This paper serves to explore the reasons for children in South Africa receiving recommendations to move from mainstream to remedial schools and the current state of affairs in terms of the education system’s ability to accommodate those recommendations.

Understanding remedial schools

Remedial schools are schools that cater for the intricate needs of children who are having difficulty performing in mainstream school. These schools focus on teaching learners with difficulties in school at a pace that they are comfortable learning at. Children who have difficulties with specific subjects in comparison to other subjects tend to do better at remedial schools. The reason for this is that the remedial school offers more support for specific gaps in learning for children who need a little extra help to get on par with other children their age. This could be subject specific, and the common subjects are Reading and Math. Lots of Remedial schools have support classes which are allocated in class time and children struggling with these subjects go to the support class and get an individualized lesson where they can learn at their own pace. The school is still academic based and operate on current educational syllabus as mainstream schools.

Remedial schools are often classed as schools for children with special needs. This is a common misunderstanding. Schools for children with special needs cater for children that have disabilities that disadvantage them from going to mainstream schools. They require special care and may not be able to cope in mainstream schools academically. These schools also include special teaching for children with both apparent disabilities such as blindness as well as the less noticeable disabilities such as Dyslexia. Special needs schools tend accept students older than 18 years of age and focus on adaptive skills to allow for independence as well as academics. Students who attend special needs schools require more assistance physically, therefore, a focus on skills that can promote independence are of high priority.

Both remedial schools and special education schools have assistant teachers in class that helps the form room teacher with children that are struggling more than others. Therefore, many parents opt for the option of remedial schools. As good as these schools are, there some downfalls to this option. Children that require help in one subject may be set back in other subjects that they excel in. This causes the child to lose interest in those subject lessons and may be detrimental at a later stage to the child’s learning. The child seeks a stimulation that they aren’t able to get from the classes that they exceed in and may engage in problem behaviour.

School facilitation deems a promising solution to problem behaviour in schools as well as the transition from remedial schools to mainstream schools. The facilitator attends school with the child and advises him or her on ways that they can tackle their stressors in the school environment in an independent way. This allows the child to learn how to deal with the obstacles in their way and motivate independence and has produced wonderful success stories.

Remedial schools:  The benefits of remedial education 

Remedial schools aim to offer education to a targeted group of children who lag behind academically (Shwartz, 2012). Qualified teachers work within these schools and use specific education interventions to meet the challenges that these children face. These challenges range from children who lack skills in maths, reading or writing to children who have been diagnosed with learning disorders, therefore remedial education is offered in these schools to specifically cater for these needs (Japari, 2019). Remedial schools are different to main stream schools in certain ways, however, research has shown that some students with learning difficulties do transition to main stream schools because of the education that they received at remedial schools (Japari, 2019). Remedial education has thus proved that it has short and long term benefits for children. These benefits can be seen in the cognitive and emotional domains and this promotes future success.

Remedial schools in South Africa have small classes for children which fosters a stimulating, learning environment for them. The small classes allow teachers to familiarise themselves with each child’s learning styles so that the child is learning optimally. One of the main focuses of remedial schools is that it assists in improving mathematics and reading skills of children which are so important for day-to-day life (Japari, 2019). Once children are able to master the basic fundamentals, they are then further given the opportunity to broaden their knowledge base on more complex work.

It can be said that children with learning difficulties often experience greater levels of anxiety or behaviour. Research has shown that remedial schools allow children to feel comfortable within their learning environments and this leads to much greater confidence levels.  Strategies are taught to these children to help them understand and comprehend various topics such as emotional coping.  (Dalien, n.d).  This improved level of understanding reduces behaviour such as anger, frustration and feelings of anxiety and inferiority that accompany it.

In addition, to the above-mentioned advantages, most importantly, it prepares children for life-long success. It not only assists them in learning the basic academic skills that is needed,  but it also helps to develop an understanding of their own needs and what works best for them in terms of learning (Dalien,n.d ).  It has been stated that remedial intervention at an early age would produce the best long-term results (Japari, 2019). Children who attend remedial schools are likely to progress to higher education programmes and employment.

