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Does height influence progression through primary school grades?


AIM To examine the relation between a child's height and grade progression in primary school.

METHODS Height was measured in a representative cross sectional sample of children from 24 primary schools in Victoria in late 1997. Height measurements were transformed to standardised scores using Cole's “LMS” method to allow for comparison across ages and genders. Children within each grade were divided into three equal groups based on age (youngest third, middle third, oldest third), again to allow for cross age comparison.

RESULTS A total of 2848 children aged 5–12 years (51% male) were included, with approximately 400 children in each of the seven grades from preparatory to grade 6. Analysis of variance showed a significant relation overall between age and height, with a sequential decrease in height from the youngest to the oldest third. When genders were considered separately, the relation remained significant for boys but not for girls. A total of 133 children (66% male) repeated a grade in primary school. When this group of grade repeaters was removed from the sample, analysis of variance showed no significant relation between standardised height score and age tertile for boys. Although birth weight category and maternal education were independent predictors of height scores overall, they did not appear to influence decisions to retain pupils in grades.

CONCLUSIONS Older boys within grades, notably those who have repeated a grade, are shorter than their peers. Decisions to retain pupils, particularly boys who are experiencing school difficulties, may be influenced by their height.

  • school age
  • height
  • grade retention
  • birthweight

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