If you follow NSW on Facebook, you will probably be aware of a comment that I made last week in response to a mind-numbingly daft idea that was proposed by an educationalist last week that children with summer birthdays should have their GCSE marks ‘adjusted’ to take account of the fact that they are almost a year younger than some of their peers. The issue of summer babies has arisen, spasmodically, for quite a while, but this is the first time that a serious suggestion has been made that we solve the problem by effectively giving certain candidates higher grades simply by virtue of their birthday. Of course, a far more sensible solution, and one that I have advocated for over twenty years, is that we follow the Finnish example and start children at school later. Finnish children start formal schooling at the age of seven, and yet by the time they reach 14, they have overtaken British children in academically measured assessments.
This, of course is not the same as saying that young children should be at home with their mother or father for five days a week up to their seventh birthday – there are alternatives that permit children to explore and learn without having formal literacy and numeracy lessons on a daily basis! In my opinion, we urgently need to wake up and recognise that the real and serious damage that is being done to children by premature exposure to formal learning cannot be remedied simply by giving them enhanced grades in their GCSEs when they reach the age of 16.