Children who are born preterm, before 37 weeks of gestation, are at higher risk of developing learning difficulties and special educational needs as they grow up.
Researchers from Ulster University, the University of Leicester, the University of Nottingham, Loughborough University and University College London have developed a website which helps teachers support children who were born prematurely with learning and schoolwork.
Funded by children’s charity Action Medical Research, this tool explains the impact preterm birth can have on a child’s development and learning and includes practical strategies that teachers can use to support children in their school. The resource has been trialled by 61 primary school teachers and after using it there was a large increase in their knowledge of preterm birth and in their confidence in supporting preterm pupils in their class.
Around 61,000 children are born prematurely each year in the UK alone, with an average of two or three preterm children in every British classroom.
Children born extremely preterm, before 28 weeks of gestation, are most likely to need extra support, but those born just a few weeks early may still face difficulties in school.
Dr Victoria Simms, Research Director at the School of Psychology said:
“Our research has found that children born very preterm may face significant issues in school, especially with poor attention and difficulties learning mathematics. This innovative, free resource for teachers helps to bridge the gap between healthcare and education, providing information and strategies to support children who were born preterm in the classroom.”
Professor Samantha Johnson, Professor of Child Development at the University of Leicester, said:
“Our initial research identified that teachers have limited training about the difficulties children born prematurely might face and how to support these children at school.
However, when teachers used our new e-learning resource their confidence in how to support a preterm child increased significantly. So much so that 97% of teachers in the study said they would recommend it to others.”
Dr Tracy Swinfield, Director of Research at Action Medical Research, said:
“As a children’s charity we are proud to play a role in helping children who may need extra help in the classroom reach their full potential. This exciting new resource for teachers has the potential to make a difference to thousands of young lives.”