The primary school curriculum is designed as an eight year course, including a two year infant cycle followed by six years in standards from first to sixth, with children progressing to the next grade at the end of each school year.
The Department is providing considerable support for pupils with learning difficulties in schools. Learning support teachers, resource teachers, special needs assistants, computer equipment and a wide range of resources under the various schemes for schools in areas designated as disadvantaged are among the forms of provision allocated to schools for these pupils.
Under the Department's policy, pupils should only repeat a year for educational reasons and under no circumstances should an additional grade level (middle infants or repeat sixth class) operate through the retention of all or a substantial number of pupils for a second year at a grade level. The level of provision now available should enable pupils to make progress in keeping with their needs and abilities and to move consecutively through the different class levels in the school in keeping with their peers.
In accordance with the terms of the circular, a principal teacher should consult with the learning support teacher, class teacher and parents of a pupil and if all parties conclude that the pupil would benefit educationally by repeating a class, the pupil may be retained. However, a record outlining the educational basis for the decision to retain a pupil in a class for a second year should be kept for any pupil retained. In addition, there should be a clear programme outlined for such a pupil that records precisely what new approach will be used for her/him and what its expected benefit will be. These records should be retained within the school and should be brought to the attention of the Inspector. A pupil should not be retained for longer than one year in a primary school.
Circular 32/03 recognises that a student may be allowed to repeat a year provided there is an educational basis for it, and there is a clear programme for the pupil to follow. The primary school in consultation with the parents and student is best placed to make the decision in respect of whether the reason cited for the student is an ‘exceptional circumstance’.