Summer kids in their ruin

March 14, 2013

You report a BBC finding that Oxbridge admission processes prefer autumn-born candidates (The week in higher education, 7 March). The next day, The Guardian published an article headed “Summer-born children suffer educational inequality, study finds”. My wife - a teacher - used to examine this effect 25 years ago.

A quick Google Scholar search identifies a 1994 paper by Caroline Sharp, Dougal Hutchison and Chris Whetton in the Educational Research journal that states its aim as explaining “the general finding that summer-born children perform less well than their autumn-born classmates”.

It continues: “Autumn-born children tended to perform better than spring- born, and spring-born children, in turn, out-performed summer-borns. The effect was evident in both primary and secondary schooling and persisted into tertiary education, with a higher proportion of autumn-born students graduating from university.”

It appears that we have been unable to do anything about this persistent effect, other than to keep rediscovering it.

Keith Richards
Department of geography
University of Cambridge

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