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Teachers - prefer to teach mixed year groups or pure!? What are the benefits of each?

(27 Posts)
educator123 Sat 11-May-13 10:17:06

I ask as I love two schools one has mixed classes, changes year to wear dependant on intakes but next year will comprise of a mixed class of R,yr1&2 at the lower end of the school.

I wondered what teachers opinions are of this and how they feel it benefits and inhibites the children??

The school lists lots of benefits to the mixed small classes

The other school is a single form entry so pure (but bigger) year group.

I can see looking at the foundation stage how it is probably quite different in the pure year group setting but wonder if it's still possible to achieve effective learning and enjoyment across the year groups of the mixed classes too.

educator123 Sat 11-May-13 10:18:04

Would be great to hear pros and cons of both from teachers and parents

TIA

tilder Sat 11-May-13 10:30:57

Am sure the school does promote the benefits as it wouldn't be in their interest to highlight the downsides.

From experience as a parent with children in small schools, there is a minimum school size below which I wouldn't want to go. Ideally I would want at least a four class structure, with three as a minimum. Does the small school have a falling pupil number?

Having three full years together means potentially sibling in the same class, very different abilities, same teacher and classroom for 3 years.

They need to make sure the lesson content is rotated every 3 years so children don't get the same stuff twice.

Would also want to know about the medium and long term viability of such a small school and what the plans are for its future.

Also think clubs, out of hours provision, sports, social groupings etc.

Also, if they ever split years how do they do it. Based on age, ability, gender etc.

Small schools can be brilliant, especially if you are in catchment, with children growing up in the community. There is less wriggle room though if friendship groups or teaching problems etc crop up.

Wellthen Sat 11-May-13 11:17:32

Tidler has made some great points about after school activities, same teacher for so long, siblings in same classes - I completely agree that once you get past 2 years in the same class (so a 4 class school), the negatives do start to out weight the benefits.

One benefit of a 4 class school is the classes change ever so slightly each year (1 year they are the oldest, 1 year the youngest) so your child isn't stuck with 'that kid' and they regular experience of being looked after or looking after each other. However mixing the classes is doable in a bigger school so not necessarily a mixed class thing.

As a teacher the range of abilities wouldnt phase me at all (I currently teach level 1-5) but the range of maturity would. There are some conversations I have with my class about ethics and morals, death, war, love, life in general really, that I wouldnt have with year 3s. Having year 3-6 in one class (or even 4-6) limits the whole class discussions you can have, the books you can read and the way in which you tackle behaviour. I dont think this is fair on the older children who need to be having those more adult conversations with adults who can model.

Equally the younger children may be exposed to language and interests (tv programs, games, the whole 'going out' thing) earlier than would be ideal.

As a teacher I would happily teach a whole key stage. As a parent I wouldn't go any smaller than 4 classes.

educator123 Sat 11-May-13 14:26:04

Thank you.
The benefits they promote are - more able can move forward, less able can recap. And they are unique in the way they play/take care of each other across the ages groups.

3 classes and like I say the set up varies dependant on intake for example this year they have had R&1, 2&3, 4,5&6 together. Total class sizes of 12-18.

From what I have seen they children seem to stay children for longer rather than the opposite of being exposed to things earlier than 'normal' for example the year 6 girls still seem like young girls where as the year6 girls at the one form entry seem much more grown up/look older than they are etc sad

I would much rather them be on the younger side while at primary. Lots more time for fashion and looking too grown up in secondary imo!

The smaller rural school is very close by but I do have concerns about some of the things mentioned and learning. Is very traditional in its values and morals and is like a big hug lol - family like!

The bigger has a very innovate curriculum and more 'modern' in its way of doing things. But I can see possibilities of much exposure to things like computer games, possible unkindness in the play ground and not so much opportunity to take part in everything on offer.

The smaller has two after school clubs, whole school swims once a week and then whatever else they do they all get a chance to have a go etc. Lots of outdoor space and they say they won't close esp as it's a church aided and the future plans are to become an 'umbrella academy' with the other local small village schools.
The small class sizes are an attraction but then they are mixed...

