In the UK, children usually start elementary school in the academic year in which they turn five. However, because entry rules vary across local districts, some schools may defer entry for children born later in the year until the second or third term.
A new study by the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM) at University College London looks at what impact an earlier versus later entry into Reception has on students’ cognitive and non-cognitive skills up until age 11 (their final year of primary school).
Christian Dustmann and Thomas Cornelissen analyzed information on more than 400,000 children born in 2000-01 who attend state schools in England and whose records are included in the National Pupil Database. This was combined with information on more than 7,000 children born in 2000-01 who took part in the Millennium Cohort study.
The researchers found that
- Receiving an extra month of schooling before age five increases test scores in language and numeracy at ages five and seven by about 6-11%.
- But by age 11, the effects on test scores have largely disappeared.
- For boys from low socioeconomic backgrounds, the benefits of an earlier school entry are even greater. An additional term of schooling before age five reduces the achievement gap between boys from low and high socioeconomic backgrounds at age seven by 60-80%.
The authors suggested their findings contributed to the debate over optimal school starting age.
Source (Open Access): Cornelissen, T., & Dustmann, C. (2019). Early School Exposure, Test Scores, and Noncognitive Outcomes. Working Paper, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration, University College London