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How do mixed year group classes work? Are they good or bad?!!

24 replies

norfolklass · 29/06/2009 16:31

Bit of a random title but couldn't think how else to word it!!

To cut a long story short Im still not convinced that the school we picked for DS who is starting reception in september is the right one for him...I contacted our second choice school which I had only put as second choice simply because its a 10 minute drive away rather than the 15 min walk our catchment school is and they have actually got a place available for him in september if we want to take it!! And I really don't know what to do for the best.

Its a very long story as to why Im not sure about our catchment school and its more to do with some of the other children rather than the school itself so don't really want to go into it on here too much. The other school is a village primary with a PAN of 15 so I assume it would be a mixed reception/Y1 class. That in itself doesn't bother me at all-DS is quite a tall chap and loves being around older children so I feel he would thrive in that environment but am unsure as to the logistics of a R/y1 class. Are they all doing the same work or is it all split up into reception and then y1 work?

Am just so so confused about the whole thing and need to make a decision now and really don't know what to do? Our catchment school is an Infant School and finishes at 3pm whereas the other one is a Primary and finishes at 3.30pm which seems very late for the teeny tiny ones. They all feed into same High School so that isn't a consideration.

Am I mad to be considering a 10 min drive every day or would you just stay where I am and face the possible consequences??

OP posts:
weegiemum · 29/06/2009 16:38

My dd1 has been in 2 different mixed classes in her 4 years at school.

When she was primary 1, she was in a very small village school and was in a class with all age group up to Primary 7. She loved it - being with the "big girls". SHe had her own academic work but did art/music with the whole class which I think really brought on her art especially.

Then when she was in Primary 3 (we had moved) she was in a mixed p3/4 class. As her Maths was very good she ended up in a mainly p4 group.

I don't think it has ever done her any harm.

flashharriet · 29/06/2009 16:47

I think you have to go and ask them tbh. We have to have some split classes each year as we have an intake of 45 (don't ask ). How they get round it is to teach y1 and y2 together, y3 and 4 together and y5 and 6 together on a 2 year programme (i.e. you'll do the Romans in either Y3 or Y4 but not in both). Work is given according to age and ability. Seems to work OK schoolwork-wise, the issues I have are mostly to do with the social side of things.


melissa75 · 29/06/2009 16:56

I teach a mixed year 1/2 for what the children are taught, we do the topics from the year one curriculum in year A and then the following year do the topics for year two in year B, and then back to the beginning, therefore all children are taught all topics on a two year rolling cycle.

Obviously work for year ones needs to generally be easier than that for 2's so it is like any class at that point and it is differentiated according to the childrens ability (eg; I have math groups, literacy groups and topic work groups) where on average there are five groups, therefore I usually create three-fur different levelled work for each piece of written work they do, or have 3-4 levels of expectations. Does that make sense? (I only ask because I have a terrible head cold at the moment, and my thoughts are not really coming on clearly!!)

IMO and IME, I see pros and cons to both sides, pros; the younger ones are able to be mre challenged as they see the older ones and what they are capable of, the older ones learn a lot from the "hidden curriculum" by being able to work with and help the younger ones, cons; you can have a wider range of ability than you may have in a straight year group, so sometimes it is difficult for all ability levels to be assisted/challenged on a consistent basis (eg; I have ability levels in my class ranging from children still working at a nursery level to some of my children are working at a solid level 4!)

A lot of schools with mixed year groups do "setting" which means if there is more than ne class in the year groups, they mix them up for certain subjects, so for example, in my school, we do this for phonics, maths and sometimes science, where we split the kids into higher, average and lower acheivers and put them all in a class in order to give them the support/challenges that they need. Again, pros and cons to doing this, as some will say, well how are the lower acheivers suppose to have something to look up towards if they are surrounded with the same.

Basically, I think no matter what you are going to find pros and cons to both sides, so you just need to think whether one set of reasons outweigh the other for each of the schools! Make a list of both...always helps me! HTH!

melissa75 · 29/06/2009 16:58

sorry, I seem to have a sticky letter o key, so have missed out a few o's!

norfolklass · 29/06/2009 17:35

Melissa-thank you that was really really helpful and yes it did make sense lol!!