Tough - they both have good qualities

quip Sat 11-May-13 18:31:25

My kids go to a three-class school. They have really benefited from the smaller classes, and even though there's a wide range of abilities in one class, the teacher has more time for them. The thing that's most important for me is that both dss were in reception intakes of less than 10 so they were known as individuals from day 1 and never seemed lost as everyone in the school knew their names after a couple of days, as its like a big family.

tilder Sat 11-May-13 18:41:44

If the small class sizes are an attraction I would ask around, get hold of meeting notes etc just to be sure they have sufficient money to maintain the current staffing levels and number of classes. In such a small school its not uncommon to have part time staff, class shares and a 2.5 class structure. So they may have 3 classes part of the time, with 2 classes some days or half days.

If they do become an umbrella school that's a good sign as they wouldn't be welcome if they weren't financially viable in their own right.

BedHog Sat 11-May-13 19:57:20

It becomes very difficult if the younger children excel at anything, particularly if children are seated by ability rather than age. If a reception child is reading at a higher level, or is faster at running, or better at maths etc than the majority of year 1 and 2 children, it causes a huge amount of resentment and jealousy, which I don't think you would get with a single year group.

Patchouli Sat 11-May-13 20:37:41

Can the more able children move on so well if they are in year 6, with half the class being year 5?
There must be a fair bit of differentiating going on.

Startail Sat 11-May-13 21:12:37

The ability range in DDs Y6 was wider than the Y5 group they were combined with so expert differentiation was needed regardless.

I agree that 4 classes works, less I'd worry about. There is a huge gap in maturity between YR and Y2 - Y3 and Y5/6.

DNice is at a tiny 2 class school (KS1/KS2) and wants to move as she is the only girl in her year. Her quiet big brother loves it, but she is livelier and wants more children her age.

educator123 Sun 12-May-13 14:50:57

Thanks all atm the smaller school has 3 classes full time and 3.5 teachers (head teaches two days a week) and various TAs.

And the classes aren't always together as one part of the class may go into the hall for sport or art etc while the other half stays with the teacher doing something else.

Numbers are low - 40 in total!

But they have just been given a generous grant to extend which stressed me. We live in the village and most children seem to leave very able and their transition to secondary is smooth.

They seem to do a bit of everything but teams sports are tricky. And like another poster said going in in small intakes means all the teachers end up knowing them very well. None are numbers.

But I can also work out who is going in in ds's intake and know he will be the only boy although there will be boys in his classroom.

The one form entry has class sizes of 25ish which isn't huge but it is an extremely popular school so their admission number has gone from 20 to 25 so I worry it may increase. And 25 seems big when you are comparing it to 12.

educator123 Sun 12-May-13 14:51:42

*which surprised me

educator123 Sun 12-May-13 15:01:21

It's hard to know what's best I do worry about the future of the smaller one, not of closure but reduction in staff or classes and we have four children to go through school so lots of primary years ahead.

But also think if everyone didn't use the small school on that args closure would be a self fulfilling prophecy which would be a real shame as I am an advocate of smaller village schools.

OddBoots Sun 12-May-13 15:03:37

How big is the secondary school they'd go to? I've known children be really disrupted moving from a tiny primary into a big secondary.

For me I'd like a tiny infant school (2-3 classes total for yR-2) and a middle sized Juniors (2 classes per year, 8 total for y3-6).

Biscuitsneeded Sun 12-May-13 20:48:50

Be careful. Friend's son went from a purely reception class to a mainly Y2 class with a few Y1s in it, meaning he had to make new friends all over again. He then had a fantastic year as he was actually more on the wavelength of the Y2 boys than the Y1 boys (so school had at least assessed him correctly), but at the end of it the Y2 children went off into a mixed Y3/Y4 class and friend's son had to go back and do Y2 with the original reception group, who had all gelled into established friendship groups in the meantime. He couldn't even see his older friends at playtime as they were now in the KS2 playground! To be honest he's struggled a bit since then and still misses his older friends. He's a nice little boy and I feel the mixed class teaching system has really let him down. He's also a bright little boy but is not achieving nearly as well as he could because it's a small school and it just happens there aren't really any other able children to spur him on or work with him. I'd go for a bigger school every time, for friendship reasons and for the capacity to cope with all ends of the spectrum.

educator123 Mon 13-May-13 13:32:08

Yes I can see what you mean. Atm they don't split year groups but can see that it does happen sometimes in small schools.

