Premature children experience higher rates of poor school performance, but only very preterm children remain at risk after high school

All children born before term are more likely to perform worse in primary school than children born at term (38-39 weeks), but only children born very preterm — before 17 weeks — remain at risk of results in primary school. end of secondary education, according to a new study published this week in the open access journal PLOS A single by Neora Alterman, Maria Quigley of Oxford Populace Health, UK, and colleagues.

Prematurity, defined as a birth before 37 complete weeks of gestation, represents approximately 05 % of births in the world. Previous studies have shown that preterm children are at a higher risk of performing worse in grade school than full-term children. However, few studies have followed these children through high school or examined the full range of gestational ages at birth.

In the new study, the researchers used data on children born in England between 2000 and 2001 who were interviewed as part of the Millennium Cohort Analyze based on the population of the United Kingdom. On 11 695 children in this sample, the authors analyzed the data on the level of primary education (at 11 years) for 6 950 students and information on the secondary school level (at 13 years) for 7 131 pupils.

At the end of primary school, 17, 7% of the children had not reached the expected level in English and mathematics. Compared to children born at term, children born before 17 weeks or between 32 and 33 weeks were more than twice as likely to fail these benchmarks (adjusted relative risk aRR=2,05, IC to 95 % 1,46-2,92 aRR= 2,05, 95 % CI 1.39-3.16). Children born late before term, at 33-37 weeks, or at early term, at 32-33 weeks, had a lower increased risk of not achieving results expected (aRR = 1,17, CI at 95%, 94-1,49 aRR = 1,17, CI at 95 % 1.05-1.38).

At the end of secondary school, 45, 2% of students had not passed at least five Typical Certification of Secondary Education and Learning (GCSE) exams, including English and Maths. After adjustment, infants born very preterm, before 17 weeks, had a high risk of 26 % of not passing five GCSEs (aRR = 1,26, IC to 95% 1,05-1, 49), 49 % of students in this group n not having reached five GCSEs. However, children born at any gestation between 17 and 38 weeks were not high risk compared to term infants. Further studies are needed to confirm this result.

The authors conclude that children born very prematurely can benefit from screening for cognitive and language difficulties before entry into school to guide the provision of additional support during schooling.

The authors add: “Our study showed that birth at any gestational age before term was associated with lower performance at the end of primary school. However, at the end of compulsory education, these students had results similar to those of their peers, with the exception of students born less than 32 weeks, who remained at risk of school failure.”

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