The effect of month of birth on the attainments of primary and secondary school pupils

Martin McPhillips, J- Jordan-Black

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Previous research has produced conflicting results regarding the effects of season of birth and age-position on cognitive attainments. In Northern Ireland the school year divides the summer season into two providing an opportunity to evaluate the relative contribution of season of birth and age-position effects. Aims: To investigate the relationship between attainment in literacy skills and month of birth for primary and secondary school pupils and to determine the relationship between motor skills and month of birth in primary school pupils. Sample: One thousand one hundred and twenty four primary school pupils participated, and results for key stage 3 (KS3) English and GCSE English Language, for 3,493 Year 10 and 3,697 Year 12 secondary school pupils, respectively, were obtained. Method: Primary school pupils were individually assessed using standardised reading and spelling tests, as well as tests of motor skill. They were also assessed using a standardised group reading test in their class groups. For the secondary school pupils, the results for two year cohorts, in KS3 English and GCSE English language, respectively, were analysed. Results: For the primary school pupils there was evidence of both a season of birth and an age-position effect on all of the cognitive measures, particularly in the early years of schooling. There was, also, evidence of a significant age-position effect at both KS3 and GCSE in favour of the older pupils. For the younger primary school pupils there was evidence of significant age-position effects on both motor measures. Conclusions: The findings from the present study suggest that month of birth may be related to both season of birth and age-position effects. These effects may be compounded, particularly in the early years of primary school, when summer born children are youngest in their year, as in England. In Northern Ireland, age-position effects are also evident in secondary school public examination results, which may have implications for long-term life choices. © 2009 The British Psychological Society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-438
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Journal of Educational Psychology
Volume79
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Education

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