Friday, 18 October 2013


Children who are born prematurely should have their school starting date set by their due date rather than their actual birthday, a UK study suggests. Researchers from the University of Bristol found that preterm infants perform more poorly in primary school testing than classmates who were born at around 40 weeks. This educational disadvantage was particularly noticeable among summer born children who went to school a year earlier as a result of a premature birth.

'Change school entry rules'

Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green, former first Children's Commissioner for England and Professor Emeritus of Child Health, University College London, says in a statement: "Education experts must look at these data and argue for a change in policy so that the school entry age for children born prematurely is based on their expected due date rather than their premature date of birth."

Special educational needs

After adjusting for other factors which might skew the results, almost a third of children born prematurely (31.5%) were found to record a low score at KS1 compared to just over a fifth (21.2%) of those born at term. Furthermore, those in the premature group were more likely to need special educational support (35.5%) than those born around 40 weeks (23.3%). Also, those placed in the correct school year based on their estimated due date achieved more highly than those whose school entry year was determined by their actual date of birth.

Delaying school entry

The researchers say that delayed school entry may benefit August born premature children and that this finding fits other studies done in the UK. Speaking about the findings, lead author Dr David Odd, senior clinical lecturer at the University of Bristol’s School of Clinical Sciences and a clinician based at Southmead Hospital NICU in Bristol, says in a statement: "Our research indicates that children who were born prematurely are at higher risk of poor school performance and in greater need of additional educational support at primary school. Some of the social and educational difficulties these children face may be avoidable by recognising the impact that their date of birth has on when they start school."

Changes to admissions code

A spokesperson for the Department for Education says in an emailed statement: "We have changed the Schools Admissions Code to make it easier for parents to defer their child’s entry or request they attend part time until they reach their fifth birthday. "Schools should make this clear in their own admissions arrangements so that parents are fully aware of the options available for their children."

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