Report suggests delaying school entry for preterm babies may not be the answer

A new report launched today 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 our Department of Health Sciences and Infant Mortality and Morbidity Studies (TIMMS) group, 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.

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