Deciding whether to keep a child back at school

Imagine that you are observing from the side of a swimming pool and are watching children learn how to swim.

As you watch, you notice the different variety of abilities, confidence levels and fears that they display in the water.  Some children seem to grasp these new skills with ease while others seem to struggle and need a bit of extra assistance and encouragement along the way.  With a swimming gala looming ahead, the decision has to be made as to who is competent enough to compete at the next level, and who may need extra practice in mastering the skills that are needed. 

“In a scenario such as this one, it is without a doubt that any child who has not sufficiently mastered the skills at this level will become more fearful, less confident and progress slower if they were forced on to a more challenging level. They may even risk drowning in the process!” says Cindy Glass, Director and Co-founder of Step Up Education Centres. 

She adds that while learning to swim is not quite the same as learning to read, write and progress academically, the principal of learning any new skill is the same. “It is best to achieve sufficient mastery of each level of study before progressing to more challenging levels of learning.”

Sadly, for generations, the need to repeat a school grade has been classified as a failure, leaving scores of parents and learners struggling to embrace the idea of repeating a grade to better master the necessary skills needed for the next level! “Yet, forcing a child, who is not ready, into the next grade could have a significantly negative impact on the child’s self- esteem and, worse, it could slow the learning process or even stop it altogether as the child’s struggles worsen with the pressures of the new grade!” Cindy explains.

Cindy gives the following advice to parents facing the decision of whether to allow their child to repeat a grade or not:

  1. Repeating a grade is NOT a failure. It is an opportunity for a struggling learner to better master the skills he needs! If you speak of failure, your child will feel like he has, indeed, failed! Your approach to a child repeating the grade will determine your child’s reaction toward it!
  2. Discuss all available options with your child’s teachers before making a final decision. Have an open mind – remember that this is about what is best for your child. Discuss any concerns that you may have openly and honestly.
  3. Consider your child’s level of competency in the current grade. If your child is struggling significantly, he is most likely going to struggle even more so in the next grade.
  4. Consider your child’s age and physical development. Remember, always, that YOU need to decide what is BEST for your child. A child who is significantly taller or older than his upcoming classmates may feel too embarrassed for a repeat to be of any help!
  5. Make a list of all the pros and cons of your child repeating the grade or going on. Ask yourself: What is best for my child?  What are the long-term benefits or harms? What would happen if I do/do not allow the repeat?

“There is no denying that the decision to repeat a struggling learner is an emotionally tough one to make.  Take your time and do what you feel is best for your child. Remember, how you react to the situation will set the tone for how your child responds to it!” Cindy concludes.

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