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Repeating school has no benefit: study

Susan Notes: Corporate politicos ignore the research and continue to implement a rigid policy of holding children back until they reach the magic numbers on standardized tests, but we must keep showing them the research.

Making a student repeat a level at school has no benefit and in fact may do more harm, Australian research shows.

The study, by Deakin University's Dr Helen McGrath, also found students who repeated a year were 20 to 50 per cent more likely to drop out, compared to similar students who progressed.

Dr McGrath reviewed dozens of studies by academics in Australia and the United States over the past 75 years comparing the outcomes for students with specific needs who were either held back or allowed to progress.

She said those studies failed to support the popular assumption among teachers and parents that repeating a year helped a student's academic performance.

"There may be an occasional student who is the exception, but for most students providing them with more of what didn't work for them the first time around is an exercise in futility," she said.

"In fact, repeating a year confirms to a student that they have failed.

"They experience stress from being taller, larger and more physically mature than their younger classmates. They miss their friends who have moved on to the next year level.

"They also experience boredom from repeating similar tasks and assignments. Their self esteem drops. All of these factors ultimately lead many to drop out."

There also appears to be no benefit in holding children back from starting school because they were not seen to be "school ready".

"If a child is old enough to enter primary school, then holding them back and enrolling them in an additional year of preschool appears to provide no academic or social advantages and may in fact be detrimental in many cases," she said.

Dr McGrath said simply promoting the struggling student to the next year level was not the answer either.

She said schools needed to consider more effective alternatives to support students who experienced social, behavioural or academic difficulties.

These included identifying problems at pre-school level and developing programs to address them, creating individual education plans, providing specialist support and adapting the curriculum to the needs of the student.

"Multi-age classrooms and peer tutoring also provide ways of supporting students who may be struggling," she said.

The study, To Repeat or Not to Repeat?, was published in the July edition of WORDS: Journal of the Association of Western Australian Primary Principals

— Staff
Sydney Morning Herald


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