Summer Born Babies – Are my Twins Disadvantaged?

This post kind of ties in with my recent post about my twins settling in at nursery.

An article in the Telegraph in February of this year resonated profoundly with me as this is an issue very close to my heart.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/9843971/Summer-born-children-at-bottom-of-the-class-warn-experts-and-parents.html

It refers to statistics that summer born babies don’t, as a general rule, do as well in school as older children in their year group. Probably obvious but the findings in this article and some others I’ve come across are still quite astonishing I think.

It states that August children can “suffer serious educational disadvantages because they are less physically, socially and emotionally ready for school, compared to their classmates”. It also states that summer babies “are more likely to leave education at 16, tend to be more unhappy at school and have less chance of getting into a high-performing university”.

To be honest, I’d never really thought about it but the difference between a child born in September for example and a child born the following August is huge. A year is a substantial percentage of their life at this age (4/5) and there can be many disadvantages. Firstly, there’s the confidence issue. Younger children compare themselves to their older peers and can see that in relation to them they themselves are smaller and less able, which can seriously affect their self esteem. Secondly there’s the possible stereotyping amongst teachers (yes it happens) and classmates of them being ‘slower’ or ‘low achievers’, they can be left out and name called things like ‘baby’, which consequently can leave them feeling inadequate and maybe carrying this infliction on into later years – when in actual fact these children are NOT slow – they are where they should be for their age.

Sport is another very obvious problem for the younger ones who are at an immediate disadvantage in terms of size and strength. Usually it will be the bigger children who make the teams etc!

Throw into the mix August born children who were born PREMATURE and shouldn’t have been born until the end of September, therefore are in the wrong year group anyway; are TWINS who are of lower birth weights with shared attention/slower development rates and things don’t look too clever – pardon the pun!

This is the quandary we as a family are in at the moment and the twins mentioned are mine.

I’ve tried to ignore it, telling myself all will be ok but it’s constantly niggled away at me. After having two single babies before my twins I am well aware that my August born identical boys DID develop at a slower rate in every way from sitting up and sleeping through to walking and talking. Even now their speech isn’t what you would expect from children starting school in a few months time. It IS getting there, and there isn’t a problem, it’s just that they are only 3 and won’t be 4 until their August birthday whereby they will then be expected to start full time education a week and a half later. As I’ve mentioned before, their social skills aren’t finely honed yet, they are extremely shy and won’t talk at all in front of some people. They are struggling at nursery and everyone that knows my boys can’t believe they are actually going to school in September.

My little lads x

It’s such a worry. I look at them sometimes and it breaks my heart to think in a few short months they will just have to conform to the grey rules and regulations of the local authority when they are (to me) barely more than babies.

I understand that a lot of parents with summer babies have similar issues and the line has to be drawn somewhere with regards to a cut off point and there will always be the ‘youngest’ kids wherever you put the line. The majority of children will be ‘ok’ but is that the best we can expect? We want our children to thrive and not struggle simply because they were born at the wrong time.

There is legislation to say the views of parents, who know their children best, should be taken seriously. I’m just not sure what to do. What I do know is something as fundamental as starting school at the wrong time could have a detrimental impact on my boys for the rest of their life.

I have looked into and considered two options.

  • Deferring.

‘Deferring’ the start of school involves either staggering entry in the first term (most do this for a week or two but this means carrying on until they are ready for a full day), part time schooling, starting the following January or in rare cases, in the summer term. Possibly even starting a whole year later in year 1, which isn’t ideal at all as it would mean missing out on that vital year of learning through play that reception is geared towards. This is perfectly legal as children don’t have to be in full time education until they are five. One would need to clear this with the school in question first.

  • Delaying

‘Delaying’ the start of school means starting in RECEPTION a year later with children out of their normal year group, which would hopefully mean they will be ready, happier and thrive instead of struggling and constantly playing catch up. This is a serious consideration which needs to be agreed with the local authority. It’s not an easy route, it has complications and councils aren’t usually happy to do this. There needs to be sufficient evidence to prove it is in the child’ best interests. Children born early, effectively in the wrong school year as mine are, are usually taken very seriously.

