind people when comparisons were made - and they WERE made - that it was quite understandable that this other little boy might be better co-ordinated than our child, emotionally more mature, had greater dexterity and so on. He was almost a year older and at that age that makes a tremendous difference.
On the radio there has been a series of programmes on the subject of summer-born children: Whodunnit: the Calendar Conspiracy. Phil kept telling me about it, usually after the event, but today I caught the last programme in the series. I may need to go onto iPlayer to catch up on the rest of them. Statistics show that on average the younger you are in the academic year, the more you will have difficulties with academia. Of course there are exceptions. My friend's daughter, born in early June, just a month older than our son had no problems whatsoever. But would-be parents are trying, apparently, to time their children so that are not summer-born.
On today's programme they interviewed a number of parents of summer-born children, children who in the next couple of years will be starting school. They asked if these parents were concerned and if they felt that something positive should be done to help summer-born children cope. Mostly they felt that they could be supportive enough to their offspring but that teachers should be aware. And perhaps their children would need no more help than a September-born child in the class.
What surprised me, however, was contributors to the programme, not necessarily the parents, talking in terms of children, very young children, being told, "You might find this hard as you are one of the youngest in the class." Or, "So-and-so might be better at this than you because he is older than you." Wow! Talk about setting children up for failure! Do tiny children really need to have it pointed out to them that there is a pecking order even in primary education? Life will be competitive enough without it starting in the reception class.
Our son, by the way, turned out fine! So did his wife, a September-born child!