This group aims to:

  • work with participating schools and local authorities to help design more efficient and effective approaches to sharing pupil data, which support the development of more personalised approaches to support individual children’s education (i.e. better recognising their unique strengths and difficulties) 
  • evaluate the impact of changes in policy and practice in schools over time, to assess which have potential to be effective elsewhere, and expand them to other areas when possible 
  • model the relationships between children’s physical and mental health, and educational attainment to gain a deeper understanding of how these interact over the course of development, whilst also being influenced by the wider environment (e.g. families, schools). 

Specific Projects

Pre-term birth and Childhood Development

Using data from the Born in Bradford birth cohort we are exploring the relationship between being born pre-term and educational attainment. Previous research suggests that children born severely prematurely are more likely to suffer educational problems but there has been less research into how children born moderate-to-late preterm (32-36 weeks) are affected. Also, in cases where a child is born preterm it is less clear which factors are important in determining whether this will negatively affect them. For example, in our first study we found that children born premature, who were consequently pushed into starting school a year earlier, were much less likely to show good progress at age 5 (after one year of schooling) than their peers – even compared to other children also born prematurely. In further research we are now exploring whether additional environmental factors, such as having siblings or being born prematurely due to being part of a multiple birth (e.g. twins) influences the risk of adverse development associated with being born prematurely.   

Genetic nurture effects in childhood development

Working with colleagues from Stanford University in the US, we are building on exciting work recently coming out from several international birth cohorts, which has highlighted the importance of “genetic nurture” – the potential for parents’ genetics to have an impact on their child’s educational outcomes via the environments they create for their children to grow up in. In our first study of this issue, using data from 2,077 pairs of children and their mothers within the Born in Bradford cohort, we have found find that mothers with more education-related genes are healthier and more financially stable during pregnancy and that these prenatal conditions explain 28-31% of the associations between maternal genetics and children’s academic and developmental outcomes 4-7 years later. We are now building on this work with further studies that seek to further develop our understanding of the pathways through which parental genetics may influence childhood development.

Children’s sensorimotor ability over the course of development

This project is primarily focussed on children’s sensorimotor ability and its development over time. Such abilities have strong associations with a range of tasks necessary for the classroom (e.g. handwriting), and subsequently affect academic achievement both directly and indirectly. Using data from the Born in Bradford cohort, we are looking at various sociodemographic factors which influence children’s sensorimotor ability at various time-points over the course of development. These include one’s ethnicity, and socioeconomic position (SEP), and how these variables interact with each other. Additionally, using various modelling techniques, my research aims to understand how we can better measure children’s sensorimotor ability, and capture one’s SEP most accurately. 

Research outputs

Pettinger, K. J., Kelly, B., Sheldon, T.A., Mon-Williams, M., Wright, J. & Hill, L.J.B. (in press) Starting School: Educational Development as a Function of Age of Entry and Prematurity. Archives of Disease in Childhood. DOI:  

Armstrong-Carter, E., Trejo, S., Hill, L.J.B., Crossley, K., Mason, D & Domingue, B.W. (pre-print). The Earliest Origins of Genetic Nurture: Prenatal Environment Mediates the Association Between Maternal Genetics and Child Development. DOI:  

Wood, M.L., Waterman, A., Mon-Williams, M. & Hill, L.J.B. (pre-registration). The relationship between ethnicity and socioeconomic factors at birth and sensorimotor ability in 4-5 year old children: Findings from the Born in Bradford cohort. DOI:  

Meet the team

Dr Liam Hill

Action Project Leader and Lecturer

Dr Katherine Pettinger

Academic Clinical Fellow

Amy Atkinson

Research Fellow and PhD Student

Megan Wood

PhD Student