Delayed School Entry May Disadvantage Preterm Children

Julia Jaekel PhD Department of Developmental Psychology Ruhr-University Bochum in Interview with:
Julia Jaekel PhD
Department of Developmental Psychology
Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany


Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Jaekel: Recent reports suggest that delayed school entry (DSE) may be beneficial for children with developmental delays. However, studies of the effects of DSE are inconclusive. Our study investigated the effects of delayed school entry versus age-appropriate entry (ASE) in a large sample after minimizing selection bias and accounting for confounding effects of preschool knowledge. We found that delayed school entry has no effect on Year 1 teacher ratings of academic performance. In contrast, DSE children’s standardized mean test scores of mathematics, reading, writing and attention at 8 years of age were lower than ASE children’s mean scores.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Jaekel: These findings are particularly applicable to preterm children who are born up to four months before their due date and may enter school less mature compared with their peers. Parents of preterm children often inquire whether they can delay entry into school as they believe it would benefit their child. This may arise from an expectation that preterm children will developmentally catch-up with their peers over time. However, parents and professionals should be aware that delayed school entry may not promote preterm children’s academic performance. Thus decisions to delay school entry should be taken with due caution as there may be disadvantages arising from missing one year of learning opportunities or not receiving special educational support. Effectively, delayed school entry may mean that children miss out on learning opportunities during the critical early years.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Jaekel: There are two implications for future research:

Firstly, we need studies investigating how to best provide specific educational support for children who have failed their school entry exams. Researchers, clinicians, teachers, and parents need to work together in order to ensure that children with developmental delays receive the specific help they need to thrive in school.

Secondly, future research is needed to determine the long-term impact of delayed school entry on academic performance and attainment at the end of formal schooling.


Julia Jaekel, Vicky Yu-Chun Strauss, Samantha Johnson, Camilla Gilmore, Dieter Wolke. Delayed school entry and academic performance: a natural experiment. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 2015; DOI: 10.1111/dmcn.12713

[wysija_form id=”1″] Interview with:, & Julia Jaekel PhD (2015). Delayed School Entry May Disadvantage Preterm Children