THE BLOG
01/11/2011 13:25 GMT | Updated 01/01/2012 05:12 GMT

In Defence of August Babies

The report says children born in August feel less like they "control their own destiny" - perhaps had I known my destiny was so heavily weighted on the side of failure, I would have felt like that too. And perhaps I would look more like the August baby the report paints.

When I was six years old, my parents were call into the headmaster's office. The results of my year two SATs were in and I had performed dismally. It was likely, they were told, that I would struggle academically.

So far, so per my "type", according to a new IFS study - an August baby, three times more likely to perform below average than if I had been born on my due date, September 3.

My headmaster's concerns were not without cause. At the time my writing oscillated between being as small as I could possibly make it, having sharpened my pencil to a ferocious point to write in what was basically a series of dots, and failing to fit more than three gargantuan words on a line.

But the report's findings didn't play out long term. After my, admittedly, slow start, I found my footing among my older classmates. I was in the top set for every subject by secondary school, and, despite being 20% less likely to, went to a Russell Group university where I got a First.

The most adverse effects my age had were that it was hard to get people together on my birthday because it was the summer holidays, and that I was still 17 when I got my A-level grades, meaning the celebrations were tinged with trying to get away with using a friend's ID without raising too many questions.

Perhaps I represent an exception, not a tendency, and I recognise the unfairness the report highlights of being seen as behind my classmates when in reality I had just had less practice. I probably did need more support. But had I started school later, or at a slower speed than those who were my academic peers for the next 13 years, I would always have felt on the back foot. It would have altered my friendship group. And it wouldn't have changed the fact that some children will always be younger, and a lot younger in some cases, than other people in their class.

Children who struggle need help - but that help needs to be subtle and not determined by when you were born; it's not just August babies who find school difficult sometimes, and it's not all August babies.

I also think part of the reason why my inauspicious birth never affected me was because it never occurred to me that it would. My mum always told me she was thrilled I was born early. She said I was too clever to be in the year below, and that she would have fought to have me put up a year if I had been born in September. She didn't hold me back because I was a summer baby - she bolstered my confidence so that I didn't suffer from the insecurity the report warns August babies are prone to.

Had my parents had told me that I was struggling aged six, I would have been mortified, insecure, and disheartened, never mind that it wasn't my fault, just the luck of the birthday draw. As it was I was told about the meeting with my headmaster when I started university, after the gap year I took, thrilled that I could have that year but still be the same age as other freshers. I was able to laugh it off, and feel pleased I'd proved him wrong. The report says children born in August feel less like they "control their own destiny" - perhaps had I known my destiny was so heavily weighted on the side of failure, I would have felt like that too. And perhaps I would look more like the August baby the report paints.