Premature babies and school admissions

(105 Posts)
misslinnet Tue 03-Apr-12 22:48:42

I found a government e-petition about acknowledging prematurity in the Primary Schools Admissions Process.

Many LEAs use a childs actual birthdate to determine when they should start school. In some cases, the childs corrected birthdate would have put them in the following school year. The petition is for asking each LEA and the government to give parents of premature children the choice of when to send them to school and take their degree of prematurity into account.

If the e-petition gets at least 100,000 signatures, it'll be eligible for debate in the House of Commons.

This is of interest to me, as DS was born at 34 weeks in August, so I'm feeling like we'll probably be forced to send him to school a year early if you see what I mean. Although he's only 7 months old now, so too early to tell if it'll be much of a problem for him...

Acknowledging Prematurity in the Primary Schools Admissions Process

CouthyMowWearingOrange Fri 28-Sep-12 07:23:29

My DD was a 34 weeker. She has development delay. When she started YR, she was a full two years behind her peers.

This rule wouldn't have helped her though - she was born early March instead of mid April.

As it happens, I kept her in Nursery until she reached compulsory school age. Which meant that she started after the Easter holidays. She still wasn't ready.

Even now, at 14y6m, I can see that she would be better suited to being in the year below. It would make such a difference to her, and I think it would have given her a chance of getting decent GCSE results, rather than scraping F's.

My DS2 was born at 40+2. He also has a 2 year development delay. He has the same issues, but with a November birthday, is one of the older DC's in the year. He is currently in Y4. He would be much more suited to Y3. Socially as well as academically.

He will be 9yo in a few weeks. He still watches Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Justin's house. He can't follow the conversations about the latest films because he just doesn't get the themes being explored.

If they want to give parents of preemies with development delays the option to delay school by a year, then they have to give parents of full term DC's with development delays the same option.

I would have chewed the LA's arms off for the chance for my DD and my DS2 to be in the year below. I tried for ages.

Lotstoshare Fri 28-Sep-12 02:11:58

My son wasn't prem but it was so obvious that he had DD because at three he wasn't speaking and the Speech Therapist found that he was confused by similar sounds in others speech though he wasn't hearing impaired. He also couldn't physically mouth the sounds. We had to teach him where to put his tongue and teeth to make sounds. Then repeat, repeat, repeat. Other milestones weren't reached without teaching him. He was clumsy and when close to five was still like a three year old. Parallel play, playing by repeatedly arranging things, eating things that were not food. I gave my permission for an assessment to be done by a learning and behavior expert who came to the Playcentre before he started school so that by the day he started there was a teacher aid in place. He also needed a minder at school during the lunch hour. My family were disgusted when I told them as they thought I was molly coddling. However he has always loved people and has never had separation anxiety. I have never been concerned and have always believed he could catch up with assistance. However I would be in denial if I said there was never a problem. I have always known there was a problem right from birth. All you can do is focus on the positive.

FullBeam Tue 01-May-12 16:43:31

Hazey, I'm sorry you're having such a worrying time. I hope you can find the support and help you need for your ds.

libelulle Tue 01-May-12 10:08:57

I'm sorry hazey, that sounds tough. In a way, maybe the prem baby start issue is actually about kids without additional learning needs, but who were just born at the wrong time - like tigerlily's dd. Those with children with an actual learning disability need proper support in place throughout their school days, whenever they start, and as some have said, it's not as clear-cut whether delaying a year will necessarily help matters.

With prems, it seems that the disadvantage in some cases is more straightforward, in that they are effectively just too young for their year - like an august-born only more so. What I was actually told by our consultant was that prem babies don't really ever 'catch up' as such - the difference just becomes less noticeable with time. In that sense, it is not inequitable for prems to be simply 'restored' to where they would have been if they'd been born on time, so that there is not 16 months gap between them and the oldest in their class. It doesn't apply to those prems born between say september and may, because they are still effectively within the normal range for that year.

hazeyjane Tue 01-May-12 08:55:01

Ok I realise I have no place here, so I am going to leave the thread alone now, but it touched a nerve with me because I am trying to work out the best place for ds to go to nursery (he has to go because it should help with his development), and this will affect his preschool placement and we are also investigating primary school-the whole thing makes me feel sick. He has just started crawling, he has no speech, he is constantly tired, he still eats purees (swallowing issues), we are waiting for a walker to be issued by occupational therapy which should mean he will be walking with a walker by 2, he can't be left with anyone but me or dh as he has huge separation anxiety. He is making progress, but it is slow and require a lot of input from dh and I. I can't imagine him being ready for school in 2 years time.

I think the date of start in relation to actual or corrected age is such an arbitrary way to decide whether a child is ready to start school, but basing it on developmental age for certain children would probably be a logistical nightmare, so I guess at least changing the rules to give some choice to children born prematurely may be a step in the right direction. I guess I should start my own petition.

