Summer-born children more likely to be labelled special needs, minister claims

Education minister Nick Gibb claimed that pupils were being unfairly classed as they learned slower than their older classmates

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Children born in the summer are being incorrectly labelled as special needs because they are failing to learn as quickly as their slightly older classmates, according to a minister.

Teachers are mistakenly classing pupils born May, June, July or August as special needs because they make slower progress in primary school than their older classmates.

Schools minister Nick Gibb has asked the Department for Education for advice on the transfer of these children into primary schools – after previous changes apparently failed to take effect.

Mr Gibb also raised concerns that younger children are more likely to be bullied or tiered into lower groups than pupils born later in the year, in a letter to the Commons Select Committee.

Figures provided by the minister appear to support his concerns.

A graph indicates a relationship between children registered as special needs and those with birthdays falling in the summer months.

According to the numbers provided by Mr Gibb, 15,000 first year primary school pupils born in August were registered as having special educational needs (SEN) but by the end of secondary school the number had dropped to 10,000.

“Summer-born children are likely to be behind their peers in their development, simply by virtue of being younger than them,” the minister wrote. “It appears that many schools may consequently have identified them as having SEN [special educational needs].”