Director's Blog

The Lost Boys: Could summer-born boys hold the key to bringing about World Class progress?

As leaders of World Class schools you are non-complacent. On receipt of the GCSE results, however impressive your student progress, you will analyse what more you could have done, and what more you can do.

And given the high bar you have always set yourselves and invariably reached, this is hard. Although we know the desired model is for all students to make equally good progress across all year groups, we all throw everything at Year 11, because of how we are held in thrall to national accountability measures.

Improving Key Stage 4 Progress - best practice

I am in the privileged position of seeing lots of amazing practice, and I am often asked what the best things are that I've seen. In terms of improving already outstanding Key Stage 4 progress, and bringing about those marginal gains, it is, of course, never about doing more, but doing less, better. I am always cautious when colleagues comment about too much focus on 'data' and not enough on the the classroom, as if 'data' is an end in itself. Forensic, sophisticated analysis and interpretation of the 'data' means that school leaders can give teachers what they owe them; the best steer on what will work in the classroom to bring about the maximum progress for as many students as possible, in a manageable way.

Could summer-born boys hold the key to closing the achievement gap?


Therefore, my suggested response to GCSE results for World Class school leaders is to look where they might not have looked before, to find a chink in the armour of previous data analysis. My suggestion is to look at summer-born boys.

We all know that the evidence has been out there for some time that summer-born underachieve. In response to this, there has recently been, in my opinion, a rather blunt instrumented DfE initiative to give parents the right to delay the start to school of summer-born children. The jury is currently out as to its impact. I don't need to rehearse here the overwhelming evidence proving boys' underachievement.

Why could identification of summer-born boys help to close the achievement gap? Because their underachievement or otherwise is hidden, and their unrealised potential is significant. National data sets no longer capture summer-born achievement at primary. Therefore, any potential achievement gaps between summer-born boys and their peers go unnoticed; internally, primary schools rarely analyse summer-born boys' Key Stage 2 performance, and secondary rarely pick it up in transition and through Year 7 baselining.

But they should. Summer-born are over represented in SEN identification in Early Years Foundation Stage and at Key Stage 1, and are arguably mis-identified. Boys and summer-born often share similar obstacles to achieving, for example, issues with concentration, emotional immaturity, resilience, and effective behaviours for learning. If you subscribe to the evidence, as I do, that girls mature more quickly than boys, problems in the classroom for summer-born boys are compounded. However, there is also evidence to suggest that summer-born have the potential to make better progress than their peers. The contention is that, because they are always running to catch up, they are actually very good at it; given the right support, they can run faster than everyone else.

So, when you get your World Class Key Stage 4 results, and you want to find lost achievement, look at the progress of summer-born boys.

Miranda Perry, Director WCSQM, August 2018.

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