This section provides advice on how education professionals can support children born preterm.
You may not know if a child was born preterm. Some parents are in favour of the school knowing their child’s birth history, but others prefer not to disclose this information. Don’t assume a child was born preterm just because they fit the profile described here. There are many reasons a child may have difficulties at school.
Regardless of whether you know a child’s birth history, the advice and strategies provided in this section are likely to be beneficial to any child with the difficulties described.
Children and young adults born preterm, and their parents, were asked what they wished their teachers had known about how they think and learn, and about how their preterm birth may have affected them later in life. Select the icons to hear some of their answers.
Julia, mum of Luke (age 13):
What I really wish is that teachers were educated on the needs of ex-premature babies. It is rarely seen as an important factor in school and I think is dismissed as a ‘past issue’.
Luke (age 13):
It would have been nicer if I got better learning support when I was little. And if the teachers had known that I needed help and could have seen it themselves. I get great learning support now. Doing maths is now fun. It used to be horrible knowing I couldn’t do everything that the other kids did and no-one could see I needed extra help. I just used to copy my friends work.
Caroline, mum of Tom (age 16):
Tom and I feel teachers need to be aware of the support that premature babies need; that all premature babies are different and their learning paces are too. Tom has two teachers he feels have really helped him. These teachers have recapped over his work and taken time to explain things in greater depth, and always checked his notes at the end of lessons and gave him copies of anything that he’d missed. Tom has a higher mock grade in both of these GCSE subjects. As a parent I do think that the extra support and encouragement he gets shows.
Sandra, mum of Sophie (age 13):
It is easier knowing that teachers can have an understanding of what has gone on with my child. Knowing that teaching staff are sympathetic is fantastic, but they need to be proactive. I remember saying to Sophie’s year 5 teacher that I’d try to sort something out to resolve a situation. She said “but you shouldn’t have to. That’s our job.” It was so good to hear that she really, really wanted to help Sophie and to share the burden.
Naomi (age 23):
It’s really important to show teachers and children that being born preterm does not stop you from achieving great things.
Lauren (age 14):
In maths, I often freeze and panic. I don’t like getting minus marks for incomplete work when I'm actually trying my hardest. I would like the teachers to recognise when I'm actually doing my best even though it might not look it.
Paul, dad of Ethan (age 9):
I wish teachers knew about premature birth so that children’s problems aren’t missed. Even though my son doesn't present as a typical child with ADHD, he still has concentration issues that need closer monitoring.
Rachel, mum of Alice (age 11):
We both think that it would have helped us if her teachers had understood Alice’s anxiety. Her very sensitive nature was recognised by some staff and that made a huge difference. As a teacher myself, I think that as a profession we are very forgiving in the early years but as children become older, we think that they should “grow out of things.” An understanding about the long-term emotional impact of prematurity would be very valuable.