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Grade repetition ineffective and harmful: lecturer

Recent research has shown that grade repetition can be ineffective and harmful.

Lecturer Robyn Anderson from James Cook University explained that in 2012, there were 944 students between the ages of 5 and 8 who had repeated a year at school in Queensland.

“In the short term, even though grade repetition may appear a successful intervention practice for unready or underachieving students, a considerable body of research warns that in the long term, it is not only ineffective but may be harmful to students as well,” Anderson said.

She explained that in the long term, research has shown that grade repetition can be especially harmful to social and emotional wellbeing. “Grade repetition can lower students’ self-esteem and cause them to be ridiculed and bullied by their peers,” she said. “It has been strongly associated with dropping out of school and there is no evidence of any long-term benefits.”

Anderson mentioned that reducing the likelihood of grade repetition requires action in the early years of schooling. She said children who transition from preschool into primary school are being assessed on what they can’t do, rather than their achievements. She said this was highly problematic.

“What we should do is focus on what attributes they already have and build on that, so that each one of them reaches their level of learning,” she argued. “Focusing on children’s strengths and building a continuity of children’s experiences from birth through to early schooling and later is advised.”

Anderson recommended that transition programs focus is on the child’s social, physical and cognitive strengths. She said a play-based program could help develop these abilities further.

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