Teachers fail to recognise ‘mild attention problems’

Children with mild attention problems are three months behind their peers when they leave primary school, according to a study.

Academics from Durham and Nottingham universities looked at the attainment and behaviour of 46,369 children from across 1,812 primary schools and found that inattentive behaviours such as being distracted or forgetful were often missed by teachers.

The researchers said that while Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) was well understood, diagnosis of milder attention problems were limited.

Dr Christine Merrell, Director of Research at the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) at Durham University, said that children with an ADHD diagnosis  “already receive extra support in schools” but children with mild attention problems also need intervention to reach their potential.

“It is however important to say that not all children with mild attention problems will fall behind academically as each individual child is of course different,” she added.

Published in the academic journal Learning and Individual Differences, the authors have produced guidance for schools on teaching to help children with attention problems. They also note that some children only exhibit distracted behaviours as they settle into their first year of schools. The attainment of these children may not be affected over the longer term.

The study forms part of a larger body of international research, conducted by CEM and the School of Education at Durham University, which is looking at the effectiveness of the early years of education.

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