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Split Classes - Composite Classes

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#1 laughter

Posted 23 November 2012 - 10:05 PM

Just wondering if anyone has any good stories to tell about their child being in a split or composite class?

All I seem to hear are the negatives. Are there any positives??!!

If it makes any difference - DS would be the lower year in the split.

#2 Mrs Lannister

Posted 23 November 2012 - 10:10 PM

My DD was in year 1 in a 1/2 composite. She thrived that year. She is in year 4 this year in a 3/4 and has again had a good year. I'm very happy with composites

#3 libbylu

Posted 23 November 2012 - 10:13 PM

At our school all the 1s 2s 3s are in together in composite classes containing 3 year levels, and the 4s 5s and 6s.  Only the preps are alone.  They are very into multi-age learning.

DS is going into grade 1 next year so I can't give any personal feedback yet!
Here is a link to the supposed benefits:

#4 José

Posted 24 November 2012 - 03:37 AM

what are the negatives you keep hearing about? I can't think of any potential negatives in a composite class that wouldn't also exist for a regular class.

#5 2bundles

Posted 24 November 2012 - 07:19 AM

DS is at a school that has always had a multiage philosophy.

DS has overall had a good experience. Socially it breaks down the barriers of year levels. Academically it hasn't really worked any better than a good teacher could do in a straight class.

Interestingly the teachers have said that with the national curriculum it is becoming too hard, so next year will be the first year the school transitions to straight classes where possible.

Edited by 2bundles, 24 November 2012 - 07:21 AM.

#6 Just a marshmallow

Posted 24 November 2012 - 07:34 AM

QUOTE (feliz6 @ 24/11/2012, 04:37 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
what are the negatives you keep hearing about? I can't think of any potential negatives in a composite class that wouldn't also exist for a regular class.

My bold - because I think it needs to be said again.

The spread of abilities exists in a straight grade as it does in a multiage, except there will be more.  A good teacher will cover these abilities in a straight grade and a multiage.  A slack teacher will teach only to grade levels, maybe offer help to those who are struggling and probably ignore needs to higher achieving students - in a straight grade AND a multiage.

Multiage also allows those students from the higher grade who may be finding things difficult to be able to work in a group of kids with similar needs and skills rather than on their own or with one other.

PLUS there is the benefit of having friends a year older/younger - increases social skills.

My very bright daughter was in a year 1 of a Prep/1 multiage - and she was constantly challenged and extended by her teachers.  

For me the benefits far outweigh any perceived negatives.

#7 Wahwah

Posted 24 November 2012 - 07:45 AM

My guy is in a 1/2, with him being in Gr 1. It's been good for him as he is doing quite well in terms of literacy and numeracy and has found himself in work groups of only older Gr 2 kids. I'm happy about this not so much because he's working at a harder level than his Gr1 peers, but because he's pretty reserved and it's creating opportunities to observe and work with older, more confident kids. He's still the quiet one in the group but at least it's stretching him at an interpersonal level more.

Then next year when he is in Gr 2 I think he will feel he's got a role to play in working with the new Gr 1 kids.

#8 Expelliarmus

Posted 24 November 2012 - 07:48 AM

It has never been an issue. It makes no difference to anything.


#9 No girls here

Posted 24 November 2012 - 07:51 AM

It's worked out well for my DS who was in a K/1 in kindy and  is currently in year 3 in a 3/4.  He's been put in groups with the older year both times which has been great for extension.

At our school, they put kids who work well independently in composites, so they tend to eliminate any behaviour problems in the class.

#10 ednaboo

Posted 24 November 2012 - 07:55 AM

Our whole school is composite classes, with the exception of prep (FYOS).  I have no issue with it.  I trust the school on it - after all, they are the experts so I figure they know what they are doing.  cool.gif

#11 yellowtulips74

Posted 24 November 2012 - 07:55 AM

I'm a huge fan of multi age learning.

Think of the most natural learning environment - the home.  Younger children learn SO MUCH from older children - siblings, cousins, etc.  Younger siblings reach many milestones earlier, eg toilet training, because they have more mature examples around them of course.

Older siblings, cousins, etc gain much from being the experts - skills in teaching and communicating, finding ways to accommodate the younger ones in games, etc.  Very important social skills, life skills and great for building confidence and self esteem.

As the kids grow older, you can have a good discussion around the dinner table about an issue of the day, with the kids all participating at their own level of understanding.  Sometimes the younger ones surprise us.

To me, multi age learning is natural.  Once kids get out into the workforce, they are going to need to work collaboratively and learn along with people of different ages, abilities and levels of experience.  Socially, too - how many of us only have friends who are exactly our age?

I moved my girls from a school where they were in 'straight' classes, to a school which really embraces multi age learning.  I couldn't be happier.

