Delaying children's school entry could be linked to poorer academic performance, according to a new study.
Many parents are keen to hold their children back a year if they were born prematurely or in the summer months, believing they may not be mature enough to start school.
Previous studies have suggested children who are born more than three weeks before their due date would benefit from starting school a year later than those who were born at full-term.
However, the new research, which was led by the University of Warwick and funded by the Nuffield Foundation, contradicts these findings.
The study was carried out on youngsters in Bavaria, as the German state's policy requires all children to be assessed by a community paediatrician three to 12 months before their entry date to determine their readiness for school.
Some 999 children, of which 472 were born pre-term, were studied by the research team. Comparisons were made between teacher ratings of achievement in Year 1, before the academics analysed the results of standardised mathematics, reading, writing and attention tests when the children reached eight years of age.
Corresponding author Professor Dieter Wolke, from the Department of Psychology and Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick, said: "Our study shows that delaying school entry has no effect on Year 1 teacher ratings of academic performance, but it is associated with poorer performance in age-standardised tests of reading, writing, mathematics and attention as the children get older."
Co-author Julia Jaekel, from the Department of Developmental Psychology at the Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany, explained that while many parents and charities advocate holding children back, the team's evidence suggests this is not beneficial.
She added that more research is needed to determine the long-term effect of delayed school entry on academic achievement.
The team's findings are published in the Journal of Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology.
Posted by Theo Foulds