From the University of Warwick
By Kelly Parkes-Harrison
February 20, 2015
Putting off the start of school for children with a late birthday or who were born prematurely may do more harm than good as kids get older.
Parents may feel these children aren’t mature enough to start school—and earlier research has suggested children born more than three weeks before their due date may benefit from starting school a year later than those who were born at full-term.
“Our study shows that delaying school entry has no effect on Year 1 teacher ratings of academic performance, but it is associated with poorer performance in age-standardized tests of reading, writing, mathematics, and attention as the children get older,” says Dieter Wolke, professor in the psychology department at the University of Warwick.
Read the Original Study HERE.
For the study, published in the Journal of Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, researchers used a natural experimental design to test their hypotheses as they could not carry out a randomized trial.
“We obviously could not delay children starting school for the experiment, so we had to find a suitable study sample. We chose the Bavarian Longitudinal Study because Bavarian policy requires all children to be assessed by a community pediatrician three to 12 months before their school entry date to assess their readiness for school, Wolke says.
At the time of assessment in Bavaria, all children reaching six years of age before June 30 started school the following September. The team studied 999 children, of which 472 were born preterm. The new findings are particularly applicable to preterm children who are born up to four months before their due date and may enter school less mature compared with their peers.
Researchers compared teacher ratings of achievement in Year 1 and then looked at the standardized mathematics, reading, writing, and attention test scores when the children reached 8 years of age.
Many parents of preterm children believed delaying school entry would be more beneficial, says coauthor Julia Jaekel from the developmental psychology department at the Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany.
“Many parents demand that preterm children should be held back, particularly if they were born in the summer. This is also supported by many charities supporting parents with preterm children.
“However, we found missing one year of learning opportunities was associated with poorer average performance in standardized tests at 8 years of age for both preterm and full-term children.
“Future research is needed to determine the long-term effect of delayed school entry on academic achievement, but our results certainly give parents and educational providers food for thought.”