I think that how you have described it is exactly the reason why Id like DS in a split year class. He's a fairly clever little chap(well in my eyes lol!)...he was 4 at end of feb and is desperate to learn everything. Honestly the stuff he comes out with every single day amazes me! He can read simple cvc words and is "learning" the key reception words which is all his doing btw he is constantly asking what does this say so we play number and letter games ie what number is on that bus etc and I am sure that a mixed year class would help him enormously both educationally and socially. He loves being round older children and his own age children but in a slightly smaller group if that makes sense.

Harriet-when you say the social side of things concerned what way? My worry was because its a village school about 2 miles away it would cause problems with playdates etc but its only 2 miles away and on a main road so presume its do-able!

Im probably doing something very strange but Im planning on taking DS to the induction morning at the primary school tomorrow afternoon (the school secretary very kindly asked if we'd like to come) and then we've got an induction morning at our catchment school on wednesday so Im going to both and going to go with my gut feeling and see which one feels right...and then see what DS says!!

Please tell me Im not the only person to have changed her mind about the choice of schools this late in the day!!

OP posts:
lottysmum · 29/06/2009 21:20

I found the opposite a small mixed year school could not cope with bright children...I moved my dd at the beginning of this year and she has thrived at a larger school with super year end assessments (one whole level (not sub-level) above what the small school projected).

But, this could be down to teaching ..I would look at the year 2 assessment levels the school has achieved plus y4 and yr 6...this will give you a good idea about the teaching standard....which is the most important factor!

mallet · 29/06/2009 21:46

Dear Norfolklass, hello from a resident carrot cruncher ( orginally essex!! ;) ) i had similar reservations re mixed classes when my ds 1 started primary 3 years ago. IME he has benefited from being with an older year group in the same class, because it gives him the opportunity to be extended in his learning, ie with maths he has been able to do the year aboves work. this september he will be in the older year ( IE YR 2 & 3 together, he'll be yr 3) i have had reservations recently that he will not being pushed academically and looked at private schools which have now been dismissed again, i feel that a small friendly primary is a good start and that come aged 11 the serious learning can start.he does'nt go to our local school ( 2min drive) but one that is 15 min drive away. i think a good thing to look at is how the chldren get on with each other, theres nothng better than happy children!

norfolklass · 30/06/2009 08:13

mallett-thank you and lol at the carrott cruncher!!

yep our local school is a 2 min drive away as well and I originally had a bee in my bonnett about walking to school every day cause I always did when I was a child so that was one of the reasons we went for our catchment school in the first place but after visiting yet again and having the information evening it just feels wrong somehow...can't exactly put a specific reason on it apart from as I said there is something to do with some of the pupils.

The primary school is actually 4 miles away (we did a practice run last night lol!) and takes 10 mins to get there...its actually a village along a dual carriageway so hopefully won't get stuck in traffic so logisically its not that difficult to get to.

How do you manage with the after school stuff such as children round for tea etc? Has it caused any problems socially?

Im taking DS this afternoon for the induction session which he is very excited about so will see what happens. Thanks everyone for your replies-I honestly didn't thnk this would be such a hard decision to make but feel like Im deciding the rest of his life (if that doesn't sound strange lol!) and it needs to be the right decision for all of us!

OP posts:
flashharriet · 30/06/2009 09:42

Sorry, only just come bqck to this. Our school mix the children up every year so it's hard to maintain friendships from year to year. Thus the Autumn term always seems to involve a lot of upset and heartache while everyone shakes down into their new friendship groups. But that's our school, they may be able to maintain continuity better in a smaller school.

No problems with playdates etc!

sarararararah · 30/06/2009 13:17

Norfolklass, I teach in Norfolk and wondered if I might be able to help in any way?

I currently teach a single age reception class but have always taught mixed ages throughout my career. I have always really enjoyed mixed age teaching. The older ones look after the younger ones really well, and the younger ones have someone to learn the routines from. The topics thing depends on the school. Some do as Melissa's school does. But there is actually very little in the KS1 curriculum, in terms of knowledge, that is compulsory. Most of it is skills based. So, as long as you don't repeat what you have done the year before(!) you can pretty well do what you like and children still achieve what they need to achieve. My favoured thing is to go from the interests of the children as they do in the foundation stage.

In terms of teaching to children's ability this is perfectly possible with a mixed age class. Usually there is some overlap in the middle - i.e. higher ability in the lower yr group overlapping in to the lower ability in the higher year group. As long as groupings are fluid and children moved as needed this works absolutely fine.

The point made earlier about small schools struggling with more able children I think is probably specific to that school. Good teachers should assess where the children are, know where the want to get them to, and know what the 'next steps' are to get them there. That is possible whether teaching single age classes, two years together or even a whole key stage together.

