Schools with combined years: Good, bad ugly?(35 Posts)
Currently looking at a primary for DC where years 1/2, 3/4, 5/6 are combined. I’ve never had any direct experience of this model and wonder how it’s worked for others?
My youngests primary does this.
In younger years its good as the children have older children to mix with and their friendship groups span across 2 years so found things like speech, pe skills and writing moved on quicker than my dc who went to single year classes.
In year 5/6 the yr 5s always lost out on work/help due to teachers working with year 6s to get them through their SATs. My dc asked me a lot more questions in yr5 because they just didnt get the time with the teaching staff. Most interaction was with the TA. All the trips were targeted towards year 6 too so in some ways year 5 felt like a wasted year.
Once they started yr 7 at high school the staff commented how much younger the pupils who went to our primary school seemed to be. They felt it was because they didn't get the same opportunities to mature being in a class with younger students. The oldest yr6 student can be 2 years older than the youngest yr5 pupil. If the class moved at a pace closer to the yr5 students abilities then I can see why those students may not be as mature when in yr7.
My dc go to a small rural school like this. It has worked just fine (have dc who have been all the way through). It’s a close community and having two years with one teacher has been good for them. I wouldn’t like it in a bigger school with classes of 30 though.
Contrary to previous comments, when my DS was in a split class in yr 5 it brought him up to the level of the yr 6s, so much so that now he is on year 6 he’s doing year 7 work and is finding the work a bit too ‘easy’. He didn’t find that they only concentrated on the older ones, to be fair. Being the very youngest in his year (end of August) I was worried that he would be mixing with children almost 2 years older, as I thought they may have been a bit too ‘mature’, but that turned out to be a good thing, rather than a bad.
I find that it works really well at the school my DCs attend. It's great for the children socially because they make friends in other year groups and this seems to take some of the pressure off when there are friendship issues, and it makes transitions easier. It also really benefits the children at the extremes, with high or low ability, because in a mixed year class they don't seem like such outliers. And they get more continuity with teachers, too.
Class size in this case would be 30. Aren’t the lessons hard to pitch across two different years? I wonder how teachers feel about a mixed class?
Teachers have to differentiate work across a normal class anyway so they are used to this.
Across a whole class there will be a big range of abilities so the work will be arranged to suit them all.
Our school splits the classes so that the children who need a little extra help stay in their year 2 class and the others move up to year 3 with a few year 4s that need extra support.
My DC go to a small primary with mixed ages. In the infants class, the children have a buddy system that follows through school. My DC love it.
Anecdotally, when I was a toddler, my mum got ill and we had to stay with grandparents for a few months. My older brother went to a village primary with combined years for two terms and even though he's ancient now, he still remembers that school very fondly and says he was so happy there and was really positive when I told him DC would be going to a similar school.
I will go against the grain here and say that I don’t think this works. Educationally - while teachers are used to teaching different ability groups when it comes to academic areas there is a huge need for smaller groups tailored to needs and then you are dependent on having good TAs. There are fewer and fewer of these about.
Socially - the kids know each other but they never interact outside of school or play together at break times. I’m not a teacher but a parent volunteer two days a week so I have “seen” this.
The older ones in the year above are essentially two years older than the youngest ones and that is a massive difference in terms of social norms/emotional intelligence. For example a child of 7 can be quite cruel to a child of just 5 when they don’t know the answer or what to do. It can be quite upsetting if your child is not especially resilient.
I am considering taking my child out of our mixed year school as I don’t feel it is working well.
Speaking as a parent and a teacher here, I think they can work if managed well. You can have just as big a range of ability to cater for in one year group, particularly in large schools where they may be eg 100 in a year group.
Skibeck, that's certainly not the case at our school. DD is in Y6, and at her birthday party last month her guests were 3 year 5 pupils, 2 year 6 pupils and one friend who is now in year 7 at secondary school.
My DS has been in composite classes in year 3 (3/4) and and 4 (4/5). Where we were living overseas at the time, the younger half of the cohort can deferred a year, so there can be a possible age range of 19 months in any single year. This meant my DS was over two years younger than the eldest child in the composite class.
The age gap was honestly not a problem at all. One problem we did have was that maths and English groups were artificially separated by year, not just ability, and DS would have been a better fit working with the top table of the year above for maths.
