AIM: Very preterm (VPT) children (=32 weeks) have school readiness difficulties across multiple domains, but routine follow-up is often limited. We assessed the performance of VPT children on the Before School Check (B4SC), a community-based screening programme of school readiness at 4 years of age. METHODS: VPT children discharged from Wellington and Auckland Neonatal Intensive Care Units (2005-2009) were compared to a national control cohort born during the same period. Outcome measures included Parental Evaluation of Developmental Status (PEDS), parent and teacher versions of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ-P and SDQ-T) and vision and hearing screening, and were related to perinatal and demographic characteristics obtained from the Australia and New Zealand Neonatal Network database. RESULTS: Of 1105 VPT children, 920 were matched to the B4SC database, of whom 814 (88%) had one or more B4SC screening outcomes recorded. Compared with controls, VPT children were more likely to have abnormal PEDS (odds ratio (OR) = 1.79, 1.53-2.10), SDQ-P (OR = 1.82, 1.49-2.23), SDQ-T (OR = 1.51, 1.10-2.06), vision (OR = 2.00, 1.54-2.60) and hearing (OR = 1.95, 1.65-2.31) screen outcomes. While VPT children with an abnormal screen were more likely to be referred for further assessment, only 34%, 22%, 94% and 51% with abnormal PEDS, SDQ or vision and hearing screen, respectively, had evidence of appropriate referral. School readiness difficulties were significantly associated with birthweight z-score = -1, vaginal delivery, significant cranial ultrasound abnormalities, younger maternal age, higher deprivation neighbourhood and ventilation >/=72 h. CONCLUSION: Community-based screening may be useful for identifying VPT children with school readiness difficulties, but low referral rates may limit the effectiveness of such programmes.