September children spring forward, August children fall back

A new report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that, relative to children born in September, children born in August, on average:

  • score substantially lower in national achievement tests and other measures of cognitive skills;
  • are more likely to study for vocational qualifications if they stay on in post-compulsory education;
  • are less likely to attend a Russell Group (high-status) university at age 19;
  • have lower confidence in their academic ability and are less likely to believe that they control their own destiny as teenagers.

While a future study plans to identify the causes of these findings, schools may be keen to consider practical ways to address these issues. For example, they may consider reviewing the extent to which curriculum provision is developmentally appropriate for the youngest children in the first terms of schooling; how summer borns are supported in meaningfully interacting with their older peers, as equals, in classroom and playtime activities, and the role that social-emotional learning might play in enhancing achievement.

Source: Does when you are born matter? The impact of month of birth on children’s cognitive and non-cognitive skills in England (2011), Institute for Fiscal Studies


Self-paced learning looks promising

A new study by the Institute for Effective Education has shown that self-paced learning could produce significant gains in primary maths learning. In self-paced learning pupils answer, at their own pace, questions delivered directly to electronic handsets.

The technology instantly marks the responses and feeds back the results to both pupil and teacher. Teachers can use this formative assessment to help pupils and guide future teaching. Significant gains in pupils’ mathematical learning were made by those pupils using the self-paced learning technology.

Source: Self-paced learning: Effective technology-supported formative assessment report on achievement findings (2011), Institute for Effective Education 

Family literacy programmes should help children and parents

A new study has found that children living in poverty and whose mothers have no educational qualifications do less well in language, literacy and social development than their peers. Frequent home learning alone does not compensate for this disadvantage.

It suggests that family literacy programmes should have a wider remit in terms of supporting families (for example, encouraging parents to take part in educational activities themselves) rather than solely focusing on supporting parents to give specific literacy or numeracy skills to their children.

Source: Families’ social backgrounds matter: socio-economic factors, home learning and young children’s language, literacy and social outcomes (2011), British Educational Research Journal 37(6)