Although in the school I am talking about I really can't see it making a difference as all the children seem to play together across the years without any problems.

The do have a reception garden but mostly only use it for lesson time at breaktimes the whole school play in the large field/play park altogether I think because it is so small (40 in total) they all know/look after each other very well.

educator123 Mon 13-May-13 13:37:51

In a way I can see some positive of that too as the must learn some good social skills and be adaptable. For example nothing is thought of a reception chime playing with a year6 child nor girls playing as well with boys and visa versa. From what I've seen (pass by everyday) they just seem to view each other a children and children play together. No your a boy I'm not playing with you or
your not in my class clicks.

But I can see how problems could arise. I do also know I teacher thou win teacher pure year group who says it seems to be towards the end of year two the girls seem to start being a little unkind to each other. Something I can imagine happening in the smaller school as the classes are so small but I class of 25 and say for example 10 girls I can imagine the whole - your not playing with us etc.

MiaowTheCat Mon 13-May-13 13:54:44

I've never found much of a difference teaching a single year group or mixed to be honest - the range of abilities you can get in a single year class CAN be as wide as those across a mixed-year one depending on how that particular cohort is.

And I've done some of the "owww" type of year group combos - across KS1 and 2 or across Foundation / KS1 in the past.

But I'm a small school fan - always preferred working in them to larger schools. Lots of our larger schools with slightly wonky admissions numbers making for not a full class of kids (god knows which genuis allocated them that) have started making ALL their classes mixed year - so rather than having Y5 Y5/6 Y6 - they've made all the classes Y5/6 (at least partly as a result of parental fretting over being in the mixed one I'll admit).

As long as the planning's there and there's a decent cycle of topics in place rotating them over the number of year groups in the class (so - before Gove got his hands on things - you'd do the Egyptians one year, Greeks the next, then back to the Egyptians in a 2 year group class so everything got covered) it's really not a problem.

Plus in a smaller school there were less potential candidates for who'd nicked my staple gun!

tilder Mon 13-May-13 19:29:09

Children do play across years in a small school but also in small groups generally within their year. we have 3 girls in year 5 which was fine until the end of year 3 but is now notorious for fallings out.

My children are happy in a small school but its early days yet and I know from friends with older children, the small classes become trickier as the children get older.

If you are looking at a small school (and 40 is very small) just be aware that the things you value when they are little are often the things that cause problems later on.

I completely understand the appeal of a local village school you can walk to, and know the pressure to send children in catchment. Sending out of catchment in a village is also fraught with politics!

educator123 Tue 14-May-13 20:41:44

Yes living in the village and not using the village schooldoes not go down well!

The smaller school has a good reputation too but unfortunately the more affluent people in the village send their children there until 7 or year5 then move onto private therefore a intake in a year group can gradually go down alot come yr5/6.

miaow Do you prefer smaller schools from a teaching/job perspective or do you believe they are better for the children?

Also what effect do you think it has on their secondary years if for some reason the children to reach their full potential during primary?

teacherwith2kids Tue 14-May-13 21:23:19

I have posted on your thread before, educator - and I understand why you are still fretting but think that, in a way, there is no more 'outside' advice that we can give as it depends so much on the personalities of your children and the individual schools.

Having taught in a tiny school (about the size that you are thinking of, but 2 classes with a P/T teaching head) I would never send my children to one BUT my children are 'outliers'. Both are very able, and DS has many ASD traits. Even in a larger primary - PAN of 20 but mixed classes to give classes of 30 - DS was the only child of anything like his ability in his year. When in the 'younger' of the two yeargroups in the class, this was OK - he worked with the top group of the year above (though his ASD traits made social things tricky). However, he would have been absolutely isolated when in the 'top' year group in each mixed year class, as those 'learning near peers' of his would have moved on to the next class, as another poster describes. (The solution proposed by the school was that he would move into Yr 3/4 during the second part of Year 1, and keep him there as a year 2, but that is another story)

We moved him to a 60-entry primary, where he and equally able DD have flourished - simply for statistical reasons, they have more children near them in ability, and there is not the same feeling of the children they work with 'moving on' in the second year of a mixed year class and leaving them 'behind'.