If you search for Littlefish I know that she has posted before about mixed age classes - she probably puts it better than me too!


mummyrex · 30/06/2009 13:53

My experience of mixed year classes is very poor, and that is in 2 schools. I did a lot of research on it at the time and it is a difficult thing to get right and the effect on outcome appeared either neutral or negative.

Plus mixed R and Y1 is also mixing Key stages isn't it? Is R in Foundation and Y1 in KS1? Could be wrong. But anyway, if tyou look at the age differences as a PROPORTION of their ages then the difference between younger Rs and older Y1s is HUGE!

norfolklass · 30/06/2009 14:08

Sarah (at least I presume that your name lol!) thank you thats very helpful. I think there are always going to be good/bad things about every class and for you to say that you enjoyed teaching mixed classes goes a long way to showing how one can be sucessful. By looking at the reception class in the school we originally chose it appeared chaotic and actually quite scary to a 4 year ds is not a "shy" child but he was visably shaking when we went in. We went to the primary today and he was led into the class room with one of the current reception boys (who will be in the same class as them next year) and was like a different child...he went in laughing and smiling which at the end of the day is all I want. As long as he is learning everything that he needs to learn and is in an environment where he is happy then I suppose it doesn't matter if he is in a good just reception class or a good mixed r/y1 class.

I love the idea of learning according to their interests-DS is currently wanting to know all about fire ie what causes it etc so he has spent all morning at nursery with his keyworker talking about that and looking at books etc. Please can we come to your school!!??

OP posts:
sarararararah · 30/06/2009 19:52

Ha ha! That would be lovely I'm sure but we are oversubscribed. Just been told we have to take 46 in to our reception year when we should have 45. (Two classes before anyone panics!)

hatwoman · 30/06/2009 20:08

dds have started a school with a total of 70 kids 6 months ago. dd1 (y4) is in a y4 and 5 class. dd2 (y2) is in a primary class. I see quite a lot of benefits. it took about 3 or 4 years for their old school (60 kids per year) to get the size of them - they're both reasonably clever but non-attention seeking and, tbh, I think they were both allowed to drift. we consistenly got targets for them that they could already do. it didn't bother me too much - they were both happy and imo that's the most important thing. but it did niggle me a bit.

at their new school I was getting (accurate) feedback within a week. their teachers seem to be setting them work at the right level. and I think dd1 is being challenged pretty much for the first time.

I've even noticed that in such a small school even the teachers who aren't their class teachers know them well.

the downside - and it's potentially a big one - is that with a small school there's a smaller pool, if you like, from which to draw their friends. dd2 has not found that difficult - but dd1 is a wee bit geeky and not a natural friend-maker - so she's found that hard. I expect, though, that has more to do with changing school, than the size/nature of the school - she would probably have found it difficult wherever.

debs227 · 30/06/2009 20:47

I am in exactly the same boat!

We are in different parts of the country but my situation is exactly the same as yours and i am worrying i have only 2 weeks left to make a decision.

My main worry for my DD is the small pool of friends in the smaller school (60 in the whole school). In the local catchment school she would be in a class of 30, but, like you there is something that just doesn't feel right about the other children.

You are really lucky being able to have induction sessions at both schools to see how he likes it. I know exactly how you feel and i really wish i had a crystal ball to see how our DD would be in both situations.

It is an extremely hard decision and i really feel for you! good luck.

By the sounds of the induction day, the smaller school sounds the best

debs227 · 30/06/2009 20:52

Does he know any children going to either school?? i.e other children at nursery/preschool.

norfolklass · 01/07/2009 13:05

Hiya Debs-

yep he knows about 6 children going to the infant school cause they all go to nursery with him and 1 little girl going to the primary school so either way he won't be totally on his own.

He loved the induction at the primary yesterday when he went in but apparently he cried in the afternoon which I sort of expected cause its all new for them anyway. The teacher was lovely and all "Fluff & Cuddles" which was how I described her to DH!!

he went this morning to the infants school and apart from the fact that he fell over on the way there and smacked his head on the pavement so had huge bruise on his forehead he was equally happy there. Had a few tears after he went in...we had to basically just leave them but think those tears were mainly because there were several hysterical children screaming and crying in a very small room.

