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Pay attention - or do badly at GCSE

Published 30/04/2015

The study involved analysing the behaviour and GCSE results of more than 11,000 children
The study involved analysing the behaviour and GCSE results of more than 11,000 children

Children who do not pay attention in class at age seven are less likely to score good GCSE results, research suggests.

A new study has found a link between attentiveness at primary school and the chances of gaining decent grades later on.

Researchers said the findings highlight the long-term academic risks associated with children being distracted or not paying attention.

The investigation, carried out by researchers at the universities of Nottingham and Bristol, involved analysing the behaviour and exam results of more than 11,000 children who took part in Bristol's Children of the 90s study.

Parents and teachers were asked to complete detailed questionnaires when pupils were aged seven, looking at areas such as inattention, hyperactivity, impulsiveness and any defiance problems. This was then compared with the youngsters' GCSE results at age 16.

The findings show that after taking into account factors such as IQ, social class and parents' education, for every one-point increase in children's inattention levels at age seven, there was a two to three-point drop in GCSE scores and a six to seven per cent increase in the likelihood of them not gaining at least five C grades in the exams.

It added that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was associated with a 27 to 32-point reduction in GCSE scores and in boys, a more than two-fold increase in the likelihood of them not getting five A*-C grades.

"Across the full range of scores at a population level, each one-point increase in inattention at age seven years is associated with worse academic outcomes at age 16," the study concluded. "The findings highlight long-term academic risk associated with ADHD, particularly inattentive symptoms."

Lead researcher Kapil Sayal, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at Nottingham University's School of Medicine, said: "Teachers and parents should be aware of the long-term academic impact of behaviours such as inattention and distractibility.

"The impact applies across the whole spectrum of scores at the population level and is not just confined to those scoring above a cut-off or at the extreme end."

Prevention and intervention strategies are key, Prof Sayal said, adding that this could include teaching teenagers time-management and organisation skills, minimising distraction and helping them to prioritise their school work and revision.

The results of the study, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, are published in the Journal Of The American Academy Of Child And Adolescent Psychiatry.

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