Mixed age classes
Mixed-age classes are common in schools in the local area and pupils are not at a disadvantage if they are in a mixed age class. Below you will find some of the frequently asked questions and our response to them. Mixed age classes occur throughout our school. Each year, classes are re-organised because of the number of pupils we have in each year group, to avoid one class being much larger than another.
Why does my child have to be in a mixed age class?
Our intake number is set at 42 each year, though sometimes we have fewer pupils in a year group than this. This gives us a class and a bit per year group. In Key Stage 1 the pupil limit in a class is set at 30 – this is a national limit, not one imposed just at our school. In some year groups we have fewer pupils than others, but all of our year groups have more than 30 pupils.
Why can’t the year group be taught in one class together?
Whilst it is possible to have larger classes in Key Stage 2, I do not believe it is beneficial for pupils to be taught in large classes. If I organised our KS2 classes like that, we would have some classes exceeding 35 pupils, one of which would be a class of 42. Feedback from pupils and parents of a previous cohort, who had been taught as a class of 38 throughout most of KS2, told me clearly that it wasn’t popular and they felt that their child’s progress suffered as a result. Pupils told me that there were lots of drawbacks, one being that there was not enough space in their classroom.
Why have so many children in each year group?
The number of pupils is recommended by the Local Authority and agreed by Governors. We feel that it would be unfair if pupils from the village of Messingham could not get a place at their local school so reducing the intake number is not an option. In addition, the Local Authority have, as you know, invested in our new school, which has a capacity for 300 pupils across the 7 year groups.
Why split classes on age?
It is the fairest way of splitting a group of pupils. If we split on ability, a number of pupils feel that they are not as good as others; if we split on friendship groups then some pupils feel unpopular. Neither of these does anything to enhance children’s self-esteem. Also, if we split by ability, we would have to decide whether it is ability in reading, or writing or speaking and listening, or maths etc.
There is no evidence that being in a class with pupils of a younger year group is disadvantageous. In fact, having spoken to some of our pupils, they have told me that they like being the oldest in the class for a change and they are making friends with children that they wouldn’t normally have spoken to in the playground.
I do ensure that there is a proportional mix of gender to reflect the gender mix in each year group.
Is my child covering the same curriculum?
All children are entitled to access the National Curriculum and Governors have a duty to ensure this is happening. The National Curriculum sets out what each child should cover in each subject during KS1 and KS2. Each year, the teachers select themes for the learning to focus on each term. I then take those themes and link relevant parts of the National Curriculum to it, ensuring that, during a Key Stage, pupils have covered all that is expected.
Teachers share the themes with their class and ask pupils what they would like to learn about. This then enables each teacher to plan their term’s lessons in a more personalised way, so that your child can feel that their learning is relevant to them. This also means that children in the same year group, but in different classes, will have a different approach to covering the same parts of the National Curriculum.
Feedback from our pupils has been unanimous – they much prefer this way of learning to the old one. It creates much more work for our teachers, but results in a better quality of provision and our pupils are making better progress since it was introduced.
Is my child disadvantaged by working with children in a younger year group?
All pupils are taught according to their age. The National Curriculum is split skills and knowledge that should be securely learnt by pupils in each year group, so pupils in year 1 follow the year 1 curriculum whether they are in a mixed-age or single-aged class. Our teachers are skilled professionals and manage this effectively - it is what they are trained to do.
Sometimes work given is challenging – they are learning something new and need support with this.
Sometimes work given is felt to be easy – this is useful as evidence that your child has securely understood it.
Usually work is somewhere in between, so your child can work independently but still needs to think about what they are doing as they apply their learning.
How do I know my child is making progress?
The class teacher assesses your child constantly in many different ways. This helps them to plan learning opportunities to ensure your child will make progress.
Each term, each teacher meets a member of the School Leadership Team to discuss the progress of all pupils in their class. Your child is identified as making expected progress, better than expected progress or less than expected progress in reading, writing and maths.
Each term teachers assess the sublevel that your child is working at in reading, writing and maths and that data is put into my tracking system. I then look at the progress of all pupils to identify those that may be falling behind. If your child does not make expected progress in one term, it does not necessarily mean they are falling behind – pupils all learn at different rates so they may catch up the following term, but we keep an eye on them to ensure this is the case.
If we are concerned that your child is making below expected progress, then you will be informed and we will discuss the support that we will put in place to help them get back on track.
Why can’t all of a year group always go on the same trip?
The visits that our pupils go on are directly linked to the learning taking place in their class. Pupils who go on educational visits will usually find the experience is different from a family visit to the same place, as workshops or talks are arranged as part of the visit.
Whilst the trips for pupils in one year group are not always identical, your child will get a valuable learning experience that can be followed up in class. When teachers are organising visits they discuss what the aims of the visit are and ensure that there are appropriate learning opportunities during the visit. Often, the whole year group will go on the same trip – in fact we have occasionally organised whole Key Stage trips if the learning experience was valuable to all of the pupils involved.
If we were to have a policy whereby all pupils in a year group go on the same visit, then the cost of trips would rise by about £5 per pupil as a supply teacher would be needed for the remainder of the mixed age class. Also, we would be limited by the types of trips we could take pupils on as many visits include workshops – these are usually limited to about 30 pupils. So we would not be able to take a year group of 35 as they do not often have the facilities or resources to cater for larger groups. We would then need to go in 2 groups, increasing costs once again as that would involve booking 2 coaches.
I have checked with the Local Authority and they confirmed that my organisation of class visits is acceptable – it is not a case of inequality or lack of inclusion as all pupils have access the National Curriculum and the experience of learning on out of school visits.
To ensure that there are opportunities for the whole year group to be together we do plan specific activities and events such as year group coffee mornings; concerts and performances, residential visits, sports day etc.