I’m not sure I want to go down the route of ‘delaying’ but I do want some reassurance so, having read many articles relating to this I’ve decided that my first step should be a meeting with the Head Mistress of their primary school – they are currently attending the on site nursery and she knows my twins a little. She allowed us to defer the nursery start date to January of this year instead of September of last year after recommendations from their pre-school and her own knowledge that August BOYS tend to fair worse than August girls in terms of readiness. This turned out to be the right thing to do as my boys were still potty training last summer and have come on leaps and bounds in those few months. They still struggle with separation though. She will liaise with nursery and hopefully come back with some answers.

Will my very young boys be mentally ready for school at just turned four? Education expert Richard House from Roehampton University claims that ‘over-emphasis of the 3 R’s on the very young – reading, writing and arithmetic can actually cause long term damage’. Furthermore, he suggests that very bright or children with ‘runaway intellect would do better if they slowed down so as not to risk growing up in an intellectually unbalanced way, with possible life-long negative health effects.’ He, along with may others believe children should not be at school until at least the age of six.

The UK is, just to point out, one of the very few Countries in the world that start children in school at the age of FOUR. The majority of the rest of the world starts at around six or even seven.

Some parents ‘plan’ their babies to be born in the Autumn apparently to overcome this whole issue…something that I hadn’t heard of before and would never have crossed my mind! We can’t always plan these things to perfection anyway can we?! Recently I found out if a teacher has a summer baby then they are considered to be a bit foolish by their peers as they should know better….. how true that is I don’t know but I heard it from a very reliable source :)

So my meeting with the Head Mistress is booked. I am eager to hear what she has to say to ease my worries.

I’m also very interested to hear about anyone who has challenged the system in either way (deferring or delaying) – the procedures you had to go through and of course the outcomes….. Or if your August baby wasn’t ready but started anyway… how did they cope? Are they older now? How are they doing academically? Please let me know if you or anyone you know has had these experiences…. Thanks xxxx

 

Nursery Nightmares

Its a scary time of day. You know that time when it’s broad daylight, the beginning of a beautiful Springtime morning…. when we’re all starting our day? Yes – 8.45am is fright time…….. For my boys it is anyway.

It’s the time my twins start nursery.

This week has been their first week back after the Easter holidays and to say it hasn’t gone smoothly would be an understatement! They started back on Wednesday and every morning they have cried when going in. In fact, one of my twins wouldn’t even get out of the car on all three days, I had to drag him out kicking and screaming.

It upsets me immensely and I feel cruel. I want to take them home. Why am I doing this to them? Forcing them into a situation that causes them such distress and then, this is the really cruel part, LEAVING them there; allowing the teachers to snatch them off me while I just walk away listening to their cries of ‘Mummy’,’I want my Mummy’. Hearing them banging on the door to escape….

Yes, this sounds like the stuff of nightmares alright.

My twins are so young (August born), premature and very clingy. They just want to be with ME. They aren’t great socialisers and they’re painfully shy. It’s always been the same, I guess being twins and having two other siblings they don’t feel the need to socialise, they have all they want and need at home. Shyness too is often overlooked as something ‘silly’ and comments such as ‘they’ll grow out of it’ I hear all the time. I don’t think people truly understand how debilitating it can be. Yes they probably will grow out of it but it’s not silly, it’s very real and right now it’s something that is causing them to suffer. I can feel them cringing sometimes when people talk to them; I think they would prefer to be invisible and just slot in quietly. But at nursery they can’t do that and teachers will insist on making a fuss! I know how my boys feel and it hurts me.

On the plus side, they are usually smiling when I collect them and they like to talk to me about what they’ve done so at least that’s something, even if the next morning it starts all over again. Last term was a similar situation. We had bad days and not so bad days. Never great days. Maybe this week was particularly difficult because of the Easter holidays and being used to staying at home, but there’s no doubt this separation for us is challenging. With some constant reassurance though from us, hopefully they will finally settle – and they do need to as they are due to start Reception in September. I’m extremely worried about that too but that’s a whole other blog!

Ultimately, facing their own little nightmares is sadly the only way they will conquer them. Or so we’re led to believe….. so we shall battle on.

I will update next week!

%d bloggers like this: