School age should be based on due date…you don’t say!

I do love a bit of research, especially an actual study. And I particularly like a really expensive bit of research that has been carried out by some really fancy, highly paid people with loads of letters after their name. But, what I REALLY like about a bit of research is when it is stating the bleeding obvious. 

My youngest son, Joe, who is now the ripe old age of 14, was born a few weeks early.  He was quite poorly when he was born, but soon rallied and is now a prop for the rugby team so hurrah for the medical advances and amazing medical staff who looked after us. However, despite Joe’s robust personality, good health and positive outlook on life, he really struggled at school and remained a good year behind his contemporaries up until quite recently. I always maintained that a lot of the reasons for Joe’s struggle with learning, concentrating and generally being able to be at school, lay with the fact that he was born too early. Joe’s birthday is 28 August. This means that when he started school he was only just four, and when he started secondary school he was only just 11. Joe found every aspect of school life difficult, but whenever I suggested to teachers that this could be because he was a prem baby, I was told that Joe had behavioural problems, lacked social skills and was generally a pain in the arse!
This very week one of those fancy studies that I love so much has been published that states pre term babies are more likely to underperform at school.
Researchers from the University of Bristol found that premature babies were at an educational disadvantage compared to children born at full term. The study also observed that the problem was especially prevalent in August premature babies who went on to attend school a year earlier.
Sir Albert Aynsley Green who is one of the UK’s leading experts on children’s services said the data should prompt a change in policy on entry ages.
Finally! Common sense has prevailed! I was desperate for Joe to stay at home for an extra year and to stay in primary school for an extra year because I knew he wasn’t ready for school, but nobody listened to me, but then I suppose I am only his mother! The consequence of Joe, and I am sure other August prem babies, going to school too soon was that he had to endure bullying from other children who were brighter and more tuned in than he was, and the stress associated with simply not being able to understand what was going on! The teachers failed to understand why Joe behaved the way he did and why he found learning so hard. The reality was that at four years old, Joe was still very much a ‘baby’ in many senses of the word.
I really hope that this expensive study by really clever people that states the absolute obvious will now ensure some changes are made. Perhaps the education experts and government will listen to the professor and his clever team, because they certainly haven’t bothered to listen to any parents yet.

Published by Sarah Adams

I am the author of The Life Edit, an eight step personal development coaching programme that harnesses the power of journalling and writing to help people make transformational changes to their lives. I am also journalist and writer who has worked for newspapers, magazines, TV and online for the last 35 years, and an accredited personal development practitioner. I have written books, appeared on TV and radio and have worked in the world of corporate communications as a senior manager. I launched and ran The Community Media Group for ten years-this is a social enterprise that exists to produce professional, community newspapers in socially challenging areas as well as providing free training.

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