It could, in fact, cause poorer academic performance as the children get older."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-standardised tests of reading, writing, mathematics and attention as the children get older," said Dieter Wolke, corresponding author of the study, from the University of Warwick, Britain.

The research team used a natural experimental design to test their hypotheses, as they could not carry out a randomised trial.The team studied 999 children, of which 472 were born pre-term. These new findings are particularly applicable to pre-term children who are born up to four months before their due date and may enter school less mature compared with their peers.

The researchers compared teacher ratings of achievement in Year 1 and then looked at the results of standardised mathematics, reading, writing and attention tests when the children reached eight years of age.

"We found missing one year of learning opportunities was associated with poorer average performance in standardised tests at 8 years of age for both pre-term and full-term children," said study co-author Julia Jaekel from Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany.

The findings were published in the Journal of Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology.


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