Hatwoman-the small pool of friends in the primary school is worrying me slightly...the class is probably 70% girls which is absolutely fine at the moment because he actually prefers playing with girls rather than boys (dh obviously having an influence there lol!) but not sure how that would be as they get older.

I honestly don't know what to do for the best-I thought Id instantly be able to tell after he went to both (and I know Im incredibly lucky that they've let me do that-haven't told catchment school he might not be attending yet!)but Im even more confused. he seemed happier today if Im being honest but I didn't like the teacher as much (bit hard and no nonsense which is good but they are only 4 fgs!) and I wonder if he was only happier cause he had more friends there.

There just seemed too many children in too small a space but maybe thats me just being picky!!

OP posts:
lottysmum · 01/07/2009 14:06

Hi Norfolk Lass

I know how hard this decision must be...but at least you are thinking long and hard about it...

We opted for our local small village school without much consideration to any other (such a big mistake)...the class mix was awful, started with 3 girls and 9 boys...and my dd was the odd girl out.....this really dented my dd's self esteem when they have just started the other two girls teased her about letting her play and then changing their mind....I'm sure most schools would have dealt better with this wasn't just my had happened in other many disgruntled parents.....therefore worth perhaps chatting to parents of older children at the school to see how they view both these schools.

My dd;s behaviour was pretty erractic during that time because she was attention seeking...thankfully she made friends with a lovely boy...they were two peas in a pod ...both very bright...but it was a lovely friendship...

However, children grow up they do need friends of the same sex hence we moved her to a bigger school... just 24 in the's just a shame we hadn't done more research because the new school would have been the right choice in the first place.....

good luck...but it isn't the end of the world if you do get it dd moved this year in yr 2 and settled very quickly....although it was the hardest decision we ever made to move her.

hellywobs · 01/07/2009 14:28

My son has been in a mixed Y1/Y2 class this year - he is an old in year Y1 so it's been great for him.

A lot depends on your child. If they are old in year, being in a mixed class with younger ones might not be good, but it depends on their academic and other abilities as well. Equally, it might not be that great for an August child to be in mixed class with older ones as there could be an almost 2 year age gap between the oldest and youngest.

Kazzi79 · 01/07/2009 16:05

My son, now 8, was one of the older reception children in a mixed class. People seem to get confused about mixed classes and think the younger children will do work thats too hard and the older children will do work thats too easy but this is how it works.

For example the children are learning about money, the children will sit and discuss money together but the class teacher will have planned activities appropriate for the reception children and activities that are appropriate for the year one children. This way the children are doing the work at the correct level for them. Reception children do not do year one work and vice versa.
My sons school has an intake of 70 children every year (it is a large and very popular school) so there are 2 reception classes of 28 children and the 12 oldest reception and 12 youngest year one go into a class together.

I think such classes work well (I'm a trained nursery nurse who has previously worked in reception class) as the year one children enjoy looking after their new friends and helping them to settle in a school environment, my son took his year 2 sats last year and got a level 3 which is higher than year 2 children are expected to get, not that I'm saying this is due to the fact he was in a mixed class but just pointing out that the very thought of a mixed class fills some parents with fear when in fact theres nothing to worry about.

hatwoman · 01/07/2009 16:20

just realised I said dd2 was in a primary class - which makes no sense at all - I meant to say infant class. but the reception kids are often taken out to do activities with the class room assistant.

flaime · 01/07/2009 19:54

Our school mixes classes in KS2 and they like the way it worked and have done this for many years now.

They tried mixing reception and yr1 a couple of years ago however and found it didn't work at all as the needs and abilities of someone who has just turned 4 are very different to that of someone who's almost 6.

The upside for me is that now my DS(2) is starting in sept and going into a reception class with just 18 kiddies in it so I'm not complaining

yappybluedog · 01/07/2009 21:18

my dd is in a YR1/YR2 class, she is in year 1

It has been really good for her, she's a bright kid so she is being given YR2 work and is definately not being held back

Class sizes are also small 15-20 so another plus

Kazzi79 · 04/07/2009 12:36

I understand Flaimes concerns about a mixed reception and year one class, to put children who turn 6 the first week of September in a class with someone who only turned 4 the week earlier is a bit unmanageable.

The way my childrens school does it is to put the 12 oldest reception children and 12 youngest year one children into the mixed class.....this way you have a class of children who all turn 5 in July, Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov etc so are of a similar age, they also make sure children with special needs aren't in this particular class therefore the teaching staff can really concentrate on giving the children there their full attention.

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