Remedial schooling in South Africa thus offer ways for children to learn successfully and build futures for themselves.


Dalien, S. (n.d.). 10 benefits of special education tutoring for children with learning disabilities. Retrieved 7 September 2019 from

Japari schools. (2019). How independent schools are helping remedial students to win. Retrieved 7 September 2019 from

Japari school. (2019). The link between remedial education, matric exams and university success.  Retrieved 7 September 2019, from

Schwartz, A. (2012). Remedial education to accelerate learning for all. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.26166.70729. Retrieved from

Remedial schools are designed to assist children who require full-time remediation, either for shorter periods until they are ready to move to a mainstream schooling environment, or throughout their schooling experience.

In recent years, more and more children have been found to have learning disabilities and these children are not managing to keep afloat in the traditional mainstream schooling system.

More than half of South African learners by grade 4 cannot read at an appropriate level, and math scores are dropping drastically. The need for remedial schools is increasing and without them, many students would be left behind. Remedial schools offer children a more tailored learning experience in order to help them in specific areas of need.

Children can fall behind in core skills (reading, writing and math) despite having average or even sometimes above average intellectual abilities. Teachers in remedial schools have specialised training in dealing with children with special needs and are more equipped to support them through different therapies offered through the school.

As an ABA (applied behaviour analysis) instructor, I work with children with a variety of different support needs. For a lot of these kids, when it comes time to finding a school that will cater for their needs, remedial schools are often better suited. We work together with the teachers and therapists in the school. An important part of this is by creating an IEP (individualised education plan) for the child that will ensure they are set up for success and are getting the intervention they require.

It is important to detect early on when a child needs to be placed in a remedial school. The earlier the intervention, the better the chance they have for catching up and being ready to move to a mainstream school. By grade 4, the gap in education becomes larger and it becomes increasingly difficult to catch up to their peers.

Its easy to see why educators need to make every effort to break down walls and barriers to learning and go the extra mile to ensure that each child is equipped to continue through their schooling career successfully.

Remedial school teachers take a very patient approach to teaching, they focus on each individual child’s strengths and weaknesses and ensure that the child is learning at a pace appropriate to them. They are able to identify which specific areas the child is having difficulty with and work with them one-on-one when needed. By creating more motivating work environments, the teacher increases the child’s interest which encourages more active participation from them.

In summary, it is important to pick up early on when a child needs to be placed in a remedial school so that they are given the opportunity to catch up to their peers and get through the rest of their schooling experience without additional difficulty.

Making the decision to enrol your child in one of many remedial schools available for consideration can be a daunting prospect. Whether your child is just beginning their schooling journey, or the recommendation has been made to move from a mainstream school, researching these remedial schools is a necessity in order to find just the right fit for your child and family.

Remedial schools have become more prevalent in recent years, as there is a definite need for them, and there are many benefits to the education received at remedial schools: the classroom sizes tend to be smaller, allowing for the individual attention your child may require; the curriculum is generally adapted in order to allow your child to work at his or her own pace, and at a level of difficulty that he or she can understand; the basic education skills are specifically targeted, such as reading and math literacy, which form the core knowledge needed to progress through the grades, and by bolstering these skills, a child may become more able to learn complex academic material.

There are also common concerns that arise when considering enrolment into remedial schools: sometimes the adapted curriculum does not allow for a child to expand their knowledge, and fully reach their academic potential; occasionally it can be difficult for children in remedial schools to make the jump into a mainstream school, as the environment (and workload) can be very different; some parents are concerned that their children may begin to imitate inappropriate behaviours demonstrated by other peers within the remedial schools’ classrooms.

Many mainstream schools have now begun to make use of “bridging classes,” where a child who is struggling academically can be moved to a smaller classroom environment for those specific lessons identified as “difficult.” These bridging classes have helped to incorporate techniques used by remedial schools, but within the mainstream school environment. Some children thrive within these smaller bridging classes, while some may continue to struggle, and are then the recommendation to look at remedial schools is given.

