A simple screen performed at school entry can predict academic under-achievement at age seven in children born very preterm

Rebecca Taylor, Leona Pascoe, Shannon Scratch, Lex W. Doyle, Peter Anderson, Gehan Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: We aimed to compare the academic outcomes of a cohort of children born very preterm (VPT, <32 weeks of gestation) and children born at term at age 7 years and assess the ability of a pre-academic skill screen at age five to predict later academic impairment in children born VPT at age seven. Methods: One hundred ninety-four children born VPT (born with either gestational age <30 weeks or birthweight <1250 g) and 70 controls born at term from a prospective birth cohort were compared on academic outcomes (Wide Range Achievement Test, WRAT4) at age seven using regression analyses. Receiver-operating characteristic curves were used to determine whether pre-academic skills (Kaufman Survey of Early Academic and Language Skills, K-SEALS) at age five predicted academic impairment at age seven in 174 of the VPT cohort. Results: At the age of 7 years, children born VPT had lower mean word reading (−9.7, 95% CI: −14.7 to −4.6), spelling (−8.3, 95% CI: −13.3 to −3.3) and math computation (−10.9, 95% CI: −15.3 to −6.5) scores (all P-values ≤0.001) compared with controls born at term, even after adjusting for social risk and time since school commencement. In terms of pre-academic screening, the Numbers, Letters and Words subtest of the K-SEALS had adequate sensitivity and specificity (70–80%) for predicting children with academic impairment at age seven. Conclusions: Children born VPT underperformed in academic outcomes at age seven compared with controls born at term. A pre-academic screening tool used at school entry can predict children born VPT at risk of academic impairment at age seven who could benefit from targeted early intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)759-764
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Paediatrics and Child Health
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • academic outcomes
  • learning disorders
  • premature
  • sensitivity and specificity
  • very low birthweight

Cite this