School operations

Repeating a Year Level

previously called Year Level Movement


Communicating with families

The Department has developed resources to support schools to communicate with families about repeating a year level. Refer to:

Research on repeating a year level

For evidence on repeating a year level, refer to the following research:

Teaching and Learning Toolkit, Evidence for Learning, The Education Endowment Foundation (2020). Repeating a yearExternal Link

Summary of findings:

  • In the majority of cases, year level repetition is harmful to a student’s chances of academic success.
  • Repeating a year level has greater negative effects for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • Repeating a year is likely to lead to greater negative effects when used in the early years of primary school, for culturally and linguistically diverse students, or for students who are relatively young in their year group.
  • Students who repeat a year make an average of four months’ less academic progress over the course of a year than students who progress to the next year level.
  • Students who repeat a year are unlikely to catch up with peers of a similar level who move on, even after completing an additional year’s schooling.

Visible Learning. Hattie, J., (2018). Visible LearningExternal Link

Summary of findings:

  • Hattie ranked 138 influences that are related to learning outcomes from very positive effects to very negative effects. Retention (holding students back) is an intervention with a significant negative effect of -0.32.

'To be or not to be retained ... That’s the question!' Retention, self-esteem, self-concept, achievement goals, and grades. Peixoto, F., Monteiro, V., Mata, L., Sanches, C., Pipa, J. and Almeida, L.S. (2016). Frontiers in Psychology, 7(1550), 1-13. To be or not to be retainedExternal Link

Summary of findings:

  • Repeating a year level has long term negative impacts that remain even when students recover academic achievement and the experience is in the distant past.
  • Students who repeat a year can lose confidence in their learning, develop negative attitudes towards school and learning, have low self-esteem, and increased aggressive and disruptive behaviours.
  • Year level repetition can increase the risk of not completing school and decrease the likelihood of participation in tertiary education.

Effects on Retention in Elementary Grades on Grade 9 Motivation for educational Attainment. Cham, H., Hughes, J.N., West, S.G. and Im, M.H. (2015), Journal of School Psychology, 53, 7-27. Effects on RetentionExternal Link

Summary of findings:

  • Repeating a year level is an expensive intervention with minimal evidence of benefits to the retained student.

Social Promotion or Grade Repetition: What’s Best for the 21st Century Student. Dr. Jeanne Hernandez-Tutop, May 2012, USA. Social Promotion or Grade RepetitionExternal Link

Summary of findings:

  • This American research is critical of the No Child Left Behind policy which recommended that students be required to demonstrate a set standard of achievement before progressing to the next grade level.

Holding back and holding behind: Grade retention and students' non-academic and academic outcomes. Martin, A. J. (2011). British Educational Research Journal, 37(5), 739-763. Holding back and holding behindExternal Link

Summary of findings:

  • Repeating a year level has negative implications for academic motivation, academic engagement, academic self-concept, and general self-esteem.
  • Repeating a year level increased student maladaptive motivation and weeks absent from school.
Resources for the Department Repeating a Year Level Policy

Reviewed 29 October 2021

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