The Catch Up Kids programme aims to help these children requiring the one-on-one attention, and aid them in building up the core skills necessary for success in the classroom. Catch Up Kids instructors are specially trained in order to deliver individualised lessons to your child, that will specifically build up the areas of academic concern, as well as many other skills that may be holding your child back from learning in the classroom environment (for example, memory, ability to follow instructions, and the ability to sustain attention to a task). When looking at remedial schools, Catch Up Kids should be your first port of call as we may be able to bridge the gaps without removing your child from a mainstream classroom, increase the speed at which they are prepared for the move to a mainstream school, or help them reach their potential within any remedial schools.

The decision about remedial schools will be different for every family, and it is important to look at all options – having an assessment done by Catch Up Kids may open up a few more options for your child, and the more choices available, the better chances you have of finding the ideal fit.

Rebecca van Wyngaard

Is a remedial school the correct choice for my child?

If your child is having difficulty in school, you may be considering sending your child to a remedial school. These difficulties may include learning disabilities or difficulties, problems coping with the work-load or even emotional or social difficulties. Before you make the big decision you will want a lot more information so that you know you are making the correct decision for your child.

The advantages of mainstream schooling are that your child will be educated, as well as socialising and modelling, with children who are at the average level for their age. If your child is having difficulties it is possible that they need extra support outside of school to help them keep up, or possibly even a change of school as opposed to a move to remedial. It is important to remember that just because your child is fully capable of handling a mainstream environment, doesn’t mean that the school, or even class, that they are in is right for them. The guidance of professionals can be valuable in guiding this decision.

If your child needs a higher level of support than what can be provided within a mainstream environment then it may be time to consider a remedial school. In South Africa there are different levels of remedial school, offering varied curriculums as well as levels of support and making the decision of where to put your child depends strongly on their needs. A child who needs a lower level of support will not be reasonably stimulated in an environment where the pace is too slow, however a child who needs more one-on-one support may find the pacing of a bigger or fast-moving class too difficult and fail to make progress. Many schools offer extra support such as OT, speech therapy and play therapy and these support systems should also be considered when making your decision as support from within the school may be more advantageous than outside support as the therapists within the school are familiar with the child’s school environment.

Catch-Up kids can support your child no matter what decision you make. We have experience supporting children who are having difficulty within the mainstream environment and have helped them keep up with their classmates, as well as helped them get the most out of their remedial school. We have strong relationships with many schools and can facilitate during school hours as well as give support after hours in the form of specialised programmes designed to help your child with their specific areas of need. We stay in contact with the school and teacher to ensure that we are staying on top of your child’s needs so that they make the most possible progress no matter what level of schooling they are at.

When your child is diagnosed with a developmental delay or struggling in a mainstream school your first response as a parent is to find a remedial school that will suit your child’s needs or help your child be successful. How do you know if and what remedial school is the best fit and will a remedial school be the place where your child flourishes?

There are various arguments stating that a remedial school will be the best placement when your child is diagnosed with a developmental delay or any other disability as this way you will give your child a chance to receive a full formal education.  Where other arguments states that moving your child to a remedial school will separate your child from neurotypical peers or role models and follows the notion of believing this separation is acceptable or required.

Pros – Remedial schools

  1. Remedial schools and teachers are qualified in remedial education and therefore qualified to teach children with various diagnosis or disabilities
  2. A remedial school offers an accepting environment and more accepting peers therefore a child is less likely to be bullied at school
  3. Sometimes extra services such as speech therapy and occupational therapy are included as part of the school’s progrramme

Cons – Remedial schools

  1. The classroom consists of various children with different skill deficits and different learning styles which often requires 1:1 attention
  2. Your child is removed from a mainstream classroom or mainstream school setting
  3. Your child is removed from neurotypical peers who can be excellent models to learn from and to motivate your child within the classroom
  4. Sometimes remedial schools aren’t set up to teach and foster independent skills for independent living

