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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Will repeating a grade help a child with learning difficulties?

  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 2


    Serving the interests of children and young people with childhood language and related disorders View Profile

    There is no conclusive evidence to suggest that repeating a grade will help or hinder your child’s development.  Factors such as social development, the child’s confidence and resilience, the support provided within the school environment as well as the child’s ability to engage with the academic content presented should all be considered when making the decision to repeat a grade. Involving your child’s support team, including the classroom teacher, learning support teacher and any external therapists will be integral in making the best decision for your child.

  • 1


    Grant McKell


    Grant McKell is a counselling psychologist working in Sydney's inner west with over ten years' experience. He founded HeadsUp Psychology in August, 2011. Having worked in … View Profile

    Repeating grades have not been found to help children who have learning difficulties. There are better interventions such as differentiation of the curriculum and provision of remedial assistance whilst progressing through school at the same rate as their age cohort.

    Another thing to consider is that a child with learning difficulties may have literacy or numeracy difficulties, typically. But repeating a grade means they will also receive repeated presentation of other curricula such as in the arts or physical education, for example. For many kids with learning needs, these may be areas of strength. When repeating, you must consider the curriculum as a whole, not just in terms of numeracy and literacy development. And of course, there is the social need to progress through school with your friends. In this context, repetition can feel like failure to kids, especially as they get older.

    The only time repeating a grade may be of benefit is when a child has been absent from education and has missed school for an extended period, say because of illness or injury. In these cases, a child may well have missed out on the whole of curriculum for an extended period. But even then, the social cost of staying back a year needs to be weighed up against the benefits of not progressing through school.

  • Aphrodite Zoitas is a qualified Psychologist specialising in Educational and Developmental Psychology. She has experience in working with children, adolescents and their families to provide … View Profile

    This is dependent on a number of factors which should be carefully considered by parents and teachers when making the decision to hold a child back a year. The age of the child is important. A younger child may be more resilient and less affected socially and emotionally than an older child. It has also become a trend to hold children back in Prep or to commence Prep the following year, especially for boys. The idea here is that parents and teacher believe that an extra year will allow the child to mature and get extra practice in class. However, research has demonstrated that this is not necessarily the case. An Educational and Developmental Psychologist can conduct an appropriate assessment, depending on the child's age, to assist parents and teachers in making their decision. For instance, in the case that a child is demonstrating learning difficulties, an assessment can help to identify if the child has a learning difficulty, such as dyslexia. Simply holding a child back a year in such a case is not addressing the core problem nor does it guarantee that the child will ‘catch-up’.  

  • 1


    Rachel Tosh

    Speech Pathologist

    Rachel is a speech pathologist specialising in speech, language, literacy and feeding therapy with more than 10 years of experience. Her aim is to help … View Profile

    Aphrodite has answered this question nicely - I would also recommend integrating information from numerous sources (class room teacher, Psychologist, other therapists, learning support staff) as well as your own knowledge of your child when you make this decision. There is not a simple answer as there are so many factors to consider. 

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