Children born premature can ‘catch-up’ at school ShareThis


Children who are born premature may ‘catch up’ educationally despite lower test scores in their early education (key stage 1).

University of Bristol researchers, looking at the school test data of 12,586 children in the Children of the 90s longitudinal study, wanted to assess if infants born prematurely struggle in school as they grow up.  To date most research has looked at how these children perform at school but not how they can make progress.

Published in the British Medical Journal’s Archives of Diseases of Childhood the findings show that while the trajectory of educational progress varies, children may ‘catch up’ by the time they are age 11 (key stage 2).  At all four key stage assessments preterm children had a higher chance of being in the lowest scoring group but had a higher trajectory of improvement, particularly between key stage 1 and 2.

Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Bristol and Consultant Neonatologist at Southmead Hospital Dr David Odd led the research and commented: “While we know that children born prematurely are more likely to struggle at school than their peers we didn’t know what their capacity was to catch up over time.

“With six per cent of births in the UK occurring four weeks or earlier than their due date it is important for both parents and the education profession to know when targeted help could be most effective.  Compared to their early tests at school these perform better than would be expected so those managing support for them should not underestimate their capabilities and plan accordingly.”

The study was funded by Southmead Hospital Charity, Bristol. Elizabeth Bond, head of fundraising at Southmead Hospital Charity, said: “Southmead Hospital Charity is proud to support research like this that gives us a valuable insight into long term health and development outcomes and can shape the way children are supported as they grow.

“Our research fund is designed to provide springboard funding for projects that support patients now and, in the future, shaping the way that healthcare is delivered.”

Further information

Prediction of school outcome after preterm birth: a cohort study by David Odd, David Evans and Alan Emond published in the British Medical Journal’s Archives of Diseases of Childhood.

Based at the University of Bristol, Children of the 90s, also known as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), is a long-term health-research project that enrolled more than 14,000 pregnant women in 1991 and 1992. It has been following the health and development of the parents and their children in detail ever since and is currently recruiting the children and the siblings of the original children into the study. It receives core funding from the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and the University of Bristol. Find out more at

Southmead Hospital Charity funds ground-breaking medical research; provides specialist equipment at the cutting-edge of technology and improves treatment facilities for generations to come.  It raises money to support the work of North Bristol NHS Trust at Southmead Hospital, Cossham Hospital and community health services in the Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset areas.

For more information contact or telephone 0117 331 0077.


NB Please note that this news article has been reposted from the ALSPAC website.