Pros – Mainstream schools

  1. Your child is placed with good role models in terms of language skills, social skills, academic skills, play skills etc.
  2. It helps your child to feel comfortable within a mainstream placement and between neurotypical peers for later in life when opportunities outside of school are taken into account whether it be social events or a work environment when they are older
  3. Inclusion teaches mainstream peers to be tolerant and accepting of differences between people

Cons – Mainstream schools

  1. Teachers aren’t necessarily qualified in special needs education or in managing challenging behaviour
  2. Challenges a child experiences due to their skill deficits can influence their ability to keep up in the classroom or even influence their social interactions with peers
  3. Self-esteem being influenced when they do not have the correct support when a peer or teacher is not understanding or accepting of their differences

How can I help my child be successful in their placement?

The appropriate support in a remedial or mainstream classroom can be given by ensuring that trained professionals work with your child in the classroom that understand your child’s diagnosis, the skill deficits and excesses. An indivualized education plan (IEP) should be in place for the child to ensure that the skill deficits are addressed, monitored and adapted which includes curriculum modifications that can be made if needed. A trained facilitator can be provided in a classroom to facilitate your child’s learning in the classroom, with goals of independence included in the way facilitation is applied.

Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) and Catch Up Kids can provide the required support by setting your child up for success

My experience with remedial schools

My experience with remedial schools has truly been eye-opening. The difference in the environment compared to mainstream schooling is surreal; I have been to both respectively and I can say with certainty that remedials pride themselves on inclusivity. The children are brought up in an immensely supportive environment. The perspective shared regarding their efforts made towards the kids is amazing to witness. Judgement and prejudices don’t exist in these schools as they promote and uphold acceptance and humanity. When I facilitated one of our kids it felt so different compared to other mainstream schools as the kids were so warm, welcoming and inclusive with regards to my kid. They understood that some kids are special, and a little different, just as they are. They accept that each individual is unique. They wouldn’t say hurtful things to my kid or ask inappropriate questions. We get asked quite inappropriate questions at mainstream schools fairly often. I admire the remedial schools because they make every child feel equal and a part of the society. The teachers are amazing too. They are supportive and understanding of each individual child’s needs. They know how to foster that belonging and accepting factor. The values that the kids are taught in these schools appear to be a little different to those of mainstream schools. Children in remedials are shaped to understand that each child is different and that each child needs a friend. I have never before observed such an absence of cliques as I do at these schools – truly an extraordinary phenomenon. Cliques play a pivotal role in children’s social development at schools. Cliques often lead to children feeling like outcasts and different. Remedial schools cultures are of such a nature that cliques cannot manifest. It is amazing to see how these children treat one another and accept their peers. The care, love and compassionate traits these children possess are admirable. Remedial schools can be rather stigmatized however as parents always tend to push for mainstream schooling – remedials on the other hand – should be celebrated more and more for the abundance of opportunities it presents for children with disabilities. They give every child an equal and fair opportunity to acquire precious education. Sending your child with a disability to a remedial school is the best thing you will do; the environment will promote development with regards to the amazing person they will one day be. A remedial school is to be considered if your child needs an environment to develop social, emotional and intellectual skills. Remedial schools should never be stigmatized as stated earlier; they should be celebrated for the unique environment they offer. They truly allow your child the platform to stand out for his/her astonishing achievements.

Karin Coetzee

Remedial School

What is Remedial school or education?

The main goal of remedial school education to assist a child who has fallen behind academically to ‘catch up’ to their peers. The content of these programs is usually focused on the foundational skills of reading, writing and numeracy. While the term ‘remedial’ is often used interchangeably with ‘special needs’ they are different. A remedial school or remedial education seeks to build on the missing skills while ‘special needs education’ seeks to meet an ongoing need in students with physical and or cognitive disabilities. Remedial education can be provided to children with or without disabilities who have average to above average intellectual abilities, who are for a variety of reasons not keeping up with their peer group in a mainstream school.

