My Child Has Failed School Exams

Exams: What If My Child Fails?

Written by Adele Keyser

If your child fails the exams, the most important thing is how you respond. It can make or break your child.

The thing no parent wants to say: “My child has failed their school exams.”

It’s exam term again, but this term comes with the dreaded “What will I do if my child needs to repeat?” or “What must I do if my child hasn’t fared well in certain subjects?” Firstly, it’s natural to feel scared of the unknown or, worse still, feeling as if you have failed as a parent. Secondly most of the fear is “not knowing what to do” and “what will other people say or think?”

Forget about other people. This is your child. Find out what you can do for your child and DO NOT blame yourself for not acting sooner. You cannot fix what has already happened, but you can make a difference going forward. Get advice by meeting with the teacher concerned and really listening.

Children often act and respond very differently in the classroom to what you are privy to at home. Remember there are 30+ children in most classes. If your child is easily distracted at home can you imagine how they must feel having to wait their turn, being not the only one to vie for attention or having to sit still in a desk for long periods of time? The teacher is not there to find fault with your child (or how you are raising your child for that matter) or “pick on” your child. Believe you me, they don’t have the time.

Meeting with parents is difficult for any teacher especially when having to explain the “negative aspects” of the child’s school performance. We spend many hours with your child and also want what’s best for them. We don’t have all of the answers, but we usually have recommendations to make. All we ask is that if a parent asks what they can do, is that they follow through with the recommendations. The professionals they refer you to will have the answers, but you have to ask yourself: “Am I prepared to listen?”, “Why am I doing this?” You also need to be honest with the teacher, because recommendations may mean digging into your pockets. If money is tight then other avenues may need to be explored, but this can only happen with open communication.

Reading my previous blog article about learning disabilities may also give you insight into your own child’s needs and what path to follow. Whatever path you follow will definitely mean sacrifices and dedication from all parties concerned. Is it worth it? Absolutely! Who doesn’t want to see their child enjoying school? School does not have to be a burden.

Often it is recommended that your child be assessed by an educational psychologist. The reason for this is that they assess the whole child. For example: sometimes a child sails through Foundation and Intermediate Phase with no problems doing Mathematics, but suddenly their marks start dropping in Grade 7. First reaction: “My child can’t do Maths!” However, Maths may not be the problem, but rather their ability to read and comprehend the question being asked. It is examples such as these that an Educational Psychologist will be able to identify.

They can also identify concentration problems, perceptual problems, emotional and social problems, etc. and make recommendations from these findings. It is then up to you, the parent, to take it further. Why then do parents stop at this point? When having your child assessed you need to be prepared to hear what should be done and then act accordingly. Why else did you have your child assessed? An assessment doesn’t rectify the problem. What comes after the assessment is what counts.

Something I’ve heard often: “I don’t see why my child needs to go to remedial lessons, I’ll just take them to extra lessons or get someone to do homework with them.”

There is a misconception that remedial lessons are just extra lessons. This is very far from the truth.

So, what then is remedial teaching? Well, it definitely is not extra lessons. It is a therapy that focuses on skills rather than on content.

These skills include visual discrimination, perceptual organisation, focusing and eye tracking, laterality, abstract reasoning, auditory processing, to name a few.

What procedure is taken to diagnose your child?

  • Tests and observations will take place.
  • A meeting with the parents and teacher.
  • When a clear diagnosis is made a therapy plan is drawn up to suit your child.
  • Remedial teaching usually takes place twice a week.

Remember it’s never too late to help your child.  You just need to be open to suggestion and accept your child’s learning difficulties and needs. And, most importantly, act on the recommendations.

Also look for additional resources that can benefit your child. WorksheetCloud is a great resource that will give your child access to printable CAPS worksheets that cover core subjects. If your child has failed, or you fear your child may have failed, you should consider enrolling him or her to WorksheetCloud today.

The Author - Adele Keyser

Adele has 27 years experience in teaching pre-primary, foundation phase, intermediate-senior phase and adult education. That's 27 years experience in dealing with children (and parents!). Currently teaching in Cape Town, her major focus is building classroom environments that foster healthy self-esteem and help children realise what they're capable of.

WorksheetCloud is the most exciting way to study for exams and tests!

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  1. Annalien

    Good day hope you can help my boy he is in Gr 5 and end exams is on Monday he is in a Afrikaans skool so I hope you can help

  2. Linda

    Good day, This is now the end of term 2 (2016), me & my son worked extremely hard preparing for this exams. He has difficult concentrating and gets distracted easily. His Grade 4 Teacher requested him to be assessed and when I got to terms with it after reading up ADHD kids. I was actually looking forward to helping my child overcome this problem. The teacher changed her mind after I made the appointment with the Peadiatrician and had to cancel, no improvement has come, and we work double time, weekends and evenings, please help?

