We live in a hugely competitive world. And it’s hardly surprising that this fact has found its way through to children, and parents’ aspirations for their young ones.

The provision of extra-curricular lessons and activities, ‘coaching’ for exams, and even holiday schools for children have all become common activities – with big profits to be made by providers of these services.

But at the opposite end of the spectrum, this only serves to bring more worry for parents whose children find it tough to keep pace – and even more so when they are assessed by a special educational needs board as having such needs.

Although this is now believed to be rare in the state schools sector, it can happen if a child’s performance is deemed much worse than it should be.

But there is much debate on whether letting a child slip into the year below is a good idea, especially surrounding the effects it could have on their self-esteem. Many parents also consider the fact that it might mean their child finding themselves in a group which contains the worst-behaved and most disruptive pupils a big worry.

Perhaps the argument should rather concern the merits of a child being moved down into a class in a lower stream. In the days when this could have meant the difference between studying for a GCE or a CSE exam, there might have been concerns over this. But as children up to the age of 16 – except for the most gifted – study towards a single exam, this probably need no longer be a concern. Indeed, it may give a child a chance to prove – to themselves, in particular – that they can succeed at a particular subject, and to repeat a part of the course which they might have had particular difficulty with.

Where the debate takes on extra significance is if a child has been given an SEN assessment. The onus is then on the school to find the means to fit a programme for addressing those needs in with the child’s regular educational programme.

Whatever the merits or drawbacks to holding back a child, there are many comments in online forums which suggest that it is highly unlikely that they will be alone if they are made to repeat a year. If this happens, the extra support and camaraderie which the child might find in having someone else to identify with could be the spur they need to help get them back on track.


This post was contributed by Emma Morris, a freelance writer who focuses on education and its development with the introduction of classroom technology such as interactive whiteboards.

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