What to look for in a remedial school.

There are a few key elements that need to be present in an effective remedial program. Does the program utilise proven research-based interventions and does the program have measures in place to clearly show progress? As when you take a child out of the mainstream setting and into a remedial one you want the time out of the classroom to be as effective as possible. A program that has a strong research base is one that is likely to be highly effective. Before the remediation is implemented there needs to be a good plan in place, in order for this to be achieved a comprehensive assessment to identify skill deficits needs to be completed. The program needs to focuses on teaching the identified skill deficits first, as without consolidation of basic skills higher order skills cannot be achieved.  These basic skills need to be taught in a step by step manner by breaking down complex skills into smaller more manageable steps. Often children who require remedial assistance struggle to break a task down into smaller parts, helping a child learn how to do that can make presented work far less daunting.

The remedial school program must be individualized, a one size fits all program will not effectively address the needs of each child. You want the program to target the deficits specifically, this is best achieved through an individualised learning plan (ILP). Instruction needs to be provided in small groups but ideally in an one-one-one setting with some activities within a small group setting. When a child is placed on a one-on-one setting their unique academic and emotional needs can be met. Furthermore, a remedial school that looks at the child holistically and builds missing skills in non-academic areas such as social, play or adaptive skills in addition to academic skills further helps to close the gap. Quite often when children are identified as needing remedial intervention the skill deficits are as a result of poor sustained attention skills; deficits in listening and comprehension skills; difficulty with divided attention; difficulty with following multiple instructions at once and or low motivation. When these skills are absent it makes it very difficult for a child to learn in a classroom environment. Thus, a comprehensive remedial program will look to address all these elements in addition to the academic deficits.

Janine Clark

Remedial school in Johannesburg

Why is there such a big need today for remedial school in Johannesburg and remedial teachers who can teach children who require remedial learning in Johannesburg? Over the years more and more children are struggling to keep up to the standards (CAPS curriculum and classroom pressures and pace) required in remedial school in Johannesburg. Classroom masses have grown larger and larger and the pace at which children are being taught is much faster. Due to factors many children are presenting with learning difficulties. Teachers are finding it more difficult to give the individualised attention that is required by children with a slower learning acquisition rate. The word remedial can range far and wide, this meaning that it can go all the way from small learning deficits such as reading or writing and range all the way to learning disabilities such as dyslexia for an example. Whichever the case, remedial school in Johannesburg are recommending that these children seek alternative therapies or even go as far as suggesting that they leave their mainstream environment and go off to find schools with remedial capabilities that will cater to the child’s remedial need. Due to this many independently owned remedial schools are establishing themselves throughout Johannesburg. The high demand of remedial learning in Johannesburg has prompted the creation and establishment of these new remedial schools in and around Johannesburg. Some are in hope to provide better learning environments for children with remedial learning needs, Many offering different types of therapies (such as speech, OT, behavioral, Ect) to help them and other remedial schools in hope to help them correct their learning difficulties that labels them into a remedial category. At catch up kids this is definitely the case. It can be seen as a remedial form of teaching and they are based in Johannesburg. They have qualified instructors who can work with children in Johannesburg who have remedial learning needs. The instructors are trained in the CAPS curriculum for each grade and at catch up kids they do not see remedial as a final label, instead they seek to find where the learner is having difficulties and to “catch them up” to the level that they need to be at for their age level (hence the name catch up kids). Many remedial school in Johannesburg work with pupils who also attend catch up kids and together the combination can have phenomenal results. Some children may even learn from the comfort of their own homes in Johannesburg or the ultimate option is to mainstream them back into their mainstream schools in Johannesburg and allow them to have remedial extra lessons after school hours to keep them up with their grade level and the CAPS curriculum. This is often the best outcome as the child feels motivated to start succeeding in their class and they often do better and better with the confidence build and motivation. So if you are seeking a remedial school in Johannesburg or help to assist with remedial needs, catch up kids is the best place to start.