  3. kba

    Hi, my niece is 12 yrs, he was suppossed to be doing grade 7, he fails every term and only passs the last term. we took him to a educational psychologist where he is getting treatment but he is still failing, it is so frustrating i dont no what to do anymore. ive registered with worksheet. i studied with him double i dont now what to do. Please help

  4. Sophia

    I want to subscribe but when I get to this part of subscribe I dnt understand please help me I need to pay this it will help my son he didn’t do well at school please help

  5. Gouwa Fraser

    Good evening I got 2 kids , the 1 is in grade 1 and the other 1 in grade 2. My daughter in grade 1 is doing well in school but my daughter in grade 2 doesn’t do so well. They didn’t get there reports yet but I spoke to my daughters teacher that’s in grade 2 she told me that my daughter didn’t do well. Please give me advise. Gouwa Fraser concerned parent.

  6. Gerda

    Hi there, my child is in Gr4 and did really well in all his subject throughout the year, except for maths. Although he did not fail maths, his % went from 80% to 57% in the June exam. I have taken him for additional classes. We have studied really hard, but it seems that he is just not interested in his maths. If you sit with him, he knows everything, But if you give him a test, he suddenly doesn’t know what to do. It’s as if he does not think about it, he just writes an answer? We have done extra work, he has gone to extra classes, we have worked through so many tests? How can I turn my child positive again? What else can I do to motivate him? He is writing maths exam tomorrow and I am terrified for his sake.

    • Kayleen Olivier

      Hi Gerda

      Thanks for your message on our WorksheetCloud blog post.

      ​Firstly, we’d like to applaud you for trying your best to assist your son. It can be so difficult to watch your child struggle when yo know they have so much potential. You are doing a great job!

      ​Writing exams and tests can be very stressful for children, even those that know all the work and have a good knowledge of the content. It’s as if being in an exam setting makes it difficult for them to retrieve the knowledge they do have. Not being a ‘good test taker’ is a fairly common problem, but it can affect some children more than others. They often also have difficulty expressing their knowledge in a written form, especially for subjects like Maths that have a very abstract focus and it’s own language (i.e. numbers and formulas).

      ​The best solution is to to help him practice answering questions in an exam like situation. This means sitting down in a set area (an ‘exam area’ like the dinning room, anywhere he doesn’t normally do homework/work), and completing a written question paper without assistance (no books, no-one to answer his questions etc.). The more he practices retrieving the information and expressing his thoughts in written form, the easier it will become to so in an actual exam.

      ​My suggestion would be to first start with him completing an open book worksheet, then you can mark his work together. This will help him to draw connections from the work in his textbook to the written answers he gives. Marking it together will help build his confidence and he’ll fell supported (try to make a big deal of the answers he gets correct). Then he should complete the worksheet again, but this time in a 100% exam like situation (no books, no help). Once completed he can either mark it alone, or you can mark it together again. Maybe make it a bit of a competition, where for every correct answer he gets 5 minutes of T.V time (or any activity he loves). Incentives work like a charm!

      ​You can also take a look at some of our other blog posts covering exam preparation and how to motivate your child here:


      A great source for practice worksheets and exams is WorksheetCloud. WorksheetCloud is an online resource that gives you access to printable worksheets to help your child revise and practise for class tests and exams. All the worksheets are based on the South African CAPS curriculum which means that they are 100% relevant to the work your child is doing in class.

      We also include detailed memorandums that include the answers and model explanations and working-out for each and every question.

      You can also see a full list of subjects and topics we currently cover on this page:

      I hope this helps. If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact us at any time and I’ll be very happy to assist!

      • Mohini

        Hi there,
        I enrolled my child to worksheet cloud because she is also having concentration problem. She is also been asked from school to do remedial therapy and to see an educational psychologist. I am confused and worried.

        Thank you for advising how to help our kids. I will sure try this with my kid.

  7. Chantal Gordon Davis

    I’ve had my daughter assessed by an Educational Psychologist and the findings have not been helpful. She is apparently an extremist and there is nothing anyone can do for her. She is either extremely good at a subject or extremely bad which brings her to,well, just below grade average. I was stumped. Her teachers don’t seem too concerned. Should I seek a second opinion?
    She is in Grade 6.

    • Kayleen Olivier

      Hi Chantal

      Thanks for your message.

      It can be very disheartening to hear ‘there is nothing anyone can do’ for your child. Especially when you know they are full of potential, they just need to find the methods of learning that work for them (after all, we are all different).

      Now, we have not assessed your daughter ourselves and we are going on the very limited information provided, however it is not common to reach a verdict of ‘there’s nothing that can help’. I’m sure the psychologist who assessed your daughter has very good reasons for why they reached that diagnosis, and as we have not reviewed their assessment, we cannot say their diagnosis is incorrect. However, if you would like to get a second opinion, you can find a number of alternative psychologists here:

      I hope this helps. Please let us know if you have any other questions and we’ll be very happy to help.

      Kayleen 🙂

      • Chantal

        Hi Kayleen

        Thank you for responding
        I shall definitely look into this.

        All the best


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