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Composite classes.

(31 Posts)
Readytomakechanges Wed 10-May-17 08:24:29

In DD's school they operate composite classes from year 1.

There will be a year 1 class, a mixed year 1/2 class and a year 2 class.

As yet, the school have not decided which child will go in each class.

I've been scanning old threads to try to get reassurance that composite classes work well.

I've noticed a few comments that say that composite classes cannot hold more than 25 children. Is that true in England, or just Scotland?

Has anyone experienced composite classes? If so, what were the pros and cons?

Thank you.

Readytomakechanges Wed 10-May-17 08:25:53

DD is currently in reception so will be in either the year 1 class or the mixed year 1/2 class from September.

stargirl1701 Wed 10-May-17 08:37:48

Big pro for me, as a teacher, is the vertical peer structure which seems to add cohesiveness to the class. I like the upper multi stage composite P5/6/7 best, I think.

I'm in Scotland and, yes, it is max 25 here. I am unsure if that is the case in rUK.

MiaowTheCat Wed 10-May-17 09:11:02

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

harderandharder2breathe Wed 10-May-17 09:16:50

A long time ago now but I was in composite classes in my small primary school for several years and didn't find it much different than normal classes, and this was in the days before TAs so just one teacher for 32 kids.

GuestWW Wed 10-May-17 09:32:17

We have them in our school - R/1 then 2/3 and finally 4/5/6 together. And that top class is well over 25. It works well, the kids know each other very well so get along across year groups. There is an opportunity to see what is coming next year so moving up isn't so scary. The teachers / HLTA / TAs all seem to share around the year groups.

I was worried at the outset but am fully converted now - and I say that whilst one of them is in the middle of SATs!

Firenight Wed 10-May-17 09:34:57

It happens at my kids' primary from year 3 onwards. No problems with it and a great chance to really mix children up which I like.

LadyLannister Wed 10-May-17 10:09:02

I think it very much depends on whether your child will be a year 1 or a year 2 in a mixed age class as to whether it benefits them/disadvantages them. I have twins who end up in a mixed class every other year, the school arrange the classes purely on age and as my 2 are young in their year group they ended up being the year 2's in a mixed year 1/2 class.
I did feel that they were disadvantaged in that class, they are very bright but they weren't really challenged at all, they had to go over a lot of things that they had already done in year 1 as the year 1's in their class needed to learn those things. The school insisted that there was no disadvantage to the year 2 children in that set up but it was clear from talking to friends with children in the straight year 2 class that they were always doing things that were slightly harder.
They were due to be in a mixed year 3/4 class this year but due to other issues I asked for them to be split up so I have one in class 3/4 and one in straight year 4. I can see a difference in the level of teaching, and the homework the child in 3/4 brings home is always easier. I know the school do their best though, the year 3/4 teacher is fab (much better than the 1/2 teacher was at differentiating the work) and it can't really be helped if student numbers mean they have to have composite classes. It possibly advantages the children from the younger year group being in a class with older children.

GuestWW Wed 10-May-17 10:23:01

@LadyLannister I am not sure them not being pushed is as a result of composite classes or the teaching. I think you could see this in single year groups as well.

LadyLannister Wed 10-May-17 10:43:40

Yes I agree, it could have been more to do with the class 1/2 teacher at the time, she was off sick a lot and there was a lot of supply cover which can't have helped.
However the teacher of the composite class this year is utterly fantastic, probably the best that my children have ever had. Yet there is still a noticeable difference, for example, both classes do speed timetables every day, it got to the point where every child in the 3/4 class had been made to do the 3's and 4's every day because the teacher had said 'some children still aren't quick enough at their 3 and 4 timetables' whereas the straight year 4's were doing 9's and 12's, both my children know their timetables inside out (and are faster than me at answering timetable questions) so my child in class 3/4 was getting frustrated. Just one small example but a definite difference.
Giving the teacher credit where it's due though, I mentioned the problem to her and she acted on it straightaway. She really is a great teacher, I just think it's the nature of composite classes that there can be such a huge range of abilities and it must be difficult to manage.

eddiemairswife Wed 10-May-17 10:44:48

In England composite classes have a maximum of 30 in KS1.

bojorojo Wed 10-May-17 11:13:46

What would upset me about this proposal is that there is only one composite class. The other two classes are not affected. Therefore the children will be working on the Y1 and the Y2 curriculum whereas the other children will be totally on Y1 andY2 in their separate classes. The fact that only one class is composite is clearly unfair and in schools I know, people have walked away from this in the past. It will cause upset however it is done.

If you go with oldest in Y1 and youngest in Y2, how do you account for the very bright Y2 children who may be in that group as well as SEN children in Y1? There could be as much as a 5 year gap in reading ages, or more. It is highly likely the very bright Y2 will be disadvantaged and often asked to work with the less bright children instead of motoring on themselves. It takes a highly skilled teacher to address this obvious imbalance in the class.

Or will they select on ability so that all three classes are closer in ability? You still have to teach the relevant curriculum for the year group, so this problem is not avoided but gets over the large gap in reading ages nad abilities.

Whatever happens, it is not fair to all the Y1 and Y2 children because some are treated differently and it will lead to discontent in the parent body. How will it affect music, sport and class assemblies if the younger children are less good than the older ones in the composite class? There will be frustration, feeling they are not good enough, put down and constantly wishing they were with the whole Y2 class.

Theromanempire Wed 10-May-17 11:35:19

This was always the case in my DC's school from Year 1 upwards as they had a 45-pupil intake so it was 1.5 classes effectively. It is gradually changing now as they increased the intake to 60 3 years ago so now have 2 classes per year rather than mixed classes.

