Many say that for a child to repeat a grade is anathema. As a long time practitioner I believe that repeating has its place. But children need to be included in any conversation about repeating.



Repeating a grade may be an issue for some parents, children and teachers. The subject generally comes up during term four. Should students who are really struggling, repeat a grade or move on to the next year level. This can be an issue for parents and teachers of younger and sometimes older children.

The general consensus is that under no circumstances should children repeat. However the subject is one not about which generalisations should be made. Rather, the matter should be considered in relation to the needs of individual students.

Empirical evidence generally suggests that repeating a year will act against the self esteem and well being of children who do not go up a grade with their peers. Shame and self consciousness may become overwhelming feelings. Children may also be subjected to teasing by other students. However there are two sides to the issue.

Repeating can be a better option than prematurely promoting children. While aligned with peers, they will always be on Struggle Street, attaining results at the lower end of the outcomes spectrum. There is a danger children will accept mediocrity as the norm, rather than aiming higher.

Always include children in any conversation about repeating. They are well able to understand the pros and cons of issues. If repeating a grade is being considered, the child has to feel comfortable about this option. This requires negotiation that takes into account the child’s feelings on the subject.

Not all academic

The need to consider repeating a year may be for other than academic reasons. It could be advisable because of the child’s extended absence through illness or long periods spent on holiday overseas. It may be considered because a child lacks sufficient maturity to deal with curriculum requirements at a particular level. Repeating is not uncommon. A Martin (University of Sydney in ‘The Conversation’ November 21, 2011) revealed that between 8% and 10% of children repeat a grade during their schooling years.

Same or new school

Some children may find it easier to repeat in a new school. However, leaving friends and a going elsewhere has its downsides. To the child, transferring may seem like running away. This may not be good for character development.

Repeating a year should never be considered lightly. Children should be fully involved in discussion and understanding, because it is their future that is being considered. Unless this happens, repeating may do more harm than good.


  1. Hi Henry, The dilemma of either repeating a year, or promoting someone who is incapable of passing might be resolved by streaming them to a remedial class.
    This would focus teaching skills on those requiring additional help.
    This small class might not be for a full year, as after say several months a further triage might reject children who will not benefit from further education. This could be because of either low intelligence or disruptive behaviour. The children who are recoverable might rejoin their classmates at the lower level and cope better with the remedial assistance they have received?
    The teachers at both grade levels would be relieved from the task of trying to teach the unresponsive and devote their time to the “standard” students.
    I realize that cost constraints would be a problem, but illiteracy leading to unemployment, crime, and imprisonment would cost society much more .
    Best Wishes Ron

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