Do children who are born prematurely struggle more at school?

A study published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood looks at whether children who are born prematurely (at 23–36 weeks) are more likely to struggle in school compared to their full-term peers.

David Odd and colleagues used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) (a longitudinal population-based cohort study that enrolled pregnant women in 1991 and 1992) to examine how the educational progress of children who are born prematurely varies from their peers throughout school, and to what extent they catch up over time.

The study found that, on average, premature children had lower test scores at Key Stage 1 (5–7 years), and continued to perform below their peers throughout school However, there was some evidence of catching up between Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 (age 7 to 11 years), particularly among children with the lowest scores. Between Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4 (14-16 years) premature children progressed at a similar rate as their peers.

There was little evidence that closing the gap between KS1 and KS2 was explained by special education support. The authors point out that educating premature children in their correct school year for their expected birth date may be a cost-effective way of supporting them, and also highlight the importance of early schooling and environment for these children.Source: Prediction of school outcome after preterm birth: a cohort study (October 2018), Archives of Disease in Childhood doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2018-315441