The aim of the study was to determine whether learning and memory are compromised in school children with recently diagnosed idiopathic and/or cryptogenic epilepsy and to study relationships between learning and memory and psychosocial and epilepsy variables. Word span and learning of locations were assessed within 48 hours after diagnosis of epilepsy and three and 12 months later, in 69 school children with epilepsy (aged 9.1 years, SD 2.7; 33 males, 36 females) and 66 classmates. Results showed that patients and controls performed similarly in registration, recall, and retention. Patients recalled slightly less than controls when probed under conditions of increased demand on working memory. Maladaptive reactions of parents and children to the onset of epilepsy and not reaching 6-months of seizure remission contributed to poor performance. Individually, those patients who required special assistance at school, under-performed occasionally in one or the other component of memory. Although the proportion of under-performers was stable over time, the children composing the group did change. It was concluded that school children with new onset idiopathic or cryptogenic epilepsy are inordinately vulnerable when processing memory tasks. The vulnerability is neither persistent nor memory-specific.