Anyway, both my DC have been through the composite class system and I have had no issues with it whatsoever. It means the ability within the classes are slightly more even and the work is targeted as such.

The school also assesses each pupil's aptitude at the end of each year and they are put in the appropriate year group so it isn't fixed (for example, both my DC were not identified as the more able at the end of Reception and therefore went into the year 1 class but at the end of Year 2, they were both assessed as the more able and went into the year 3/4 class rather than the year 3 class if that makes sense). The school makes it clear that the decision is based on ability and they refuse to enter into discussions about it as many parents always feel their DC should be in the higher classes wink

bojorojo Wed 10-May-17 12:39:09

So your school actually sets from Y1 throughout the school!? I find that unacceptable at primary level but it makes for easier teaching. Why, with 90 pupils over two years, do they not have everyone in 3 classes of mixed ages so it is fair to everyone and no child feels kept down or not good enough? That must be very dispiriting and adds to angst every year as you wait for a decision to be made as to whether DC have jumped high enough to be promoted. I guess the SEN children never jump high enough? Not very inclusive is it?

SantasLittleMonkeyButler Wed 10-May-17 12:48:54

Hmm, I have mixed experience of composite classes TBH.

DS2 was in mixed classes from Year 3 upwards. So Y3 mixed with Y4 and then Y5 mixed with Y6. For him it seemed to work well.

DD is currently in a mixed Y1/Reception class. As a Year 1. It has effectively been another year in Reception - which is exactly what we were assured it definitely would not be by the school 12 months ago hmm.

Even the teachers now admit that things "haven't worked" as intended, and that instead of our Year 1 children being taught together with the rest of Year 1 (as promised), they are just teaching them along with their Reception class mates.

They have another year in this class formation (as a mixed Y2/Y1 class) before meeting up with some of the older of their own year group in Year 3. It is already apparent that they will struggle with this. Even homework given to our Year 1's is different to that given to the pure Year 1 class (again we were promised this wouldn't be the case at all).

For us, the split was purely down to age so, at the time of being placed into these current classes, they were mixed ability. I suppose they still are mixed ability, but certainly not currently mixed attainment angry.

As the parent of a bright August born Year 1, I have to say that composite classes haven't worked for her at all!

SantasLittleMonkeyButler Wed 10-May-17 12:52:35

I should just add that the Reception parents in our class also feel that the mixed class hasn't worked well for their DCs.

The effectively feel as though their DCs have been excluded from a proper Reception year - as our class does have a different structure to the pure Reception class, which is much more play based.

I don't know if it's just the concept that's wrong or the way the school have managed it TBH.

Changebagsandgladrags Wed 10-May-17 13:37:01

I love our composite school classes.

DS1 is in a mixed class of Yr3, 4, 5 and 6. He really struggled in his former school, but since moving to this system he's come on leaps and bounds. He's now performing at the top of Yr 6 (he is Year 6).

DS2 is in a mixed class of Reception, Y1 and Y2. Again for him, it's brilliant. His reading has really come on since he moved schools.

I think the system you mention will work well for the summer born children of Yr 2 and the autumn born children of Y1.

Shopkinsdoll Wed 10-May-17 13:40:34

Just a quick question, if a child is in a composite class say 1/2 in primary 2. Will the child stay in a composite class the next year or go into p3?

BirdyBedtime Wed 10-May-17 13:55:36

I totally feel for you Santa's. My DS was in a 2/3 composite last year as a P3 and despite the teacher saying at the start of the session that it was her mission to ensure the P3s had the same experience as those in the straight P3 classes it has become apparent now that they are in a straight P4 class that this certainly wasn't the case. My young for year DS has thrived by being with kids of a similar ability rather than just being the same age and has come on so much.

Unfortunately there is a high possibility he'll be in a 4/5 composite next year as a P5. I've learned from last year though and will be all over any repeated work or suggestion that he isn't bring challenged or covering get the same things as the straight P5 classes.

The school will hate me but my priority is my child's education not their stupid form classes by age policy.

bojorojo Wed 10-May-17 14:24:04

In a lot of composite systems, far too many assumptions are made regarding the lack of ability of summer born children. My August birthday child was obviously ahead of very many. Being kept down due to age would have been totally against her needs. As I said above it needs an excellent teacher to ensure ALL children flourish. Not all summer born children are immature and behind!

hels71 Wed 10-May-17 16:34:34

My school always has mixed age classes as there are only 4 classes. Sometimes years groups end up split across two classes and who goes into which class is decided by where they would fit best, not age.

hels71 Wed 10-May-17 16:34:39

My school always has mixed age classes as there are only 4 classes. Sometimes years groups end up split across two classes and who goes into which class is decided by where they would fit best, not age.

GreatWhites Wed 10-May-17 18:10:49

A lot depends on the actual composition of the class. I think going by age is lazy and panders to screechy parents.

I once had the opportunity for a little group to go into a R/Y1 and for them, repeating R was the best thing for thing. From the other end of the scale, a bright Y1 can be really pushed on by being with older children.

RyanSarah2010 Wed 10-May-17 18:11:04

My daughter will be 5 and a half when starting school so I'm expecting her to be in a composite class.

Readytomakechanges Wed 10-May-17 18:44:06

Thank you for all of your experiences.

DD is one of the older kids in the year and in top groups for everything atm.

School say they take many things into consideration, including personalities and friendship groups when allocating children to the different classes.

I'm nervous about it as not experienced composite classes myself before so really appreciate all of your advice.

I initially thought I'd prefer DD to be in the all year 1 class, but I can see there could be some benefits to being in the Y1/2 x class.

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