However, were my children nearer 'average', many of these problemns wouldn't have arisen.

Very tiny schools - no. Too small a social group, too small a learning group, not enough opportunity for sport, too little contact with a variety of teachers and other adults, very insular school gate politics, continual doubts over financial viability (the 'one year moratorium' on the change in funding that may affect small schools in some LEAs is coming to an end shortly - the school I once taught in is due to lose a massive % of its budget overnight), a focus on nurture rather than extension (gross generalisation, but most people choose small schools because of their small and caring environment, not because they are looking for a streching and academically rigorous environment). But that is for MY children, with the schools that I know. It doesn't help you with YOUR children in YOUR school choice.

educator123 Wed 15-May-13 07:47:07

I knowteacher it does need to be down to us I just can't help worrying about it and seeking information.

For what it is worth we move our dds (reception and year2) from the small school after Easter to the single form entry of 25ish. (Council are trying to push up numbers at the upper end of the school due to the large classrooms) bit of a worry for me as head insists that 25 is an ideal number for learning.

The children have settled really well and seem to be thriving already, it is an excellent school lesson are innovate and children have even left the nearest prep school to get in BUT I can't help feeling the pull back to our local small school for some of the reasons you mentioned. The nurture being a big part and the teacher were so mentally attached to our children. And it was a big part of our community and day to day life.

I also feel if lots drop out, just incase something goes wrong it becomes self profiling prophecy! But that is half the problem - a percentage leaving to attend private schools at 7 or in year 5.

The small school has just been give a generous grant to extend which I was shocked about being as their numbers are now below 40. So I suppose my worry is, with two more children due to start school in 2014&2016 that the small school at the bottom of the roads improves (its already pretty good now academically) then I don't want to send the children somewhere a drive away but also need them all in the same school logistically.

Another concern is that my eldest was top of the class in the small school, on the school council involved in everything on offer.
Now she still doing well but overwhelmed I think and also not getting as many opportunities to take part in extra curricular because I have to collect dd1 and can't get back and turn around to collect dd2 from a club as it would only leave me 20 min to get the other three out the car back in again and back to school. I REALLY miss the walking dd1 could do every club that did pop up, be in less (two a week) as I could walk home in 5 min then pop back again an hour later.

Hard to get a balance, and decide what is most important overall but I do really appreciate your advice and experience.

educator123 Wed 15-May-13 07:48:14

Generally not mentally!

Takver Wed 15-May-13 12:00:07

I'd agree with teacherwith2kids - if you think your dc might be too far off 'average' then I'd look at the bigger school. I definitely think dd would have been better in a big city primary where they'd be far more used to dealing with outliers..

Having said that, if you have the option to move (ie alternative likely to have spaces in higher years) then why not stay with the local school and move if you feel the need? That definitely seems to be the case with the even smaller school near us, a trickle of children move from there to dd's school, generally I think looking either for wider friendship group or sometimes more sport opportunities.

educator123 Wed 15-May-13 16:34:10

I moved them for similar reasons - friendship options and sport opportunities but now I wondering if they may have been better at the smaller school and me try to supplement sport out of school.

I can see how moving later could be beneficial but not viable for me as I need them all in the same place when my next two start. So if I start the next, dc3 at the larger school I need to commit to them all going there and travelling there for the next eleven years.

It's hard as there are imperfections with the small school but they have just been given a sport grant apparently and an expecting grant. The larger school is probably better if I'm honest but the small school is also very good, at the bottom of our road and just had a good with outstanding features OFSTED inspection. I wouldn't ordinarily pay too much attention to that but the inspector did also say it was a gem of a school that he wished his children to attend. That meant more than the suppose itself.

Just doesn't change the limited friendshipS, mixed classes or lack of sport.

On the flip the other school has children leaving the local prep it federated with another school a year ago which has just been re inspected and the male inspector actually cried as he was overwhelmed with its progress since the head took it over!! I am very lucky to have secured places and would be unlikely to get them again.

So I'm comparing to very good schools but also two very different schools...nightmare!!

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