Mixed Age & Split Year Group Classes in Schools
Mixed age classes are formed in many schools partly because of the way in which the pupil roll is configured in any given year (i.e. the number of pupils in each different year group). It is not uncommon for this situation to change from year to year, as the sizes of year groups can vary quite dramatically. The annual intake of children at Walesby C of E Primary is usually about 20 children and with 7 year groups, this means that the school organises the children into 5 similar size classes which includes, Class Oak- Reception only, Class Horse Chestnut- Year 1/2 mixed, Class Silver Birch - Year 2/3 mixed, Class Sycamore - Year 4/5 mixed and Class Willow - Year 5/6 mixed.
Why is the situation different in my child’s school from that in other schools?
It is fair to say that different situations pertain in all schools. Many schools in Nottinghamshire have less than 100 pupils and may therefore arrange groups in 3 or 4 classes. Each one of these schools has no choice but to form one or several mixed age classes. In none of these schools is the formation of mixed age classes of itself an issue or a concern. Many primary schools in Nottinghamshire (large and small) have formed mixed age classes, and there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that being in a mixed age class has any detrimental effect whatsoever on the education of children in that class.
Do mixed age classes have fewer pupils in them?
Sometimes this may happen within smaller settings or when the needs of the children lead this. However the maximum size of any class with infant children will usually be restricted to 30 children, whilst this is more flexible in KS2.
Will my child be held back if she/he is placed in a mixed age or split year group class?
Definitely not! The ways in which learning and teaching are organised in primary schools means that teaching and work is tailored to the needs and current achievement levels of individual pupils. The Staff here at Walesby C of E Primary School are very experienced at planning and delivering work to match the needs of mixed age learning. They provide challenge for the more able children and support for those needing more help whichever year group they are currently in.
Much work is undertaken in small groups and contain children from 1 or 2 year groups or those of similar existing achievement levels. Furthermore, the school will plan the educational experiences for pupils in all classes in ways which ensure good progression and continuity, which ever year group or class they are in.
Forming a mixed age or split year group class may mean that my child’s friendship grouping is being broken up.
Although care is taken in allocating pupils to classes, their social needs are not ignored. In general terms it is likely to be good for children to experience classes with different classmates so that their circle of friends and acquaintances can be extended beyond the traditional age boundaries. Where new classes are formed, it is of course, perfectly feasible for schools to create opportunities beyond the standard curriculum for pupils to maintain contact with friends who have been allocated to other classes (such as at lunchtimes, break times, special activities, ukulele, etc.). Certainly when children transfer to secondary school, new friendship groupings in different subject areas become a fact of life, and this situation is generally welcomed by many children.
What are the benefits to the arrangements?
Children benefit in many ways from the opportunity to become an ‘expert’ for the younger children and a positive role model which the younger children often aspire to. This ‘vertical’ grouping often nurtures thinking & problem solving skills, vocabulary & social competences. There is often a greater sense of cooperation and opportunities to work with a wider circle of peers. The children usually have several years with the same teacher and this provides a perfect opportunity for the teacher to develop a deeper understanding of a child’s needs and strengths and is therefore in a stronger position to better support the child’s learning. In turn the child knows their teacher well, understands the expectations they have, and can build upon a level of trust that encourages them to ‘have a go’ or try something new.