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Grade Retention


My son (aged 6 and born in November) is one of the youngest in his class. He is raised in a bi-ligual home with his father speaking Flemish. Currently, he is enrolled in small Flemish school near our home. He has struggled all year with writing and reading. We are spending a considerable amount of time at home working with him. He is in the process of getting ADD tested. We are waiting on the outcome of the tests (mid-Feb.) before making a decision, but the teacher has planted the idea that maybe he should be held back a year.

My brother was held back for similar reasons and turned out great. Talking to him last night, he suggested it was the best decision my parents ever made. Nevertheless, looking online many studies state that it is not good for a child.

Does anyone have any first hand impressions with this both in the Flemish schools or at all? Thanks.


Hi there, I don't have experience keeping my child back a year but do have experience with a bilingual child in a Flemish school and his being the youngest in his class. My husband only spoke Dutch with our child but despite this he was having problems with writing and reading. We discussed keeping him back a year and the school suggested testing him for ADD and other things also. We decided not to do the test in the end and he received extra tuition a few times a week from the school for a year. By the age of 8 it all came together and he did not need extra tuition. He's now 10 and I wouldn't say he is the top of his class in reading and writing but he is doing very well! Good luck with your decision.

Jan 30, 2015 13:02

we have the opposite problem. a child born in early January who is way ahead of her classmates and bored out of her mind (the next birthday is may). unfortunately our school is adamant, a child has to go in the "right" year for her age. personally, if the school are flexible I would go with what they advise.

Jan 30, 2015 16:34

There are a number of issues here. Firstly, a bilingual environment means that the cognitive and language development in general may take time. It is normal that your child may in fact be "behind" in some areas as they have two languages to deal with. This may be the case for some years, it is difficult to tell. Bilingualism is great however do not expect the same level of progression as a single language student. The road is longer.
Secondly, Belgians love to make students repeat, it is almost cultural, up to 30% repeat at some stage. In contrast to well respected education systems in Scandinavia, New Zealand, Japan amongst others who almost never repeat a year.
You have options. These include, getting a tutor and doing extra work as often as possible. This will obviously help. A decision does not necessarily need to be made until summer, so you have time. See if tutoring helps. If you choose to repeat there is less social stigma at a young age in comparison to repeating later when your child will be more aware of the situation. Friendships would have also been formed making it more difficult. This way the child consolidates what has been learnt giving them a better base.
Secondly, ADD may not necessarily be the correct label. Your child may be finding it challenging therefore leading to this behaviour that mirrors ADD however is not in fact ADD. I would be careful to jump on this bandwagon. If you feel your child is ADD, seeing a dietician for a change of diet is worth looking at instead of sedatives. I would avoid these at all cost.
Hope this helps, I speak from years of education experience.
Good luck.

Jan 30, 2015 18:06

WOW- thank you everyone. As to the ADD, I have quite a few family relatives with it. My brother included... he was the one who said if your son needs a leg brace do you not give it to him. We thought due to the family history, we should not ignore the possibility. I agree with labels- but it might be needed- I don't know this is so hard!

Jan 30, 2015 18:29

My daughter, age 7, also born in November, repeated 3de kleuterklas. She joined our family through adoption when she was 3 so naturally there was developmental delay involved. Initially she was sad that her friends were moving on to first grade without her but she quickly made new friends. Staying back a year has been good for her We have very good relations with the school and trusted their judgment.

Jan 30, 2015 18:41

Planting the idea now is a way of trying to ensure it doesn't happen. You still have over 1/2 the school year to see what you can do and to do it. But to know there are issues now is to be better prepared for what might be best.

He wouldn't have gone up from Kleuterklas 3 unless they thought he was ready, so I would be very surprised if there's any issue with his bilingualism.

Trust the professional resources and make good use of them. We've been through something similar and it turned out well, but every case is different, and wouldn't want to sound like an internet quack by suggesting any simple solutions to what is always a complex issue.

Jan 30, 2015 19:23