Re: Could a child fail a grading?
Yes. We just had two kid students fail their tests at the same time because they were not listening to sensei. Both kids relatively high ranking, both pretty skilled. They deserved the crap out of failing.
On the other hand, another guy in that kids class going from yellow belt to orange did one of the best aikido tests I've seen of ANY rank. He had come into aikido last year with poor attention and a lot of self-directed anger. We worried about him and still wonder a bit about his home life, not abuse per se, but some pretty harsh expectations.
He got called up, knee walked to the right spot, bowed to shomen, sensei panel, and to the class. Nobody had to tell him any of that, unlike every other kid I've seen test. Stood up, did exactly what was asked of him, even if he didn't do it perfectly. He did it, finished following directions, and at one point asked if he could try again to do a better roll. He did his few techniques with his partner without asking for or even needing guidance. He felt bad for looking at sensei when he asked sensei to repeat something he didn't hear, and he said that he was only looking at sensei to hear him better. He answered the quiz questions while sitting very neatly and very attentively in seiza. He beamed confidence and capability, and he seemed actually happy being tested.
Even though I am not involved in that class, I watched the tests closely, since I knew that sensei has been trying to get more aikido out of the kids. This guy's test gave me a little tear, and as he was leaving the dojo, I shook his hand, bowed to him, and told him that he did a really great job. Josh totally deserves his new orange belt. Looking forward to watching his next test.
But yeah, folks, kid or not, can fail a test in our dojo. Makes the passing sweeter.