After reading this guest blog by Mine Conkbayir, author of ‘Early Childhood Theories and Contemporary Issues’ and early years lecturer, researcher and NEYTCO training coordinator, I contacted Mine and asked her what she thinks about the issues so many summer born children are facing.
She told me: “I am very much in agreement about the detrimental effects of forcing younger children into Reception when they are not ready.
Children are not afforded the time to make the transition, often with detrimental effects on their emotional well-being.
Once this aspect of a child’s development is compromised, it makes for a very difficult academic career. Left unchecked (as it so often is), these forced and inflexible transitions can cause difficulties in the long term.
We all know too many children that had a terrible time at school, and as soon as they could truant they did. The result is as you can conceive.
Year 1 Entry at CSAge
With specific regard to forced entry into Year 1 at age 5, there are many compounding factors which work against the child: these being a school’s inflexibility and lack of creativity when enforcing such approaches.
The rhetoric may well state that they will do this in as much a child-centred way as possible but it is rarely realised as such. Again, excuses such as a lack of staff, sharing TAs and making children catch up in their break times(!), as well as general pressures for the school to perform and hit targets, make these transitions worse.
The whole terminology deeply frustrates me with regard to summer born children – and in my opinion sets the tone for how they are viewed. ‘Held back’ and ‘kept back’ creates the view that the children are the problem – not the school’s lack of vision and bravery to be truly child-centred and flexible.
Past and Present
I appreciate that previously summer born children did not have any option and that some the schools can organise a slower transition where they spend periods of the day in Reception and nurture groups to support their PSED.
Different schools adopt different approaches to the transitions, which again can present obstacles, as there is no – one – consistent approach being adopted. Unfortunately schools are under a lot of pressure to get results and to get children to age related expectations, and in the process can forget about the child (I say this following conversations with teachers).
Catch up sessions are part of the whole system, but knowing the child is key to differentiating according to the child and capturing their interest without undermining. This is easier said than done in a class of 30 with different needs and budget cuts which have led to teachers sharing TAs at times.
Schools are now trying to engage and educate parents by holding weekly parent workshops to help them to support their child. A lot of schools are also buying into schemes for maths and reading via apps, so that children can access them at home on tablets and computers so that it is interactive and fun.
However, as we know, the quality of the home learning environment differs greatly for each child, so not all children will benefit. One teacher told me that through their pupil progress meetings each half term, the school identifies children who are not achieving or making good progress (whether the reason is being a summer born or not) with the view to putting interventions in place to support learning.
Later School Starting Age and Happiness
Also, as we know, children across Europe start later and make better progress and are far happier.
It is no coincidence that almost year on year, children in the UK are deemed to be one of the unhappiest surveyed (UNICEF).
I strongly feel that children’s early, formative experiences do stay with them, for good or for bad.
In the case of forced transitions, I know that this is the case.
Adults I have spoken with can often trace their crippling anxiety, dislike of authority and mistrust of authority figures back to their schooling.”
- Published by Pauline Hull, with thanks to Mine Conkbayir
Hopefully her expertise will be respected, listened to and acted on; and schools will finally be able to have the confidence to support truly child centered approach with reception at CSA when it is wanted by the family.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts Rachel – we need to keep up the pressure! There is too much evidence mounting for this to be ignored.
Parents have very little powers to stand up to the inflexible admission authorities that are either coercing them to send their child to school a year early or that are forcing a child to miss a whole year – any year – of school. DFE seemingly has very little interest to help these families out, despite the primary legislation being violated when decisions are made against the child’s best interests. Experts can really help with giving the weight to the argument why it is so detrimental to for a child to miss a whole year of school or be forced into early academic learning before they are ready and before legally required to.
We really need experts like Mine Conkbayir and many others to make their voices louder to communicate the latest findings not only to their peers in scientific community but to wider society and to the political classes. It is so important that you were able to post her views here. I hope she will be heard.
The difficulty is that our early start to formal education and regular testing has always been known to be detrimental to our children’s happiness and confidence as well as academic success and progress but consecutive governments have chosen to ignore all the evidence, ignore the strategies and policies other successful European countries have employed and carry on regardless. I really don’t know what would have to change for our Government to start listening to experts and all the research and evidence that is out there.
You raise key issues that continue to persist. How can governments afford to ignore it? Partly by failing to address their short-comings and instead blaming parents and ‘inadequate teaching’ as being the cause of poor outcomes – not their system-centred vision. Their desperate bid to educate children too early and even worse, assess them at such a young age goes against child-centred practice and is causing more harm than good. What would have to change? Perhaps coordinated effort by experts, parents, health care professionals and teachers alike, liaising with local MPs to instigate the much needed shift in thinking and current/future provision!
Enough is enough
The overwhelming evidence on this issue can no longer be ignored
The pressure on the government must be kept up to change things, as they promised they would in 2015
I agree. I do think it will take sustained, coordinated effort – giving up on it is not an option. Though perhaps, therein lies one factor – the government thinks the public will give up and so persist with their ill-informed, damaging initiatives.
The government need to stop shirking around this issue and do something concrete about it soon!
Thank you for speaking out on this Mine. Even without the research and evidence it seems obvious from a common sense perspective that pushing children into school too young is counter-productive and will produce a (potentially life-long) dislike for learning. I also find the continuous pressure for children to enter reception before they hit CSA (or to face the sanction of missing a whole year of school) frankly appalling.
I agree Michelle. While I have not collated all the hard evidence on the matter, I have followed it for long enough for it to confirm my feelings on the subject, as you identify. Too much is done to children at a great cost to their emotional well-being. Feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, stress and low self confidence tend to follow with detrimental effects on ability to learn. All at a time when they are expected to perform and conform to unfair and unrealistic expectations. It really needs to change.
Mine, I very much agree with your article about summer born children! The points you made and a teacher is so current and valid in my school too! I couldn’t agree more!! An amazing read! All the best! 🙂
Mine, I totally agree with your article in regards to summer born children! The points you’ve made and a teacher, is very much valid in my school too. I couldn’t agree more!! A fantastic read! :-))
Thanks so much for your feedback Sevilay.
I feel I could have included more possible solutions to this on-going issue, though part of me feels the government knows the answer – implementing it however, is another matter!