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Retention: Is holding my child back the right decision?

With the mid-year report card feedback approaching, it is the time of the year where teachers and parents start talking about the next step for the new academic year. Many factors might have an impact on this decision, like the time of year your child was born, their physical size, emotional and developmental readiness. It is therefore of utmost importance to remember that a child is not only made up of their academic abilities, but we have to look at the readiness from a holistic point of view.


The educational journey of the child can be viewed as the process of building a house. The early years lay the foundation and therefore Cannon & Lipscomb (2011) state that it is better to hold your child back in the first three years of schooling rather than later in their schooling career. Retention in the preschool years is looked at in a different light, it is not used as a behavioural motivation mechanism but rather the focus is on the developmental readiness of the child. There are pros and cons to holding your child back. Let’s unpack the pros;


· Reduced pressure and stress: Children who are developmentally behind can benefit from repeating a grade as they won’t have the extra pressure to keep up with a grade level above their developmental abilities.

· Catching up: Children who might have missed a lot of school days during the year can benefit from repeating the grade to assist them in catching up at a realistic pace.


· Emotional readiness: As mentioned above, we tend to only look at the child’s academic performance, but emotional readiness is equally important. We have to look at the child’s ability to deal with the pressure of the academic load and the social interactions that form part of their next grade level.

Please do keep in mind that intervention strategies have to be in place to support the child if they are held back. Now let’s look at some of the cons;

· Self-esteem: There is a negative social stigma around retention and in some cases, peers react differently to children who have been held back. This has a significant impact on the self-esteem of the child. In some cases, children who are held back are also bigger in physical size compared to their peers and this can cause the learner to become more self-conscious.


· Socialisation: This becomes a challenge when children are separated from their friends, they struggle to make new friends and tend to become anti-social with their classroom peers. This becomes more common if the child has been held back for more than one year.


In the preschool years, the above-mentioned aspects are not as common and become more of a challenge in higher grades.


As parents, you might feel unsure about your decision, however, rest assured that you don’t need to make this decision on your own and support is available. If you have concerns about the next step, liaise with your child’s teacher, principal and SBST (school-based support team). At Crayon Kids Academy our SBST consists of our principal, teachers, speech therapist and occupational therapist. In cases where the SBST is unable to reach a decision, the recommendation is made that a complete evaluation is done by a qualified educational psychologist. This is a valuable route to follow in making the final decision. Additional intervention during the year like one-on-one lessons and parents working with their kids at home can also improve a learner’s performance and reduce the risk of retention.


This will always be a difficult decision to make, however, if your child’s best interests are at the centre of your decisions, you can have peace of mind in whatever you choose to do. At Crayon Kids we don’t have a cookie-cutter way of looking at a child’s development and will collaborate with our speech and occupational therapist, teachers and principal to assist parents in making an informed decision.