The following is a summary of “Preterm Birth is Associated with Lower Academic Attainment at Age 12 Years: A Matched Cohort Study by Linkage of Population-Based Datasets” published in the December 2022 issue of Pediatrics by Beek et al.

Utilizing standardized, nationally representative, and thoroughly verified school assessments, researchers, for a study, sought to compare academic achievement at age 12 between preterm children born below 30 weeks of gestation and their matched term-born counterparts.

The population-based, national cohort study included 4,677 surviving preterm infants born at 250/7-296/7 weeks of gestational age and 366,561 controls born at 40 weeks of gestation between 2000 and 2007. It was conducted by fusing perinatal data from the national Netherlands Perinatal Registry with educational outcome data from Statistics Netherlands. The participation rate in special education was first determined. Then, using year and month of birth, sex, parity, socioeconomic position, and mother age, all preterm children with academic achievement test results generated at age 12 were matched to term-born children. Scores on the combined language, and math exams as well as secondary school level recommendations, were compared between these 2 groups.

In comparison to peers who were born at term, children under 30 weeks of gestation had a greater participation rate in special education (10.2% vs 2.7%, P< .001). Preterm children received more advice at the prevocational secondary school level (62% vs. 46%, P< .001) and had poorer overall (−0.37 SD; 95% CI −0.42 to −0.31), language (−0.21 SD; 95% CI −0.27 to −0.15), and math (−0.45 SD; 95%CI −0.51 to −0.38) z scores.

At the end of primary school, a significant percentage of kids who were born before 30 weeks of gestation require special education. The kids significantly underperformed their matched term-born classmates on all academic achievement tests at the age of 12, notably arithmetic.