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You may have concerns about your child's education after 2021, and even how they will progress into the next school year.
We know anxious parents have wondered whether a repeat year is right for their child, though statistically most children actually fare worse after repeating a year. That's why the Australian education system's emphasis is on additional support moving forward in 2022, as opposed to a repetition of information.
Repeating a school year, also known as ‘grade retention’, was a common practise in previous decades when teachers or parents had concerns about their child’s ability to keep up with the curriculum. However, more recently, studies show that the practise is actually detrimental to children’s wellbeing and overall academic progress.
Here we take a look at the reality behind grade retention and why providing additional support going forward is the best option for your child.
Every child is different, and while not all students will graduate Secondary School with a Higher School Certificate, for some, this is part of a well-thought-out career plan that includes an apprenticeship. For others however, a lack of interest led by phrases such as “I don’t like school” or “I just don’t get it” should be addressed immediately.
Did you know that students who do not receive adequate academic help or attention in their earlier years of study are more likely to drop out?
A study conducted by Dr Jan N. Hughes, Professor Emeritus monitoring both boys and girls in their academic progress throughout their education had some interesting findings. The research discovered that students who were held back (or had repeated a year) had a higher likelihood of dropping out than those who continued through each grade as normal.
While other factors were taken into consideration, there was a stark difference in academic progress and student confidence between students who were retained and those who were promoted, with the students who had repeated a year most likely to drop out before graduation.
Defined as students learning from one another, with one another, in both formal and informal settings is what peer learning is all about.
Studies show that students develop skills at a higher rate when learning collaboratively with others, receiving feedback and evaluating their own learning as part of the process (ed. Boud, Cohen & Sampson). In many cases, their skills in organisation and planning of learning activities are developed further in collaborative settings as opposed to self-directed learning structures.
But how is this relevant to the argument of grade retention?
Students who have been held back or made to repeat a school year often feel a sense of shame and embarrassment around their peers – especially if their peers are aware of their decision to repeat.
The age gap between a repeating student and his or her peers can undermine the child’s confidence, which often leads to a fear of judgement from uninvited competition; this will be especially evident where contributions to class discussions are expected.
While peer learning is a valuable approach to education for all ages, it is particularly problematic when a child is hyper-aware of subtle or significant differences between themselves and their peers.
As mentioned above, grade retention can threaten a child’s confidence in the learning environment. But it goes deeper. Research published in ‘The Scarring Effects of Primary-Grade Retention’ shows that students who have repeated a year of school generally have poorer mental health and fewer positive social outcomes compared to their peers.
A further study conducted by Pagini et al, followed the progress of large student numbers and proved that those who repeated a year were more likely to exhibit negative outcomes. The evidence suggested: higher rate of behavioural issues, increased negative attitude towards study and school, higher rate of dropping out, and fewer students pursuing tertiary study.
Not so surprisingly, students who were held back while their peers progressed were recorded as being anxious, inattentive and exhibiting disruptive behaviours that worsened after grade retention – particularly when grade retention occurred in Primary School.
Educators will be familiar with the work of Professor John Hattie, an educational researcher who developed a significant ranking system chronicling various influences on student learning and education. Hattie found that indicators such as response to intervention, interventions for students with learning needs, transfer strategies and reciprocal teaching were among some of the (many) positive influences that contributed to a child’s academic progress.
On the other hand, influences such as holding students back a year, students feeling disliked or displaced, and the act of suspension/expulsion from school were detrimental their progress and overall wellbeing.
Many educators will attest to the notion that boys require a different approach to learning, and it is for this reason that successful tactics such as the use of graphics and storyboards in literacy activities have been implemented in most schools around Australia. Further to that, encouraging kinaesthetic learning with project-based activities is another proven method of engaging boys in learning where they would normally be expected to sit quietly while writing, reading or listening.
Author Michael Gurian suggests introducing physical activity to the classroom to encourage male students to participate in academic learning. One strategy now commonly used by teachers and tutors around Australia involves friendly competition, and beneficially, it gets students out of their seats.
English Teachers will be familiar with Insults as a mode of engaging students in the verbose world of Shakespearean language, but have you ever taken part in a Shakespearean Insult Match? English lessons have never been so loud – and this is because every student feels they are capable of contributing, and are especially motivated by the cheering of their peers.
The best part about strategies like this is that it can be applied to any subject or area of study. With students standing at the front of the room – sometimes dancing or acting to make their point, the child has autonomy over their interpretation of a text and expression of delivery – and has fun doing so.
If you are concerned about your child’s academic growth, speak to your school to find out if they are monitoring your child through Targeted Teaching or Data Wall reporting.
Monitoring a student’s progress involves general classroom observation, one-on-one time with the child to ensure understanding during lessons, recording literacy and numeracy results over time, and collecting evidence of their work that proves how their understanding of a topic or skill has developed over time.
The information is used to indicate where teaching approaches or interventions may assist the child, and makes clear links to where they are at in the curriculum – which can be of benefit to parents wishing to assist their child with the help of an online tutor or tutoring centre.
Students who are at risk of repeating a year of school need immediate attention. Luckily, there are plenty of strategies parents and teachers can implement to ensure their child continues to grow academically, even after a significant interruption to education.
If you have concerns about your child’s current progress, speak to the classroom teacher about differentiated learning. What does this mean? It is learning that, fortunately, takes place in most classrooms already, whereby the learning environment is flexible, and both teachers and students understand that there are different ways to group students, express and assess learning (Education NSW).
In other words, teachers and schools that promote differentiation don’t believe in one set way of delivering instruction, assessing students or facilitating learning. They differentiate the curriculum and find alternative ways to teach mixed ability classes in such a way that is advantageous to all learners - and this is of major benefit to the child falling behind on their studies.
If you are concerned about your child’s learning and academic development, talk to the team at Choice Education Group. We are experts in providing additional academic support to students and will help you avoid the decision to repeat your child’s past year of school.
For more information, visit: https://www.choiceeducationgroup.com/
Dr. Jan N. Hughes, Professor Emeritus
Peer Learning (edited by David Boud, Ruth Cohen & Jane Sampson).
Andrew, M. (2014). The Scarring Effects of Primary-Grade Retention
Pagani, L., Tremblay, R., Vitaro, F., Boulerice, B., & McDuff, P. (2001).
Education NSW (Differentiation)