Monthly Archives: February 2009

Summer-born children ‘not ready for school at four’, says study

Summer-born children who start school at the age of four may suffer serious stress and anxiety that could damage their educational prospects, a new report argues.‘Birthdate Effects: A Review of the Literature from 1990-on’, published by the Cambridge Assessment, part of Cambridge University, says that developmental psychology suggests that children between the ages of four and five may not be ready for formal schooling.It says factors such as leaving familiar surroundings, facing separation from their parents and adapting to new routines could help to explain why children born in the summer perform less well overall in exams than those born in autumn or winter.

In a letter to Sir Jim Rose, who is conducting a Government-backed review into primary education, Tim Oates, group director of assessment research and development at Cambridge Assessment, called for urgent research into how best to remedy the birthdate effect.

Mr Oates said, ‘For years, evidence of a birth date effect has stared out of qualifications data; summer-born children appear to have been strongly disadvantaged. While those responsible for working on these data have, through mounting concern, periodically tried to bring public attention to this very serious issue, it has been neglected by agencies central to education and training policy.’

We have seen many children leave the nursery who were patently not ready to go to school. But when school is free how many parents will be prepared to keep for their child to stay on at nursery?

Hard Choices for Working Parents?

The Children’s Society is warning of the dangers of the “aggressive pursuit of personal success”. On the publication of a report entitled A Good Childhood. Searching for values in a competitive age, Kathy Sylva, Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Oxford has said that parents and families must take more responsibility for the choices they make about how they live their lives as their decisions could have far-reaching implications for their children’s development. 

The report says the belief among adults that the prime duty of the individual is to make the most of their own life, rather than contribute to the good of others is causing a range of problems in children and young people. These problems include family break-ups, teenage unkindness, commercial pressures towards premature sexualisation, unprincipled advertising, too much competition in education and acceptance of income inequality. 

Professor Sylva said, “The message as a panel that we really wanted to convey was not to say families are terrible. Families are not really consciously considering their choices.”    

One of these choices is childcare, which gets two pages in the 240-page report covering research in the UK and US about the benefits to children of group daycare and the importance of high-quality childcare for young children’s development when both parents work, whether formal in a day nursery or with a childminder, or informal with the child’s grandparents. However, the report added, “The development of a child depends much more on the quality of the relationship with the parents than on whether both parents work. Crucial are the warmth, understanding, interest and firmness which parents bring to the relationship with their child.”

Do you think your children suffer because you work? Or do you believe that they have a better start in life than you had? Tell us what you think.

Food for Thought

The Bad News:       Nearly one in four children is obese or overweight when they start primary school and one in three is too fat by the time they leave, according to official figures.Lisa Cooney, head of education for the World Cancer Research Fund, said: ‘These latest figures are a real cause for concern. This is because research has shown that the more overweight a child is, the more likely it is they will be overweight as an adult. This is important for cancer because scientists now say that, after not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight is the most important thing we can do for cancer prevention.’

The Good News:    A study carried out for the School Food Trust (SFT), set up by the government, found those eating school meals were more likely to eat vegetables and fruit and less likely to snack on chocolate or crisps. Chef takes a lot of care over preparing the nursery meals and planning the menus ahead. The children enjoy a varied diet which avoids fatty and sugary foods – and they love it!

When talking about parents who send their school-age children to school with packed lunch, Judy Hargadon, chief executive of the SFT, said: ‘A lunch at school offers a child more opportunities to try different foods, more choice and is a lot less hassle,’ Anita Bean, a nutritionist and author of Healthy Eating For Kids said that parents should revert to methods of the past: ‘The old-fashioned rule of just eating what was put in front of you seems to have waned. The children shouldn’t get into the habit of rejecting food, which gives them power and control. Don’t let them demand food.’

So there you have it: Let the children eat lunch at nursery or school and don’t give into them over their food and your children will learn to eat healthily.