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Should My Child Repeat Prep?

Some parents are starting to wonder if their child should repeat Prep.  Perhaps a school report has told you something you already had a gut feeling about or the teacher says your child is shy, withdrawn or underdeveloped socially. You may hear some noise about repeating Prep but nobody is telling you exactly what to do. It can be daunting, confusing and a very emotional decision to make.

What do parents say?

Talking to parents who have been in a similar boat and considering research on repeating Prep may leave you feeling conflicted. On one hand, some parents who had their child repeat Prep have no regrets. Brisbane parent, Mary, says that since repeating Prep her child has been, “so much more emotionally ready – she was always academically ready. She’s confident, thriving, social, loves school and loves learning. Her positive attitude toward school this year has never faltered (not even once).”

Mary told Families Magazine that her school has a “Mod Prep” year, which is essentially a transition between Kindy and Prep. It’s more play-based but still starts them on the basics of routine. Amanda has noticed that it seems to stop the tendency to repeat later year levels.

What does the government say?

Queensland Prep students must turn 5 by the end of June the year they enrol. As of September 1st 2016, the Prep Year became compulsory. However, Prep may be delayed if parents and/or carers believe that their child is not ready for prep. Children must attend school in Queensland from aged 6 years 6 months to the age of 16 years old.

What do educators say?

Prep class at Ormiston College

It really depends on the school and its principal as to whether they will encourage or discourage your child repeating Prep. Schools that have strong intervention programs and support systems in place may be less likely to encourage your child repeating. Instead, they may offer you support programs, one on one or small group intervention for your child next year. This will allow them to move to the next class with their peers while developing at their own pace.

The Education Act stipulates that children may, for the most part, only repeat ONCE in their school careers. Individual schools will have their own repetition policies and there is much research (particularly by pedagogical researcher John Hattie) that indicates that repeating a year level is potentially problematic in itself. Some schools may refuse to allow students to repeat any year levels depending on their interpretation of policy and research. Schools will attempt to use their resources to support students who require extra assistance.

Who would be involved in this decision?

  • You
  • Your child
  • Your child’s teacher/s
  • Outside experts if appropriate (speech therapist, child psychologist, occupational therapist, etc)
  • Principal and assorted administration staff

What should you do?

Consider all your options and gather as much information as you can about your child’s development. If your school is suggesting your child repeat Prep, ask the following:

  • Do you have documentation outlining why my child should repeat Prep?
  • Should my child have further assessment which may make them applicable for government funding to assist their learning needs when they begin Grade 1?
  • Are there other children repeating who they can be grouped with during learning times to ensure they are engaging with peers of their own age at times?
  • Could my child be placed in a composite class (Prep/1) so that they can continue to be challenged in the areas excelled in and grouped with Preps in the areas lacking?

Should my child repeat Kindy rather than Prep?

Child at kindergarten
Child at kindergarten

If your child hasn’t entered Primary schooling yet, you might be seeing signs that they need to repeat their Pre-Prep year at daycare/kindy. There will soon be a ‘Ready for Prep?’ testing tool to see if your child is ready for more formal schooling. However, you might also like to have an open discussion with your Early Childhood teacher about the possibility of delaying entry to Prep. For some further research about the benefits of delaying entry to Prep – click here.

How will I know the choice made is the right one?

A confident decision will be well-researched and take into account your individual child and your school. Each school or kindergarten will have its own ‘trend’ of repeating or going forward, depending on a child’s age and abilities. You may be feeling anxious or guilty because you are going against the ‘trend’ but it is important that you factor in your child’s circumstances and theirs alone.

For more information on whether you should delay your child in kindy or Prep, visit Queensland Government’s Preparing for Prep.

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Amanda Mergler

Dr Amanda Mergler is an expert in child and adolescent development. Her PhD focused on personal responsibility and she has published papers on delayed Prep entry.. She has been an academic at Queensland University of Technology for over 10 years and is currently a Guidance Officer at Federation University. Her academic credentials together with her advocacy work makes her a credible source and highly reputable expert on the Families Magazine team.

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