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