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Schools’ educational policies about grade retention decision making




grade retention, educational policies, instruments of school autonomy, primary education, decision-making


In Portugal, grade retention is a decision made within a set of guiding documents defined either by the Ministry of Education or by the school. This study sought to understand how the schools’ regulatory documents guided the decision-making of second-grade retention. An analysis of the regulatory documents of 68 schools in the Region of Madeira, Portugal, was carried out. The objectives defined in the educational project; the criteria and requirements required in the retention decision; and the formalization of pedagogical complement before and after retention were analyzed. The data indicate that the general guidelines of the Ministry of Education on retention are included in the educational policies of schools. However, most schools, including schools that intend to reduce the use of retention, do not specify criteria or requirements other than those already defined by legislation, which could help teachers make decisions about retention, nor do they formalize pedagogical complements for students once retained. These results are consistent with those obtained from 294 primary teachers questioned about the schools’ retention plans. It is considered relevant to discuss retention policies at the school level to provide higher quality decision-making regarding grade retention.


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Author Biographies

Natalie Nóbrega Santos, Centro de Investigação em Educação, ISPA - Instituto Universitário (CIE-ISPA)

Natalie Nóbrega Santos é doutoranda em Educação pelo ISPA – Instituto Universitário, em associação com a Universidade Nova de Lisboa através das Faculdades de Ciências Sociais e Humanas (FCSH) e Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia (FCT), desenvolvendo as suas atividades de investigação no Centro de Investigação em Educação (CIE – ISPA).

Vera Monteiro, Centro de Investigação em Educação, ISPA - Instituto Universitário (CIE-ISPA)

Vera Monteiro é doutora em Psicologia da Educação pela Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa, Docente no Instituto Universitário (ISPA) e membro do Centro de Investigação em Educação (CIE – ISPA).



How to Cite

Nóbrega Santos, N., & Monteiro, V. (2023). Schools’ educational policies about grade retention decision making. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 31.