Lasting Legacy? The persistence of season of birth effects

Caroline Sharp, Dougal Hutchison

02 September 1999

Previous research has identified significant differences in the academic performance of children born at different times of year. In the USA, studies indicate that season of birth effects are strongest when children start school, but reduce markedly in the early stages of elementary school. Research in this country has found season of birth effects in both younger and older age-groups, but it is difficult to assess how these effects change as children grow older.

This study used reading test data from three cohorts of children in one LEA to investigate the persistence of season of birth effects between the ages of six and 12. Children born in the summer did significantly less well than children born in the autumn within all the age-groups. There was a steep reduction in the magnitude of season of birth effects between the ages of six and eight, little change between eight and ten, and a substantial decrease between the ages of ten and 12. Season of birth effects were found to be educationally significant at ages six, eight and ten, but not at age 12. One possible explanation for this is that the transfer from primary to secondary schools provides a fresh start and offers summer-borns an opportunity to catch up with their older peers.

This paper was presented at the British Educational Research Association Conference held on 2-5 September 1999 at the University of Sussex, Brighton.

Read the report Read the article