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ECHILD is a unique research database that joins together existing records from health, education and social care services for all children in England. The ECHILD research team at UCL has been using these linked data to better understand the complex inter-relationships between children’s health and education. Linking data in this way allows us to build a more detailed picture of the challenges that many children face as they grow up. Due to the high quality linkage (99% of pupils born in 2004/5 linked to a hospital record), research using ECHILD helps government and the providers of services to better understand children’s needs, to join up services, and to see which children might not receive the services they need.

Using the longitudinal data in ECHILD, we found that a third of all children have a record of Special Educational Needs provision by age 11, but that children born even a few weeks too early were more likely to have recorded Special Educational Needs (SEN) provision than those born at 40 weeks of gestation. However, chronic conditions in school-aged children contributed more to the provision of SEN support than preterm birth. These findings suggest that additional support prior to school entry to improve school readiness could be targeted at high-risk groups based on early health indicators shown to influence later outcomes.

We also identified that although chronic conditions and gestational age were predictive of attainment and recorded SEN provision, two-thirds of children with recorded SEN provision were born at full term of gestation and had no chronic condition recorded in hospital records before age 2. More research is needed to identify groups who could benefit from early intervention or preventative strategies to improve school readiness.

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