Some students will be experiencing general difficulties not only with learning but also with socialisation and general adjustment. Other students will not only have discernible difficulties but also some obvious strengths.
Obviously educators have a responsibility to provide students with an appropriate program, meeting the student's needs with a flexible and broad based classroom program, adjusted to the individual student's needs. Special education support and individualisation of the classroom program should be able to cater for the majority of student's needs, without the student being required to move out of their established social group in order to find a suitable program. However it is sometimes felt that repeating a year level is one way of meeting an individual student's needs.
The decision is seldom an easy one as in most situations there are things to be said in favour of keeping the student with their age peers, and advantages in arranging for them to repeat a year level. Often the decision is hard because the arguments for either course of action are quite evenly balanced.
Anxiety about the student not coping if they advance to the next year level is counterbalanced by fears that having to repeat a year will damage their self esteem. The fact that the child is physically small for their age might be cancelled out by the fact that if they repeat, they will be in the same year level as a younger sibling. One parent may feel that by repeating a year the child will be helped, the other parent may feel that they will be held back in their development
There are some important factors that are entirely dependent on the school, its policies and its structure. The school or the educational authority that administers the school may have a clear policy about the basis on which students are permitted to repeat a year and obviously this will have a direct impact on the decision. It can be the case that the suggestion that a child repeats a year is based solely on the premise that it would be more convenient for the school, for example, in avoiding the need to provide a suitable individual remedial program.
Sometimes the decision will be biased by the particular mix of adults and students in the student's school. For instance the deciding factor in whether a student repeats a year level or not might be the relative merits of the two teachers who could be taking the student's class. The style and skills base of the child's teacher is often of critical importance. It is always important to make the best match possible between the child's needs and the expertise and personalities of the available teachers.
Although every group of students has a wide range of individuals, sometimes a particular year level might have a very distinct characteristic, especially in small schools where there are only a small number of students. Variations might include a year group with an unusually high number of unsettled students, or an exceptionally large percentage of high achievers. This too can have a bearing on the decision of which year level will best suit an individual student.
Repeating a year level should never be used as a cheap form of special education. 'More of the same' is seldom an appropriate response to a child's learning difficulties. It is critically important to understand why the student is experiencing learning difficulties and implement an appropriate program to address those difficulties. For a student to benefit from repeating a year it is essential that an appropriate program of support and ongoing assessment should also be implemented to ensure that the child does not simply 'mark time' and go through the same, unsuccessful process that occurred when they did that year level previously. It is by no means unknown for a student to make no measured progress in the year that they repeat.
Students with severe and widespread difficulties often need a highly individualised program and intensive special education support. If they repeat a year level they may still need virtually identical levels of assistance and modification of the classroom program. In this situation repeating a year level should only be considered on the basis of social and developmental needs, not on curriculum issues.
Students with significant specific difficulties can sometimes be very shocked and humiliated to find that even though they are repeating a year, they are still struggling academically and are still at the 'bottom of the class'. If the student is aware that they are being outperformed by children a year younger than themselves then any hoped for boosts to confidence from repeating a year will not materialise.
In some schools students are sent to a younger students' classroom for a brief spell as a punishment for poor behaviour. Some teachers or parents may threaten being 'kept down' made as a way of addressing poor school work or behaviour.
If repeating a year is seen as a punishment or a deliberate humiliation then it is that much harder to persuade the student that it is a worthwhile opportunity when it is considered necessary.
'Yes' the student should repeat the year
The following factors may make it sensible for a student to repeat a year.
The following factors may make it unwise for a student to repeat a year.