The test scores of the youngest children should be adjusted to reflect their age and tackle the disadvantage they face, according to two education researchers.

Lee Elliot Major, professor of social mobility at the University of Exeter, and Steve Higgins, an education professor at Durham University, recommend that teachers assess the progress of each child relative to others their age, instead of comparing them to the class as a whole. Any expected level of progress would therefore apply to a particular age, rather than a particular point in time, the academics suggest in a new book What Works? Research and Evidence for Successful Teaching. They also argue that teachers should discuss the maturity of their pupils with parents when talking to them about their child’s progress.

In general, pupils born between June and August tend to do less well at school than those born in the autumn months. On average they are six months behind their older peers in terms of attainment at age seven, three months behind at 12, and still a month behind aged 16. Research published last year by education data analytics company SchoolDash indicated that the youngest children fall behind their peers almost as soon as they start school. And a further study led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicince, published last week, found those born in the last quarter of the academic year had a 30 per cent higher risk of experiencing depression than those born in the first quarter.

Professor Elliot Major said: ‘There are far more autumn-born pupils in the top streams and the oldest pupils in the class are more likely to be selected for gifted and talented programmes. Teachers must consider maturity when grouping children into sets or classes according to their achievement, and when marking. We hope this will address this unequal situation, which effects so many classrooms and children across the country.’

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