1 In 4 Students In Every Classroom Are Born Premature

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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“In the average UK classroom, there will be four children who have been born prematurely. Many of these students have emerging special needs that are different to what teachers have known before”, says Professor Barry Carpenter.


I am obviously a huge advocate for @BlissCharity and @Tommys_Baby after discovering the world of premature babies first hand in May 2011. As such, with World Prematurity Day on Sunday 17th November 2013, what better opportunity to share with my readers, the world of tiny, little people.

I hope to share a brief moment with you; discussing how [the child’s] entry into the world (too soon), and how such an early – and in some cases, unavoidable birth – can make an impact in your classroom, as well as the child’s personal development.

This article, is to support all the families; mothers; parents; children and teachers who know someone, a child or a family, who have dealt with the trauma of a premature child. This is my small contribution to #WorldPrematurityDay. Any sharing of this post on your behalf, would significantly raise awareness across the UK. So, please do!

The facts:

“Each year 15 million babies will be born prematurely around the globe – 60,000 here in the UK.” (Bliss)

World Prematurity Day

I do not want this article to be about my own son, but at least it may provide some context for the reader, in terms of what 1 in 9 children have to endure so early on in their lives. I then hope to put this all into perspective, regarding teaching and learning and school life.

Meet @FreddieWM:

Day 7 - @FreddieWM - 1lb 6ozs - 28th May 2011
Day 7 – @FreddieWM – 1lb 6ozs – 28th May 2011



Eighty thousand children are now born prematurely every year (and prematurely means anything before 36 weeks’ gestation). This means that in every classroom there are now four children who have been born prematurely.

Research has found, however, that 63 per cent of children born prematurely have some form of disability or SEN, and this figure is higher among children born before 28 weeks. Not only that, many have learning difficulties that have not previously been encountered. (Source)

Freddie’s story:

I have decided to simplify my son’s journey as a list of ailments and treatments. If you wish to read his full story, you can do so over here on Day 89 of his life on his popular prematurity blog.

Medical notes:

  1. Prematurity 28+2 weeks
  2. Chronic Lung Disease
  3. Inguinal right Hernia
  4. Left testicle Hydrocele
  5. Meningitis – x3wks of antibiotics
  6. Conjugated Jaundice
  7. Patency of the Arterial Duct (PDA)
  8. x3 doses to close the duct
  9. Pre-birth steroids for lungs
  10. Gastro-esophageal reflux
  11. Metabolic bone disease
  12. Intubated
  13. CPAP ventilation and High Frequency Oscillation Ventilation x2
  14. Renal tract ultrasound scan
  15. Abdominal ultrasound scan
  16. Cranial ultrasound scan
  17. Retinal examinations
  18. Nasogastric tube insertion
  19. x4 blood transfusions
  20. Countless medications and vitamins e.g. morphine

And after 82 days in hospital, his medical problems at discharge were:

  1. On oxygen support for 3 further months
  2. Conjugated hyperbilirubinamia
  3. Osteopenia of prematurity
  4. GORD
  5. Ingunial right hernia
  6. and 8 different medications lasting various time-frames.
  7. A further hernia operation was required, 1 year later, as a result of the original hernia, which was generated by the completion of a first hernia operation.

In the classroom:

The EPIcure study found that:

“… at the age of six, only 22 per cent of children born before 28 weeks, had survived with no disability. When these children reached 11, there were four major developmental issues. More than 60 per cent had developed some form of attention deficit disorder …”


Adaptive Teaching:

As teachers, we must develop pedagogical practice for a new generation of children. We have all discussed this in detail; regarding recent curriculum changes, as well as raised awareness, specifying what parts of the new curriculum do not support the needs of our learners. Viral-videos such as Shift Happens and Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity? can provide the vision we all aspire towards …

As our own children’s and school-children’s SEN needs have changed, then so must our teaching. We need to equip teachers with strategies, but continue to provide a level of care and guidance for students, with specific intervention and support. Sometimes, this will need more than just a classroom teacher …

We must provide a curriculum that enables students to achieve.

As Sir Ken Robinson says:

“Children must be encouraged to be wrong and learn from mistakes. Do not educate people [students] out of their creative capacities. All children are born artists. We grow out of creativity. We get educated out of it!

… Every country in the world has the same hierarchy of subjects. On the hierarchy of subjects: first there is, Mathematics and Languages; then the Humanities; then at the bottom of the ladder are the Arts …”

During my recent #Find_TTkit_A_Job escapades to Scotland, I have enjoyed researching the Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland and this video-animation is equally as inspiring as Sir Ken and the educational utopia. It’s worth a watch if you are teaching in Scotland.


