The following commentary regarding the pros and cons of repeating/consolidating a grade is adapted from Overcoming Dyslexia for Dummies by Tracey Wood

For the past few years, the trend has been for teachers to keep some children back a grade, especially in reception and especially if they are boys. Repeating a grade is a hot potato, however. Many parents and teachers believe that repeating a grade (sometimes called a consolidation year) allows a child to mature and get extra practice in class. However, many researchers say that the evidence doesn't bear this out.

Based on studies of the way that children who have repeated a year see themselves and perform on class tests, researchers say that these children:

  • Feel ashamed or embarrassed in front of other kids because they're bigger and older than their classmates.
  • Get teased by classmates for being "dumb".
  • Feel that their parents forced or misled them into staying back a year.
  • Don't make appreciable headway in the skills they initially lacked and often fall back even further (compared to struggling kids who did not repeat)
  • Are more likely than children who did not repeat to drop out of school.
  • Often say that being held back was the worst thing that ever happened to them.

Warning

Holding a child back is done with the best of intentions, but there can be long-term dangers. Most children/adults report that being held back traumatized them, and some researchers link increased rates of substance abuse and depression in adolescence with repeating a grade in earlier years.

Tip

Repeating a grade at the time of moving from one school to another may work for your child. If, for example, s/he finds that s/he's entering a grade in which all the students are a year older than s/he is (because s/he started school earlier in another place or was young for his/her year, or spent only 3 terms in reception), then the school may allow you to choose whether your child joins that grade or a grade lower (with same-age children). The lower grade may be more attractive if your child chooses it him/herself.

Your child's teacher has a lot of say in whether your child repeats a grade or is promoted, but if you disagree with the proposed retention, even if your child has scored poorly in tests, you should contest the proposal and say why your child should be promoted. For example, you can offer to pay for private instruction in his/her weak areas, and point out that research has highlighted the damaging effects of repeating a year. There are no hard-and-fast rules for repeating a year.

The best way to address your child's academic problems is to give him/her individualized instruction in his/her areas of weakness. If your child has dyslexia, the arguments against repeating a year are especially pertinent. Research shows that a dyslexic child does not catch up to his/her peers by being given more of the same instruction. S/he catches up through multisensory instruction that takes him/her systematically through a phonics program and incorporates a great deal of repetition.

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