A cohort of 138 very-low-birthweight (VLBW) 12-year-old children and matched control children were assessed on objective cognitive and educational measures. School performance was rated by teachers and by the children themselves. VLBW children were shown to have lower IQ scores, and poorer scores on all objective educational measures compared with control children. Controlling for IQ differences, mathematics and reading-comprehension scores remained significantly lower for VLBW children. Teachers rated VLBW children lower in all curriculum areas. Significantly more VLBW children were found to be 'failing' in one or more subject and an increased proportion compared with the control children had received remedial education. The VLBW group showed no evidence of 'catch up' between 6 and 12 years of age. Multiple regression analyses were used to identify predictors of cognitive and educational outcome. The duration of mechanical ventilation in the neonatal period was inversely related to outcome. Full-Scale IQ at 6 years, motor-skills score at 6 years, and head circumference at 12 years all predicted outcome at 12 years, as did maternal education, family income and size. Individually, many VLBW children perform satisfactorily, but as a group VLBW children appear to be at a long-term disadvantage to peers in the areas of cognitive and educational performance.