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Grade 1 Delay

So, When Should The Decision About Delayed Entry To Grade 1 Be Made?

Well, I hope that if this is a consideration, your child's school has already been in contact ....

However, as this is a very big decision, one that can have both short-term and long-term implications for your child, here is another perspective .... (It is also a very difficult decision for you to make because of your close emotional bond with your child.)

Who is the at-risk child? I mean those children who are the youngest in the class - and there is always going to be this group of children, no matter when the cut-off date is! (Previously this applied to children born in November and December and now it applies to those born in May and June.)

We need to think about whether these children should be sent to Grade 1 or if they should be allowed to consolidate for a further year in the Reception Class setting.

However, not all of the children born in these months can be considered at-risk and also certain children who fall out of this age category may be considered at risk.

Possible indicators of a child who is at-risk include:

  • A lack of security, including separation anxiety and clingy behaviour in new situations or when meeting new people.
  • A lack of confidence and the inability to achieve his potential.
  • A lack of independence resulting in a reliance on adult support, direction and encouragement.
  • Undeveloped skills particularly fine muscle skills and immature language ability.

Each case must be evaluated individually and I would like to offer the following guidelines to help you in making this decision.

Probably the most effective, and least scientific indicator, is your gut feeling - most parents will know instinctively where their child should be placed. Parents who have a realistic and honest understanding of their child's capabilities will be able to make a decision based on that knowledge.

However, it is essential that parents verify their instinctive response by seeking the advice and opinion of the professionals who handle their children on a daily basis in the educational situation. Teacher's are trained to understand the developmental levels of children and they have experience of a wide-spectrum of learners. They know what is required in the classroom, where children have demands and expectations placed upon them which are different to those experienced at home, e.g. sharing the teacher's attention, working independently or collaboratively to complete a set task, etc. The teacher's opinion and recommendations should, therefore, always be taken into account in making this decision. (This is one of the vitally important reasons why your child should be taught by fully qualified and experienced teachers, those trained in pre-primary practice.)

Also, the Grade 1 teacher's professionalism and experience (in the forthcoming Junior Primary School) must be acknowledged: she will be used to coping with younger-age learners and will ensure appropriate learning experiences and expectations, whilst offering nurturing and empathic support.

Sometimes your child's personality and disposition may impact on the decision; Children whose physical and intellectual skills are insufficiently developed may need a further year of consolidation to enhance social and emotional well-being and confidence in a group situation. A shy, introverted child who lacks confidence will find the transition to formal education demanding. Similarly, an extrovert, active child who resists more thoughtful and structured tasks will also need support and direction.

Therefore, the decision regarding the admission to Grade 1 of an at-risk child should be taken in consultation with his teacher/s.

However, I believe strongly that this should be verified through relevant assessment by an educational psychologist/occupational therapist or speech therapist. This is particularly necessary if your child needs specialist placement, for these purposes a documented profile is required.

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