I think you need more children in a single year group to get the most out of primary education. I do not see any advantage in having friends from different year groups. It is forced on children; they have not chosen this. They have limited choice in their own age group so have to look elsewhere for friends.
Activities such as music can suffer and sport where there are insufficient children of the same age. I also fundamentally object to the less bright children being kept down to work with younger children. That is clearly saying you are not good enough to be with the other children and sends out very clear messages about lack of equality. What about going on the same school trips? What about art and sport where “extra” help is not needed? This is pure discrimination.
Work out how the classes are organised and decide if it’s for you. The same teacher for two years might feel like punishment to some children. Mixed classes would not have been acceptable to me unless every child was treated equally and had equal access to the whole curriculum. Also small schools can definitely produce less mature children.
Mixed age year groups don't necessarily mean fewer children of the same age. My experience is with a school with an intake of 45 pupils per year. The children still make friends with children in other year groups because they like them! And every child does have access to the whole curriculum. The children start in an early years reception/nursery class, move on to one of three mixed year 1/2 classes, then year 3/4 then year 5/6. The classes are all balanced so have roughly the same gender and ability mix. It works very well.
I do agree that where all the children are mixed in an obviously fair way, it’s fine. 45 per year and 90 over two years all mixed is fine. One class of mixed in that scenario would not be. This method can be used where oldest in the lower class are mixed with the youngest in the older class. This can mean a huge variation in educational attainment and really does mean some children
may have few like them to work with and whole class teaching is virtually impossible if you have some with high Maths ability and others who can barely do the 2x table.
Therefore in a school with a pan of 45 which operates two classes of 30 where all children are in the correct year group but one class is a mixed year group is patently unfair. If everyone is in mixed classes, I have no problem with that model, but many schools have a fluctuating roll and hive off a small number of children based on birth date or perceived lower ability for a single mixed class. I cannot see why parents of these children would accept this.
It’s a single form entry school with an intake of 15 per year roughly. They keep deception separate then mix them in starting in Year 1. I imagine it might work somewhat like a Montessori approach with the mixed ages? I think socially it could work quite well but I’m guessing here as I have no direct experience. Growing up we all played out as a big mixed aged group of kids and actively sought out friends from different years. They got impressive SATS results last year which I imagine means it’s working to some extent?
Ds (and dd before she moved to secondary) goes to a small village school where years 1, 2 and 3 and years 4, 5 and 6 are combined. As a teacher (secondary) I am agog at how they manage to teach that way, but it seems to work. It's a wonderful school and the kids do very well. My dc moved there from a very good, full 30-per-class, 1 form entry school when we re-located. If anything the smaller school is even better.
Ours were merged as class sizes were so small. They had to merge two years to get 20 children.
They were merged in split year groups groups, so the only time the children would be in there chronological year group was in reception and the last year of that school.
The year groups did join together for various lessons. It sounds complicated but it worked so well it was always outstanding with Offstead.
It helped bond the school as a whole
Our experience was a good one, it helped the children play and include children outside their usual age group and ability.
Mums met and chatted and organised play dates Then the following year a slightly different set of mums met and chatted.
The cohesion is good for the children, morale of the school and especially fund raising.
after year 5 as the classes were not merged.
To be honest it’s a bit of a red herring. I would concentrate far more on the overall quality of teaching. If that’s good, then the fact that your classes are mixed is neither here nor there, and if teaching isn’t good, then you have bigger issues than a combined year group, and having a single year group will not fix it.
Our primary is tiny and has stand alone reception, combined Yr1/2 etc. Outcomes are well above national averages.
Our school is a 45 pupil intake.
2 x reception classes of 22/23 kids
1 x year 1 class of 30 kids
1 x year 1/2 class of 30 kids
1 x year 2 class of 30 kids
Then there are 3 x year 3/4 classes and 3x year 5/6 classes of 30 kids per class.
The kids are mixed up every year to try to get the balance between ability/social skills/teaching assistants etc.
We are only in year 1, but it has enabled the school to separate groups of kids who distracts each other and identify the kids who need more support and allocate teaching resources as needed.
So it’s working so far, and there haven’t really been any complaints from parents about the system.
Apparently the school take months deciding which kids will go where, the parents find out right at the end of the summer term.
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