FullBeam Tue 01-May-12 08:28:24

Great post Tigerlilly.

libelulle Tue 01-May-12 01:02:28

really excellent post tigerlily and you say much better than I could why deferred admission for prems born in the 'wrong' school year makes so much sense.

By the by, I found watching my son's ears develop from simple flaps into proper newborn ears one of the few amazing and wondrous elements in the nightmare that is extremely premature birth!

Tigerlily49 Mon 30-Apr-12 23:15:33

DD2 came out of the womb on 27th August at 23 weeks. Her eyes were fused shut, ears just flaps as the cartilage had not yet grown. She also had no nipples. The only thing keeping her alive was a ventilator. In fact she didn't take her first breath without the vent until November. Without it she would have died and legally we were within our rights to have let her die at birth. She wasn't due until Christmas time and had she been overdue she could well have been born in January!
It simply makes no sense that she would have to join "peers" at school who almost without exception were breathing, feeding, growing and developing for at least four months before her and in some cases for a full 16 months more than her. At birth her development was in line with her gestation. Her development now, amazingly enough, is completely in line with her corrected age (which we were informed by her consultant would be relevant until at least the age of six). She has not and will never magically "catch up" with those children born at term on the same day as her and why should she? Coming up to age 3 she shows no signs of any sn and does not require special treatment, just to be treated the same way as any other child who was 660g, at 23 weeks gestation and in all other respects physically the same as her on 27th August, except all those fortunate souls were sitting in a womb. In my opinion there needs to be a mechanism to base school entry on due date, in particular for extremely premature infants.
Luckily for dd2, we had always intended for her and her sister to be educated in the independent sector and interestingly enough, in every case schools have either told us or agreed with us that the school year should be determined by her due date. Such a shame that all children in her situation don't have the same option.

EyeoftheStorm Mon 30-Apr-12 17:06:56

That's an interesting article, Crazymum, and nice to know that the difference in general is so small. Still significant for those children who are doing less well due to their prematurity.

I like the sound of the 'readiness for school' assessment. Does this take into account things like being dry, social skills etc.?

crazymum53 Mon 30-Apr-12 16:54:20

Also see this article for evidence across a wider range of gestations Do Premature Babies do Less Well at School.
The best practice is for children who are born prematurely to be given a pre-school assessment of their "Readiness for School". This is done in Bristol where I live (probably as a result of this research) and I have also found another Oxford based article with similar findings.
However I do have to say that the prospects for children born prematurely do seem to be improving all the time, when my dd started the school in 2005, the group with most problems was pre-28 weeks and now it's pre-26 weeks!

I have reflected on the cotton wool comment I made earlier - and would like to appologise to those offended and clarify what I actually meant.

I was trying to suggest that there is a link between children who don't attend playschool/nursery and those that struggle to adapt to the school environment and routine. I stand by that as a generalisation but accept that there will always be exceptions.

I was trying to suggest that the likely cause of a specific boy I know failing to adapt to the school environment was not his prematurity, but his parents desire to protect him from 'germs' by keeping him away from social interactions. All other prems I have known, of various gestational, have adapted to school life in line with their non-prem peers (which of course means some adapted better than others because ALL children are different).

Incidently - the little boy I refer to is now in year 3. He enjoys school, and has some.good friends but his parents are still (imo) too overprotective, e.g. they won't let him go.to bday parties incase he breaks a bone and won't heal (but admits there is no medical reason to think he would be more likely to break a bone). They even tried to stop him playing in a particular area of the playground because it was.too dangerous for him.

I was not trying to say parents of prems always wrap their dcs in cotton wool (although admit to doing so myself.for first couple of years).

I did read the article, it has some interesting stats (but as has already been said only relates to pre-26wkers and authors admit not relevant to post 26wkers). As I have said before, delayed schooling won't prevent the learning difficulties imo, just delay the diagnosis. As a result I don't think that increased prevalence of SEN (amongst a limited subset of prema) supports an argument for delayed schooling.

crazymum53 Mon 30-Apr-12 14:30:29

The posters may wish to read the following link Prem Babies struggle at School. This research suggests that it is only really a problem for VERY prem babies i.e. less than 26 weeks gestation or under 1 kg birth weight. 34 weeks gestation would not be within this category.
Basically I agree with the posters that there does need to be more flexibility in starting school for all children with developmental problems and having an admissions criteria that favours premature children may be counter-productive.
There is also a section on the Bliss website with information about deferring entry for Summer born prems.

Tbh - I don't know how many premmies I have taught...because it is not recorded (and to be fair I am secondary - it may well be recorded in early primary if parents report it to school).

I find it hard to see where that in that quote was a generalisation as I specifically referred to 1 child, whom I knew personally as a baby so know that his parents kept him in relative isolation for fear of him having a weak immune system.

I kept my own premmies behind closed doors for the first couple of years - for the same reason. The thought of bronchiolitis petrified me. For me that was the right thing to do in the first couple of years.

