Should a pupil repeat?

Two days ago, I was looking through my nephew’s report card and noticed a comment in the corner of the report: ‘promoted to Nursery two’. The report indicated that the little man had done incredibly well and the entire family was so proud of him. However, I could not shake off that comment; it really got me thinking.

There are pupils who will have the opposite comment written in their reports, perhaps; ‘Repeat Nursery one’. Is that right? Should a child ever be asked to repeat a class? My gut instinct is to kick against it. But I am trying hard to be as objective as possible. When evidence is there about children repeating a class? Which educational systems practise it and what are the successes or risks?

Repeating a year is rare in some countries for example in the UK, it is almost non-existent, but it is common in others like US. It is also known as “grade retention”, “non-promotion”, or “failing a grade”. It happens when a pupil has not met the required standard of learning at the end of a year. Repeating the year means that they join the next set of pupils to go through the same class that has just been failed. The EEF UK 2016, states, ‘Evidence suggests that, in the majority of the cases, repeating a year is harmful to a student’s chances of success.’ More research show that pupils who are made to repeat a year tend to make far less academic progress (about four months less) than pupils who move on. So is it really worth it?

Before taking a decision for a pupil to repeat a year, consider what progress has been made from the pupil’s starting point. Furthermore, will repeating the class change anything for that child? One year’s worth of teaching should be equal to one year’s worth of progress in learning. Therefore, before asking the child to repeat the year, check the quality of teaching and learning. Was this child’s need adequately met? What were the measures used for progress and attainment?

From experience, I know that negative effects for educational interventions are rare. Most interventions have some level of positive impact no matter how little. Repeating a year produces a negative effect on learning. Is it really the best option then?  Instead of repeating a year, consider interventions such as intensive tuition or one to one support. Evidence shows that one to one tuition can be effective, delivering approximately five additional months’ progress on average.

Before you ask a child to repeat, think again, have you tried other interventions and have you measured the impact? What will be the psychological effects on the child?

Have you ever taught a child who was repeating the year? Tell me about it!

One comment

  1. Beautiful write up. I’m in total agreement. I also feel a lasting inferiority complex tends to follow those who are forced to repeat and a what if ,,, tends to follow them through their lives.

    Like

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