Do children benefit from repeating a grade?

The Department of Basic Education is considering a policy that will prevent schools from making children in lower grades repeat the same grade.

Minister of  Basic Education Angie Motshekga told parliament in 2018  that according to experts, children who were made to repeat a grade did not benefit from it.

“A number of education experts have opined on this matter, and the overwhelming message is that it does not make any educational sense to make young children aged six to ten years, to repeat a Grade. According to the experts, the children who repeat, on the whole, gain absolutely nothing. On the contrary, for many affected children, repetition is a powerful early signal of failure – a signal that lasts through the individual’s life,” Motshekga told parliament.

If the policy is implemented, it would mean that schools would not be allowed to make children in lower Grades repeat even if they did not perform well academically.

While some experts agree with Motshekga’s sentiments, others disagree and argue that letting children progress to the next grade, even when they are struggling academically, is just setting them up for failure.

Speaking to Cape Talk parenting expert Nikki Bush says the department needs to put more consideration before the policy is implemented.

Head of Schools at SPARK Schools Bailey Thomson Blake says the decision to retain a child is extremely complex and must be carefully considered.

“Not only is academic achievement important, but social-emotional development must also be considered,” says Thomson Blake.

However, she states that in cases where a child has to repeat a Grade, it is important that the child’s parent/parents become invested in supporting them so that they can be more successful.

“We have seen incredibly successful instances where a child is retained and experiences academic growth and happiness in repeating a grade.  Without the full backing of a child’s family, retaining a child may not make a marked difference for them at all.

At SPARK, we understand that children are individuals and that this process may work differently for different children. That said, retention is rare at SPARK Schools,” she says.

There are a lot of things that schools take into consideration before deciding on retaining a child. At  SPARK Schools the decision to hold a child back is only done as a last resort if other interventions don’t work.

“Our learning model is personalised, which means that we differentiate teaching to cater to individual scholars’ capabilities, skills, pace, and needs.  Each year, our school leaders and teachers are involved in our Fail No One (FNO) program, which is an initiative in which we identify scholars struggling academically by the end of Term 2 and put individualised support plans into place to prevent the need to recommend them for retention in their grade level at the end of Term 4,” Thomson Blake says.

Additionally, if a child doesn’t make sufficient progress in their core subjects, the school can suggest that they repeat the grade.

“Of course, it is ultimately the parent’s decision whether to follow our recommendation, and we never retain a child without parental permission to do so,” she says.

To learn more about SPARK Schools visit our website on

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