FullBeam Mon 30-Apr-12 11:23:13

tbh the only child I would say struggled to adapt to school more than his peers was one whose parents had wrapped him up in cotton wool and had not provided him with pre-school/playgroup opportunities to help him develop the confidence to socialise with a large group

What a horrible and insensitive post. And what a sweeping and ill informed generalisation. As a trainee teacher, HLH, exactly how many prem children have you taught?

Bronze, I have complete sympathy and often feel as you have described. It has got better for me as the years have gone on and I hope it will for you too. I'm so sorry for your loss.

hazeyjane Mon 30-Apr-12 10:28:46

sorry, was posting when distracted, I've just seen you say you had therapy - sorry.

hazeyjane Mon 30-Apr-12 10:24:13

Sorry i cross posted - I really don't think anyone is laying the blame at your feet. I understand that feeling of guilt, I have had it ever since ds was born, and it really can eat away at you - even when you think it as gone. I think talking to someone sounds like it may be helpful.

hazeyjane Mon 30-Apr-12 10:21:31

bronze, I hope nothing I posted has made you feel bad. I don't agree with the comment about wrapping up in cotton wool, it has no place here and you should dismiss it from your mind - everyone treats their children differently.

It sounds as though you have done everything you can within the system to support your dd, I hope things work out ok at school.

From what you say the 2 year check is not a satisfactory way of discharging children from paed's care, I know my friend who had a baby at 28 weeks was told they could get back in contact with their consultant directly, if they had any concerns developmentally, is this not standard?

I just think that flexibility in school start age, should apply to a wider degree than children who born prematurely.

bronze Mon 30-Apr-12 10:21:04

I have had therapy and am on bliss
I am fine until someone comes along places the blame at my feet again

I know what happened, I miscarried dds twin

BrightnessFalls Mon 30-Apr-12 10:18:32

Bronze, do you belong to any support groups? Would it help to get intouch with Bliss or anyone? For you to talk over your guilty feelings? Did they not offer this through your NICU? You can't go through life feeling guilty. Did they explain why you went into early labour?

bronze Mon 30-Apr-12 09:54:10

Just wrote a long post but can't be arsed

Just going to go and cry and feel like a shit parent again for something that I was finally beginning to not blame myself for. Cotton wool FFs

LeBFG Mon 30-Apr-12 09:48:25

Here, here haunted

This is my last post here...

I do acknowledge that premmies have developmental delays.
I state that many premmies have caught up to be on the normal developmental spectrum by the age of 2, and most by the time they go to school. They may be towards the bottom of that development spectrum (but in my direct and indirect experience I don't think that is necessarily the case), but they are still in that 'normal' spectrum. My argument, once again, is that it

Those that start to show learning difficulties once they have started school, would imo (as a trainee teacher) still show those learning difficulties a year later as they tend to be triggered/diagnosed when a child reaches a particular learning stage not age. As a result starting a year later won't stop them being diagnosed with that learning difficulty, just delay it.

There will a number of (typically) very premature children that have underlying disabilities as cerebal palsy, which have their own distinct developmental challenges. In this case the child should be treated the same as any other child with that disability.

I do think there are other things that parents of premmies could campaign for - flexibility to maternity rights, grants to fund the increased expense associated with the first couple of months (travelling costs/extortionate price of tiny nappies/clothes etc.), but I really don't see the value of this to a premmie child - its just about wrapping them up in cotton wool a bit longer (and tbh the only child I would say struggled to adapt to school more than his peers was one whose parents had wrapped him up in cotton wool and had not provided him with pre-school/playgroup opportunities to help him develop the confidence to socialise with a large group).

hazeyjane Mon 30-Apr-12 09:42:33

I don't think it is that straightforward, I know there are often threads in SN about how to get help in delaying a year, without the child having to go straight in at year1 and therefore miss the reception year.

LeBFG Mon 30-Apr-12 08:52:58

Seems to me the debate is about more flexibility for when children start school. I think this is why so many people are posting about their premmies to say how they were just fine i.e. there is a lot of variation in the group labelled 'premature babies'. I suspect lots of parents, like me, want their DC's to go into year groups of their own age - to show they came through the trauma of prematurity and now everything's fine.

I'm wondering : Do parents really find schools difficult about starting children with special needs a year later? In my day, they split our class and moved the more advanced into the year above - I'm sure there is plenty of flexibility in the system as it is. Why would a special bill need to be passed?

hazeyjane Mon 30-Apr-12 05:41:41

Well yes, but if a child that ds was due to start school with was able to offset by a year because of their prematurity (whether there was a delay or not), I'm afraid I would be asking why this rule should apply to them and not ds. Ds has to undergo a Schedule of Growing Skills every 6 months and a Ruth Griffiths assessment annually, which assesses where he is developmentally. Maybe if this could be done with children where there was a concern before primary application then that could be the basis of offsetting a year, rather than something which actually may be quite arbitrary (ie a babies actual due date in relation to the accepted date for school start)

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