Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Child psychiatric disorder and relative age within school year: cross sectional survey of large population sample

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 28 August 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:472

Rapid Response:

Re: Holding Back May Cause More Harm

It was intersesting to read a US perspective on this issue. Here in
Australia, holding back is very much encouraged by education authorities
and the media, and is deemed almost mandatory for boys, who are regarded
as suffering far more disadvantage from "early" school starts.

In my State, the school year begins in late January, and a child may
start if they have turned 5, or will turn 5 by the end of June, but many
are held back until the following year, resulting in a possible age spread
of 18 months within a single class. This situation would appear to put
even more emphasis on the need for teachers to be aware of the differing
ability levels within their classroom. However, it is parents and parental
attitude to schooling which are generaly portrayed as the major cause of
disfunction in children.

The Sydney Morning Herald ran a brief report on this resech paper (It
can be viewed at > ) Despite
the fact that authors Goodman, Gledhill and Ford made no mention of
parents as a risk factor in the development of a child's psychiatric
difficulties, the Herald report suggests that "pushy" parents with
unrealistic expectations for their children's academic success are the
primary cause of the disfunction reported in the original paper.

This is quite typical of media attitudes and public perception here.
Thomas Radecki suggested that in the US gifted children who would benefit
from academic acceleration may be held back by school administration. In
Australia, such children are often held back because parents fear the
social disapproval that results from suggesting that a gifted child has
different educational needs.

Unfortunately, it appears that this paper is already on its way to
becoming part of the justification for forcing academicaly gifted children
into lockstep progression with their age peers.

Competing interests:  
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

30 August 2003
Robyn M. Greenwell
Newcastle, NSW Australia 2303