A YORK school has been the first in the city to be certified as ‘Prem Aware’.

Headlands Primary School in Haxby has joined a growing list of schools across the country who have registered with the Prem Aware scheme, which pledges to raise awareness of the difficulties faced by some children after being born prematurely.

The decision to get a York school involved in the campaign was spearheaded by a pioneering teacher, Emma Johnson, who teaches Key Stage 1 at the school.


She said: “Five years ago, I had a premature baby who was born at 24 weeks, and she started school in September just gone.

“In the run up to her starting school, I started to research into prematurity in education and came across Prem Aware. Whilst it’s common for parents to speak more openly with preschools, this information isn’t always passed on to the next levels. With this change, we can ensure the next teacher knows through their school career.

“It also helps to support parents and staff if there’s any anxieties around development, if they had been in NICU or special care, or if they’re still receiving care. If it’s not a medical issue, you may have been discharged and left on your own, so Prem Aware and The Smallest Things also give info on their website to support parents.”

York Press: Emma shows off the Prem Aware certificate gained by HeadlandsEmma shows off the Prem Aware certificate gained by Headlands (Image: Provided)

Prem Aware is a scheme ran by the charity The Smallest Things and offers training to schools on educational needs that children who were born prematurely are more likely to suffer from.

In their 2021 ‘After NICU’ report, The Smallest Things reported that 84 per cent of parents told them more awareness of the long term needs of children born prematurely was needed so by putting a scheme like this in place, Prem Aware hopes to both raise awareness for parents and detect any areas that a child may need extra support in sooner. 

One thing that the award does is change the admission form that schools fill in, including a section about premature birth, and allows schools to create a ‘shadow register’ of child born before their due date to keep a closer eye.

Catriona Ogilvy, Founder and Chair of The Smallest Things said: “The Smallest Things Ambassadors, like Emma, are our local champion’s for the Prem Aware Award. 

"Starting school can be a big step for neonatal families and we are thrilled to see Headlands Primary School taking steps to become Prem Aware. This will give parents added confidence and displays the schools commitment to meeting the needs that some children born prematurely may have.

"We are delighted to add Headlands Primary to a growing list of Prem Aware schools and nurseries across the UK.” 

Emma, who is a Trustee of York Special Care Baby Unit, is also trained in delivering the course and wants to spread its awareness in schools across the region.

She said: “If parents don’t know it exists then they won’t look for it, but if we can say we’ve done this and we understand what they’re going through, then this will help.”