An analysis of university admission by month of birth indicates that 10,000 young people each year fail to go to university because they were born late in the school year.
Bahram Bekhradnia, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said that although it had long been known that summer babies, who were the youngest in their class, tended to perform less well at school than winter babies it had long been assumed that the summer babies “caught up” with their peers by their teens.
But figures from the Higher Education Funding Council for England suggest that this is not the case. Boys born in August are 25% less likely to go to university than those born in September. Girls born in August are 20% less likely to attend than those born in September.
Mr Bekhradnia said that disadvantage caused by birth month was easily avoidable because it was the direct result of the “administrative convenience” demanded by local authorities and schools when admitting children into reception classes at age 5. The solution, he suggested, would be to make it easier for summer-born children to be held back a year if they were struggling to keep up with older children in their class — a practice used successfully in other countries.
Chris Saleh, of the Institute for Education rejected the suggestion of allowing children to repeat a year of school. A better solution, she suggested, may be to give schools, families and local authorities more flexibility over when to admit children.