The topic of this week’s Academic Newsletter is Repeating a School Year and this can be a particularly difficult topic to breach with parents and students. One of the main philosophies at Royal School is clear and transparent communication and, in this way, there are no surprises at the end of the academic year.
Royal School Academic Progression Criteria
There is published, in Academic Newsletter #1, the progression criteria which will be applied at Royal School. It is important that all concerned understand the implications of what was published. For the overwhelming majority of students, Royal School will look for every opportunity to affirm the child and ensure that they progress through to the next academic year. However, there will be occasions (hopefully very few) where a child will not have the prerequisite grades and/or knowledge base to allow her or him to progress. It is of no benefit to the child to be pushed into a higher year grouping when the key foundation knowledge is missing from the previous year. It is in these instances where it may be deemed appropriate for a child to be asked to repeat the previous academic year.
Benefits and Pitfalls of Repeating a School Year
It is never an easy decision to hold a student back and all cases need to be assessed on an individual basis. One must take into account the benefits which may come from such an action versus the damage which may also come. In most instances there is no clear answer and one side tends to cancel out the other. What always needs to be at the heart of the process is the key question: what is best for the child?
Where a student clearly will not cope with next year’s curriculum then this has to be a large factor in this process. However, this does need to be weighed against whether a child will actually cope with the trauma of seeing her or his friends moving forward whilst they remaining behind. The social and holistic element of education comes into play here.
It may well be the case that a student is deemed as unable to proceed on an academic front but socially she/he is advanced. In a situation such as this there could be an undertaking on the part of the student and parents that support and extra tuition will be sought outside of school hours – in order to catch up on and fill in the gaps in knowledge.
Alternatively, the child is happy to accept the need to remain behind and repeat – in which case it is the prime responsibility of the school to monitor the child’s development at regular intervals to ensure the correct decision has been made and the situation benefits the child.
In terms of benefits, pressing ‘reset’ can be of immense value: the child finds the work easier as they already have a rudimentary understanding; the child feels a sense of wellbeing due to being not only ahead of her/his colleagues and can play an important role in leading the class and the child can begin to understand the importance of foundation level knowledge before taking the next step.
On the downside are the psychological and sociological implications. A child who is asked to repeat can see self-esteem plummet with a feeling that theirs has been a wasted year; they can become bitter and envious of their peers who may have progressed and they are at risk of becoming disconnected from the learning process.
Data Gathering & Age-Appropriateness
All of the decisions outlined above are governed, primarily, by data. It is through the assessment process where, as educators, we see the performance of a child. Under normal circumstances a child should continue to grow into their academic career. The depth of knowledge, analytical, evaluative and synthesis skills should also develop. Where this is not the case, it could well be a simple solution is necessary – such as revisiting a topic or module which was clearly misunderstood. Where there are fundamental issues where foundation knowledge is missing from a child’s arsenal, then it is time to consider the repeating process. At no stage within an academic year will a child’s progress go unmonitored and, where we identify an issue, this will be communicated to parents with as much speed as possible. This allows all, within the triangle of education, the time to reassess and structure a way forward in a timeous manner.
Where a child has been accelerated beyond their age, this too can have an effect on the performance and ability to integrate within a new year group. Again, through regular contact and testing it will become very apparent that the child is succeeding in their promotion or they need to return to their correct age group. I must state here that I do not support the promotion of children beyond their year group – mainly because of the negative effects which can quickly manifest themselves.
Where there are key decisions to be made, such as repeating a year or returning to an age-appropriate group, both parents and child will be asked, at the earliest opportunity, to meet at the school to discuss the situation to ensure a smooth transition. The meeting will be with the Key Stage Manager (Mrs Anda Badita or Mr Adrian Nistor) and me and the focus, as aforementioned, will be ‘What is in the interests of the child?’
The purpose of education is not to make a child feel inferior but rather to affirm and develop. Aligned to this has to be a policy of honesty and openness: it is immoral for any school to accept the fees payable by parents/sponsors when there is a clear indication that a child is at high risk of not progressing – therefore it is far better to deal with issues in an open, honest and forthright manner.
I trust that this clarifies a couple of grey areas which may have arisen after my initial newsletter. However, should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me via email (email@example.com) or come through to the main reception where a meeting will be set up.