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Fertility treatments and children’s educational outcomes

Researchers: Professor Alastair Sutcliffe

Project overview

Nearly 1 in 50 children in the UK are born to parents who have benefited from fertility treatments and this number is increasing year on year. An ongoing national study has identified children’s educational potential and learning difficulties as one of the most common areas of concern among parents using or considering assisted reproductive technology (ART). There are also biologically plausible reasons to suspect that ART could affect children’s educational outcomes.

This project will explore this issue by linking data from three large national databases: the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) database, the National Pupil Database (NPD) and birth records held by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This will enable a comparison between a cohort of approximately 60,000 children born after non-donor ART procedures in England (between 1992 and 2008) with two control groups: firstly a group of approximately 6,000 naturally-conceived siblings of children in the ART cohort; and secondly a group of 3,000 unrelated naturally-conceived children matched by age, sex and school.

The study will look at the following outcomes: national Key Stage test performance from ages four to 18, risk of special educational needs (SEN) and school exclusion. All analyses will control for key characteristics identified in the existing literature, and the findings should provide useful information for couples using or considering ART, as well as policy-makers seeking to understand the pros and cons of different types of ART and the support needs of ART-conceived children. 


  • Professor Alastair Sutcliffe
    Primary researcher
    University College London

  • Programme Head, Education
    Nuffield Foundation
  • Director, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

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