The Premature Baby Charity for Northern Ireland

Delayed School Starting

TinyLife Welcomes Delayed School Starting

Northern Ireland’s premature baby charity, TinyLife welcomes Education Minster, Peter Weir’s announcement that he intends to bring forward a draft bill  to legislate for some children born prematurely, especially those  who are ‘summer born’,   to benefit from delayed school starting.

Being born prematurely could  mean that some children may actually benefit from starting school a year later. However, legislation deems it mandatory for children to start education once they reach the age of four, with exemption from this rule requiring a statement of special educational needs.

Greater flexibility especially for those summer-born  children, who as a result may fall into a different school year, has always been on the agenda in Northern Ireland.  The legislation would provide parents with the opportunity to chose  for their child to  start school in  the  Academic year  they were due in, had they been born full term.

Alison McNulty, TinyLife  CEO said, “We are delighted that the Department of Education are bringing forward potential legislation to delay school starting age, as research has shown the  negative impact on some children born prematurely if they enter formal education too soon.

Even in the early days  in neo natal care parents worry about the impact of being born premature will have on their baby to  reach developmental milestones and how their child will be able to cope when it is time for them to start school.  It won’t necessarily apply to all babies born prematurely but will primarily affect babies with a birthday in April, May or June. Under current legislation these children find themselves in school a year too early and are often the youngest in the class.   They may not be ready for formal education and this can have a detrimental impact in terms of educational achievement and longer-term life outcomes.  We believe these children born prematurely,  would be happier, more confident and academically successful if their due date, rather than birth date, was used for school entry

TinyLife is delighted to be working with the Department of Education in driving this forward and as part of the process will ensure the views of parents are heard as part of the consultation process.    Parental choice and involvement in their child’s academic future is so important. If flexible school starting age is made law, it will have a huge impact on generations for years to come.

Thanks to everyone who has worked with us in campaigning for this move.  We look forward to continuing that work.”

TinyLife mum, Mary Boden supports the positive news saying, “When you have a premature baby, once you get over the worry of whether your baby will even survive, you’re then met with a new kind of worry about their quality of life, whether they’ll need extra support medically and physically and whether they will be able to cope with mainstream education.

Even during our time in neonatal intensive care I worried whether my daughter would be able to keep up with her peers in school, and knowing that we could delay her starting formal education for a year if she needed to, is  a great relief and helps us worry slightly less about her school days and reassures us that her exceptional circumstances will be taken into account by her teachers and educational professionals.”