A Unique Child

Premature babies – Becoming a Prem Aware nursery

  • Premature babies – Becoming a Prem Aware nursery

Karma Kaur, nursery manager at Bright Little Stars Barnet, talks about becoming the first nursery group in the UK to earn a Prem Aware Award across all its branches… 

Premature babies

Approximately 60,000 babies are born prematurely in the UK each year. As these premature children grow up, they can be more prone to academic struggles.

One in 12 children are born early. While children born extremely premature (before 28 weeks’ gestation) are most likely to need extra support, research highlights that premature babies born just a few weeks early may still face difficulties at school.

The cognitive and learning difficulties most commonly associated with premature birth include:

  • slower processing speeds
  • difficulties with memory
  • poorer visual-spatial skills
  • attention difficulties
  • struggles with mathematics

Not all children born prematurely will have these additional needs, of course.

Prem Aware Award scheme

The Smallest Things charity is dedicated to supporting families and improving outcomes for children born prematurely. They launched their Prem Aware Award scheme to raise awareness of prematurity and support education settings to recognise and meet the specific learning needs of children born preterm. 

Bright Little Stars Nursery has become the first group in the UK to earn this award across all its branches. It came about when, earlier this year, our nursery welcomed a new family into our midst.

Their arrival was marked by the premature birth of their newborn. This profoundly influenced their lives and, subsequently, ours.

In the course of their settling session, they generously shared their challenging journey with us. At the same time, they directed our attention to The Smallest Things charity.

Premature babies awareness training

This encounter served as a catalyst for change, prompting my team and me to undergo the enlightening Prem Aware Training.

This training session proved to be a transformative experience. Armed with newfound knowledge and awareness, we embarked on a mission to extend this enlightenment to our five other branches.

This initiative led to the birth of Prem Aware Nurseries, a network spanning our six branches, all dedicated to the specialised care and understanding of premature infants and their families.

Shift in approach

One of the significant shifts in our approach was restructuring our registration and settling procedures. We now thoughtfully question parents about the gestational term of their pregnancy. This is because we recognise the vital importance of tailoring our care to the unique needs of premature babies.

This simple yet crucial change has paved the way for a more individualised and supportive caregiving environment.

The Prem Aware Training sheds light on the myriad developmental hurdles and challenges that premature babies face. These are challenges that often persist well into their school years.

Armed with this profound understanding, we set out to implement impactful changes within our nurseries. Among these changes was the introduction of sensory boxes in our learning rooms.

These specially curated boxes aim to create a nurturing environment that caters to the distinctive needs of premature infants. They foster growth and development in a holistic manner.

This journey, sparked by the compassionate experience of one family, has cultivated empathy within us. It has also translated into tangible improvements within our nurseries.

The ripple effect of this awareness training has extended far beyond the confines of our initial encounter. It’s permeated through all our branches.

This transformation stands as a testament to our unwavering commitment to the wellbeing and holistic development of every child in our care.

As we continue on this path of understanding and empathy, we’re not just shaping the future of the children we nurture. We’re also contributing positively to the larger community we’re part of.

Being “prem aware” is vitally important. It not only acknowledges the challenges these children face but actively works to address them.

Find out more about the Prem Aware Award scheme. The Smallest Things Prem Aware Award scheme promotes the use of Preterm Birth Information for Educational Professionals, a free online training resource developed by Professor Samantha Johnson and her colleagues in the PRISM (Premature Infants’ Skills in Mathematics) Study Team.