Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Child psychiatric disorder and relative age within school year: cross sectional survey of large population sample

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 28 August 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:472

Rapid Response:

Meeting children's needs .

The study said that: "Teachers often forget to make allowances for a
child's relative age"!.... It appears that they also forget to make
allowances for a child's educational needs, intellectual potential and
already obtained academic ability. Children are not regarded as
individuals in education.

Being the youngest in the year is only associated with educational
disadvantage if the teacher does not make allowances for a child's ability
or needs. Its not the parent that has the unreasonable expectation, its
the system as it expects everybody to function at a certain level at a
certain age in their life regardless of their intelligence, ability, need,
personality or situation.

Grouping children by relative age would only help the solve the
problem if all those children at that particular age were at the exact
same level and stage of their educational, social and emotional
development and have the same needs that need to be met.

Children need to have their particular educational needs met to be
happy and fulfilled in their education. Meeting children’s age
requirements is, in the large majority of cases, not meeting the child’s
educational needs and is very damaging to a child’s self esteem and
feelings of self worth which in turn affects them psychologically and

Surely a more sensible approach would be to start children at school
when they are emotionally and socially ready to start school and then put
the children into classes at a level that is appropriate and suitable to
their ability and need.

Competing interests:  
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

31 August 2003
Jolanda Challita