Have you conceived yet?


By Rebecca Boyle Suh, Artis Executive Chairman

Artis Baby

I had mixed feelings the day my contractions began. It was 31 August and I was expecting my second baby. Whilst thrilled that I was soon to set eyes on our new addition to the family, I was also thinking about her future wellbeing given the restrictions of our current education system. If born that day, which was highly likely given the speed with which second babies can arrive, her journey through life might be quite different than if she were to wait a few more hours and be born on 1 September.


The current schools admissions policy and their strict 31 August cut-off date would mean that a week before starting school, my daughter would still be three and about to start learning alongside children who were about to turn five – or a quarter of her life older. If she was born a day later on 1 September she would start school a quarter of her life later and be in a much better place socially, physically and mentally to begin her formal education.


Indeed, research* is certainly stacked against summer born babies who;


  • do less well academically
  • are likely to be less confident
  • are more frequently diagnosed with SEN
  • are more likely to be bullied
  • are less likely to excel in sports
  • by the age of seven, those born in September are three times likely as those born in August to be in the top streams
  • are 20% less likely to attend Russel Group universities than their September born peers


During my pregnancy I came across other August born babies, who were now adults, and generally they said it was unfortunate. They were the smallest in their class, the least academic, and the very last in their class to drive, turn 18, 21, etc. It’s only now they’re older that there’s the benefit of looking a year younger than classmates!


Acutely aware of the disadvantages in the learning journey of summer born babies, educational colleagues rolled their eyes when I told them of my due date. In the end my healthy, beautiful daughter did arrive into this world on 31 August and not a minute later. Looking on the bright side I’d had a girl; it’s typically more difficult for boys to make that early transition to school.  And who knew, might the timing of my little one’s birth result in her becoming more creative?


I have an unsupported theory that whilst September babies are likely to be more academic, as a result summer born babies are likely to be more creative. At one point I noticed that nearly all the birthdays in our office were celebrated between May and August, with a couple of outliers. Given that we’re a creative education company, everyone who works with us has taken a creative route through education, whether it has been focusing on theatre, music, dance, or the visual arts. Perhaps the arts ignored their lack of academic confidence and instead offered them the means to be more expressive?


Under the current system a summer born baby can delay starting school for a year, but then must still join the same year group that has already been at school for a year. Parents are delighted that schools minister Nick Gibb is proposing that parents can choose which school year their summer born child starts in. This certainly puts the child’s interests first and ensures that more children can start school when they’re ready. The plan is to conduct a full public consultation and, subject to Parliamentary approval, will introduce this change to the Schools Admission Code. So the good news is that you may not need to plan ahead and conceive in January if you want your child to start school when they’re ready…



*Institute of Education (2016) and Institute for Fiscal Studies (2011)

09 Feb 2016

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