Children born pre-term are at no greater risk of underperforming by the end of secondary school than those who arrive at full-term unless they were very premature, a study suggests.
Despite premature babies being more likely to go on to have poorer attainment in primary education, this trend only continues up to the age of 16 for those born earlier than 32 weeks, the research found.
The study, by researchers Dr Neora Alterman and Maria Quigley and published in the journal Plos One, used data on children born in England from 2000-2001 who were surveyed in the population-based UK Millennium Cohort Study.
It defines pre-term births as those before 37 weeks and very pre-term births as those before 32 weeks of pregnancy.
Of 11,695 children in that sample, the authors analysed data on attainment in primary school at age 11 for 6,950 pupils, and information on secondary school attainment at age 16 for 7,131 pupils.
At the end of primary school, children born very pre-term were more than twice as likely not achieve the expected level in English and maths as those born full-term, and all premature babies were more likely to underperform, the researchers say.
But at the end of secondary school, only children born before 32 weeks were at any increased risk of failing to pass five GCSEs, according to the study.
60% in this group did not reach that benchmark, compared with 45.2% among the total sample, the researchers say.
They added that further studies were needed to confirm the result.
The authors, both of both of Oxford Population Health, conclude that children born very prematurely may benefit from screening for cognitive and language difficulties prior to school entry.
They added: “Our study showed that birth at any gestational age earlier than full term was associated with poorer attainment at the end of primary school.
“However, at the end of compulsory education, these pupils had similar outcomes to their peers, except for pupils born at less than 32 weeks, who remained at risk of low attainment.”
STV News is now on WhatsApp
Get all the latest news from around the countryFollow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp
Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country