International thematic probe: the influence of relative age on learner attainment and development

Client: QCA | NFER Contact: Caroline Sharp

As part of its commitment to ‘building the evidence base’ for the curriculum in England, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) is investigating the issue of ‘summer born’ children or ‘season of birth’ in the international context. It has commissioned an international literature review on the impact of relative age within a year group on learners’ attainment and development. The main focus is on policy, process and outcomes concerning learning (attainment and development) in school.

Research questions

The key research questions relate to learners in compulsory primary and secondary education in countries for which the literature review identifies available and relevant information.

Impact and outcomes

The research will produce a comparative international analysis on the impact of relative age on learner attainment and development. This will respond to the three key research questions and provide policy recommendations to QCA. It is intended that the report will be published on the International Review of Curriculum and Assessment Frameworks (INCA) Internet Archive (

The NFER team would also welcome the opportunity of working further with QCA to publish additional articles relating to the research.

Research design and methods

The research comprises three phases:


The principal audience for the research is QCA. They will use the report to provide evidence for the ‘Rose Review’ of the primary curriculum.

It is expected that the report will later be published on the INCA website. At such time it will be of relevance and interest to the policy makers, educationalists and researchers who are users of the INCA website.

Time scale: August 2008 - November 2008

NFER Project Code: QSB