On behalf of neonatal parents, we often seek feedback on the thoughts and experiences of those who have been there before. In mid January we were asked to post the following question on our Facebook page: 
What did you do when your premmie / micropremmie started school? 

“I’m leaning towards holding off and starting my children when they should have turned 5 rather than when they actually do. Just interested to hear other parents experiences and what they’ve done”
As is often the case, we got a great response with many responses posted. We’ve pulled these together to provide a snapshot in one place – please see below.
NB. It’s important to remember that each child and journey is different. Parents know your particular situation best and it’s prudent to seek advice from those relevant to your decision, eg Your GP, school, etc 

The response from the neonatal community on our Facebook page:

I guess every child is different – ours popped out at 26 weeks and we stopped thinking about his developmental date when he was around 2-3. Right after he’d finished up with the all the developmental checks. He went through his pre-school plunket check fine so he’ll be starting school when he turns 5.

My twins developed quite differently, one required more support & assistance to get ready for school (& still does going into intermediate). They started new entrants december (birthday) & year 1 the next year before their due date. They are on the same scale height/size wise of their peers (some smaller/some larger) which I think starts to matter more at this adolescent age. School provides normality to what had been a more unusual start. If you feel you need more support to get ready do ask your GP/child’s specialist & find a school that has great support & you feel comfortable with the teacher & environment – breathe & enjoy the next stage.

Hi my 24 weeker started school at 5 by this time she had caught up with her peers with a lot of milestones I made sure the teachers understood her needs and did parent help a bit as well . I thought she’d be behind but actually she wasn’t. She is 11 now and off to intermediate this year

My girls were 28 weekers born in march started on 5th birthday but I have chosen to have them reclassified as year 1’s next year as the benefits far outweigh the negatives. They have adapted well and have no issues as such
I waited three months after their birthday for when they should have been 5. I always counted that time as ‘gestation’ – it’s not exactly as though they get a head start in NICU!

Our 31-week EBLW twins were born at 1000g each, they took a long time to build up stamina even though neither had major health issues. They were at the local Steiner school and slowly eased into full weeks, full days, full terms. If either were exhausted – or looking like they were flagging – they stayed home. Over the long term that strategy has helped them grow into strapping adults! But as someone said, every premie, and every child is different. My main advice would be to go with your parenting instincts and ignore anyone who has prescriptive “musts” in the education field: teachers are not paediatric experts.

I had my 28 weeker 21 years ago, and he was more than ready to start school when he turned 5. it depends on the child and when they start in the school year. Those that start in the 2nd half of the year will end up spending 2+ years in the juniors, which certainly helped one of my other kids. talk to your school and see what support they offer and what their expectations are of what each child should achieve in that first 2 years

I had my daughter at 29 weeks 20 years ago, born early April. She started school in April as new entrant and unfortunately my husband got sick that year so she missed lot of school that year; she only did about half year of school. Following year she was put in year 2. She struggled that year so I put my foot down, talked to the teacher and principal and got her to repeat year 2. She never looked back after that; did very well throughout. She was the oldest in class after but I preferred that way. I also helped her a lot with her studies at home too as well as at school. She was in stream class at high school with science, Maths and English. She is at uni now, doing well. I think I made the right decision and I am happy with it. I think every parent need to help teach their children at home while they are in primary school to give a boost anyway. It helps. All the best.

My 26wk girl started on her birthday and we had no problems at all. I think a lot depends on how your little person is doing and the school they are heading to. Go take a look around and chat to the teacher, and/or other parents. The first year in particular while learning the basics of reading/writing/maths, also has a focus on social development (speaking as a mum AND a part time new entrant teacher).

I’ll speak to the school and decide what is best at the time with regards to teachers/new entrant class size etc. I’ve got no academic or developmental concerns but because my girls will turn 5 late September and would start in the 4th term when they’re wrapping up for the year, practicing xmas shows etc I’m seriously considering holding off til Jan the next year (when they should’ve started anyway) plus they are just so little!