Ideology vs. Practicality

But, does this ideology

also support the needs of ‘all’ our students? Including premature born?


“As premature babies develop through childhood and adulthood, it becomes harder to know which of their traits and characteristics are a result of premature birth rather than other factors.” (Tommy’s Baby)

Source: Pearson Education 2006
Source: Pearson Education 2006

As I watch my son grow, I celebrate each small milestone. I can vividly recall the moment the doctors rolled up their sleeves, or pull out yet another scanning device to tell us that there were ‘no holes in his heart’; that there were ‘4 ventricles in the brain’ and so forth. This information could have easily changes our lives in a millisecond and I know, that this may be the case for many other parents.

Freddie continues to reach ‘average’ milestones each quarter and it is heart-warming to see him develop so well each time we have a medical review. You know, when you experience premature birth like 1 in 4 parents do, your only real aspiration, is that your child will grow up to be just like any other average child. Offer me this in 21st May 2011 and I’d have bit your hand off!

Thoughts on creativity...
Thoughts on creativity…

It will only be with the encouragement of parents and teachers, that I can encourage Freddie to reach his true potential. There is a beautiful summary on ‘Thoughts of creativity’ at home, in this blog, ‘Welcome to Dinovember’. It is truly heart-warming.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To find out more about how Freddie is developing, you can click here to read his blog which I update every 3 months to support #WorldPrematurityDay and share our small success story with our preemie parents.

Summer born children:


Also of use, is the DfE’s guidance here for parents on ‘summer born’ students. The headlines are shown below:

Key points

  • school admission authorities are required to provide for the admission of all children in the September following their fourth birthday, but flexibilities exist for children whose parents do not feel they are ready to begin school at this point.
  • school admission authorities are responsible for making the decision on which year group a child should be admitted to, but are required to make a decision based on the circumstances of the case.
  • there is no statutory barrier to children being admitted outside their normal year group.”

Impact in school:

“… A recent US study said that pre-term children are at high risk of learning difficulties and poor academic attainment by the age of 11, particularly in mathematics. It is mathematics that often proves to be the most challenging area of the curriculum….

Numeracy and mathematical computation are dealt with in the parietal lobe in the brain and we need to hear more from neuroscientists about the function of the parietal lobe and how premature birth affects that.

…They [students/children] may get anxious, emotional and find it difficult to focus, concentrate and deal with the dynamics of a fast-moving classroom.

Support us:

Click to donate
Click to donate

If you would like to make a small donation, you can do so, by visiting http://www.justgiving.com/FreddieMcGill or text “FRED82 £10” to 70070. We are 75% of the way towards paying for (just) 1 days care in hospital. If you need motivation, there are over 700 photos of Freddie’s life, here.

Thank you for reading and supporting #WorldPrematurityDay.

Further Reading:

  • Premature babies ‘go on to struggle in the classroom’ (telegraph.co.uk)

7 thoughts on “1 In 4 Students In Every Classroom Are Born Premature

  1. I have been there as a parent as well and want to offer hope to those who may be reading this. My oldest, now 10, was born at 30 weeks, very sick, needed emergency bowel surgery at a couple of days old, further surgery in the following weeks, loads of medication for various issues etc. By the time he started nursery, the only issues he had were speech delay, not serious, and a surgical hernia. At the end of reception, he was on the school gifted and talented register for exceptional reading, and now, Y6 is on for both maths and English. No learning or social problems at all. My youngest, born at almost 37 weeks, now 8, is also on the school Gifted and Talented and is working at a higher than average level in all subjects. He is summer born.
    So, to any parents worried about the statistics, and believe me I was terrified by them when I first read them many years ago, there is hope.
    As a teacher, I feel lucky to have experienced this myself because I am much more aware of the needs of some of the children who were born prematurely, and have taught many who do have the learning needs mentioned.
    World Prematurity Day is a great time to raise the issue, and awareness of the great work of the charities and SCBU / NICU / PICU units around the country. The doctors and nurses in those units are worth their weight in gold and a lot more besides.

  2. You might be interested in reading what I have to say about difference – I am also on a different parenting journey to the one I thought I was. I have only recently started my blogging journey, where I am (attempting to!) chart some of the conclusions I have come to, both as a mother and a teacher.
    When we become parents, our knowledge of children is ‘subtle-ized’ – and when our children bear a label of ‘difference’ (whatever that may be), it changes all over again.

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