Preterm babies more likely to struggle at school but delaying school entry may not be the answer

Posted by ap507 at Mar 10, 2016 12:00 AM |
University of Leicester researchers involved in study of babies born prematurely

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 10 March

A copy of the report is available on request. Contact the University of Leicester Press Office on

A new report launched today (10 March) suggests that prematurely born babies are more likely to have learning difficulties at school age, and the risk increases the earlier they are born.

A study, which is funded by the Nuffield Foundation and led by Professor Dieter Wolke at the University of Warwick working with Dr Samantha Johnson from the University of Leicester, has found children born before 34 weeks of gestation are more likely to have cognitive problems and learning difficulties, compared to children born at term.

However, while many parents consider delayed school entry as a way of helping their preterm children to do better at school, the report suggests that preterm children may benefit from entering school at the appropriate age but receiving additional support in the classroom.

The report, The Impact of Premature Birth on Mathematics Achievement and Schooling, is being launched at a seminar today at the Nuffield Foundation.

As part of the report the research team conducted a survey of education professionals’ knowledge and information needs relating to the education of children born preterm.

Dr Samantha Johnson from the University of Leicester’s Department of Health Sciences and The Infant Mortality and Morbidity Studies (TIMMS) group, who helped produce the report, said: “Teachers and educational psychologists receive little formal training about the effects of preterm birth on children’s long term development and learning and are often not aware of appropriate strategies to support preterm children in the classroom.”

The research team also includes Dr Julia Jakel from the University of Tennessee and Dr Camilla Gilmore from Loughborough University.

Professor Wolke added: “Our findings lead us to recommend that all preterm children born before 34 weeks of gestation may benefit from regular follow-up after discharge from hospital. Interventions are required around the time of school entry to facilitate preterm children to have an optimal start to their schooling career. Delayed school entry is not recommended based on our current evidence, but more research is needed.”

The Preterm Birth: Impact on Mathematics and achievement (PRIME) study is funded by The Nuffield Foundation.

Notes to editors

For more information please contact Professor Dieter Wolke at the University of Warwick on

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