Our 29 weeker started school when he turned 5…he has had no problems physically or academically at school – he is above in literacy & Maths & is physically the same size if not bigger than his peers. If you are able you to discuss your concerns with your child’s school, they may be to help you with any concerns you may have. All the best with starting school

My daughter was born at 28 weeks and she’s just started school bang on 5. She’s much smaller than the other kids in her class and I’ve already had parents asking if she’s actually 5.. but she seems to be doing well we haven’t heard any issues. She was also a daycare baby so had alot of knowledge before starting school too.

Our nicu baby wasn’t prem she a November baby I plan to not start her till a bit later. She’s 3 but I no she has more testing at 5 that I think will impact on her education that will be best to get done first. They can not do till developmentally capable so will probably hold off starting in November

My son was born at 27 weeks, but unlike a lot of premmies he has always been a head and shoulders above his peers. So he definately looked ready for school and was super excited about it. Started in July. Unfortunately he was quite socially immature and did get picked on a bit. the next year we changed schools and he started as a new entrant again with an exceptional teacher and in a school that had excellent systems in place for learning and dealing with behavior (including his). He has thrived ever since. So in my view it can help to give them a bit more time to develop but the most important thing is to stay in touch and ensure they’re getting the right support. AND don’t be afraid to make a change if it’s not working. Every school and every teacher offers something different. Good leadership in a school is super important. Hope that helps 

My son started school in July last year, at 5 years old. He was born at 31 weeks. I was a bit nervous that he’d be too small compared to others at school, and not sure about his concentration. It was fine, and it’s one of his favourite places to be!! I say go with what works best for you. All the best for the start of school – it’s a very exciting time!

We make decisions about school based on the child’s “school readiness” mainly and when their birthday falls relative to the school year. 

Our first NICU baby was born in Nov and waited to start her till the following year. 2nd one is only 17mnths.

My 28 weeker started at 5. we went through the same dilemma as there were still developmental things to resolve. I’m glad we didn’t delay now and the school were great – talk to the teachers and the head of junior school about your concerns. Give them as much info as you can.

My daughter (32+4) started school a week after she turned 5. She was well ready to start and has done so well in her first term that they’ve put her up a class. I guess it all depends on the child and as a parent you know if they are ready to start at 5 or delayed a little.

Both mine 29 & 28 weekers started at 5 neither were behind and both have shown enormous determination in every thing they do I put this down to being a true premie they both started this life having to be determined from day one. They are now nearly 18 and 14 respectively.

In NZ kids can stay at ECE/delay starting school until they turn 6, so I’d just wait until your kids are showing an interest and seem ready.

I think it would depend on how each child develops. My 31 weeker will be starting when she turns 5 but only because I know she will be ready too.

Our 29 weeker (840grm) started on his birthday. More than ready! But, every child is different so just go with what suits your child

My 29er started day after his 5th birthday. Teachers knew his learning differculties but he’s had great support at school. Not w starting yr 3

My 25 wheeler started the day she turned 5, she was well and truely ready.

Our son was 6wks early.He turned 5 on Nov 6th we left him at preschool and starts primary school on Jan 31st eek

My brother was premature and started school at 5… he is now at high school and is doing great

My one is still far off from that but I’m quite keen to start him in the new school year and he was born in July

Sent all of my prems to school on the day they were born not their corrected age

My two were born 32 weeks and both started school at 5. I think every child/parent is different in there views and expectations. Talk to the principal and the head of ur junior school. They may be able to guide u better. Eg if u require extra help with ur child etc.

Most people- parents and health professionals stop adjusting age by the time the child is 2-3yrs. Unless there are very obvious delays I’d start on their 5th birthday.


 *** Questions always welcome ***
Do you have a question you want to ask others in the neonatal community?
We’re happy to post questions on our Facebook page. Email your request to info@littlemiraclestrust.org.nz