#12 sarahec

Posted 24 November 2012 - 07:58 AM

I'm surprised to hear so many positives. I was in one in primary school (year 3) and hated it. There was only 6 other year 3's and it was pretty isolating from the rest of my year. Most of the school work was also taught separately so everything took a lot longer.

#13 EsmeLennox

Posted 24 November 2012 - 08:00 AM

QUOTE (howdo @ 24/11/2012, 05:48 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
It has never been an issue. It makes no difference to anything.


Well it does makes a difference in one way (well at least in WA) and one which I think most parents would think is a bonus - slightly smaller class sizes and slightly increased staffing levels at most schools! Win-win!

#14 Expelliarmus

Posted 24 November 2012 - 08:01 AM

That's not how they are supposed to work, Sarah. I can see how it will become more difficult with NC, however.

#15 EsmeLennox

Posted 24 November 2012 - 08:03 AM

Yes the concrete achievement standards for each year level of the NC, while really useful and important, will make it more challenging for the teacher of a composite class. But God, I love that document. The most clear and useful curriculum I have worked with in my time as a teacher so far.

#16 mumto3princesses

Posted 24 November 2012 - 09:30 AM

My girls have all been in composites as our primary school only does composites for primary usually with 3x classes of Year 3/4 and 3x classes of Year 5/6. Then they will do composites for infants as they need to due to numbers.

DD1 was just in the composite classes for primary (so the last 4 years). Benefits to her were that she had quite a few friends in the year above which made going onto high school just that little bit less scary as there was people she could turn to if she wasn't sure where to go.

DD3 was in a Kindergarten/Year 1 composite in Kindergarten as well as a Year 2/3 last year and will be in composites from now on. And DD2 (DD3's twin) was in the 2/3 also last year. The benefits to the extra composites when the other classes are straight year level classes is they usually put the one's who can work independently in those classes so it's unlikely to get the more disruptive kids in those classes.

Otherwise, there is no real difference between a composite and a straight year class. There are huge differences with where each child is at even in a straight year class. Not smaller classes in NSW. My twins in Year 3 of a 3/4 composite have 31 in their class this year.

#17 somila

Posted 24 November 2012 - 03:04 PM

QUOTE (2bundles @ 24/11/2012, 07:19 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Interestingly the teachers have said that with the national curriculum it is becoming too hard, so next year will be the first year the school transitions to straight classes where possible.

That is interesting, and a bit sad, really, that a school with a "multiage philosophy" as a point of difference has to become just like all the others.

DS#2 (Grade 3 Qld) has been in a 3/4 composite (as opposed to multiage) this year and has had a lovely time doing higher level maths and English and making friends from Gr4.  The teacher said the C2C has documents for composite classes so they are often learning the same things at different levels of complexity.  Works better for some things than others I suspect.

#18 kadoodle

Posted 24 November 2012 - 03:14 PM

My kids have had no issues with multiage groups, but these have all involved a roughly 50/50 split of classes.  My DH was in a small (2 room) school and was the only one in his year level, which gave him the pip at times.

#19 2bundles

Posted 24 November 2012 - 03:18 PM

The teacher said the C2C has documents for composite classes so they are often learning the same things at different levels of complexity.

Yes, but there don't seem to be many, and they don't allow for the fact that specific units ie water, space, convicts etc need to be taught at certain year levels.

Yes the concrete achievement standards for each year level of the NC, while really useful and important, will make it more challenging for the teacher of a composite class.

I believe this was the biggest issue.

Whilst it is still physically possible to do composite classes, the true multiage philosophy is being lost with the NC.  Things like children staying with the same teacher for 2 years, and moving from the lower age to the upper age then lower again ie 3/4 for 2 years then a 5/6 for 2 years.
Then there is Naplan practice and Qcats that take weeks of class time but are only for one of the year levels.

#20 Julie3Girls

Posted 24 November 2012 - 03:37 PM

Then there is Naplan practice and Qcats that take weeks of class time but are only for one of the year levels.

Depends what you mean by naplan practice?
Our school takes a very low key approach. I think the yr 5 group did one specific practice test this year. Apart from that, they were just being taught like they normally would be. Maybe a bit more focus on the exposition writing, but that is something all the kids learn anyway? And both the yr 5 and yr 6 were doing that. Not just targetting the yr 5 for naplan.
Yr3 did a little bit more practice, simply to learn how to sit that sort of test, but again not much at all.
It certainly wasn't an issue for our school.

#21 PatG

Posted 24 November 2012 - 03:40 PM

QUOTE (2bundles @ 24/11/2012, 03:18 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Then there is Naplan practice and Qcats that take weeks of class time but are only for one of the year levels.

This is evidence of how external assessments have had unintended consequences. Neither of these test instruments are meant to be directly prepared for.  They should not be practiced (except maybe a small sample so kids have been exposed to the question/answer style) but due to how the results are used they are.  

A friend of mine went to a small country school with just one class (year 1 - 7).  She says she doesn't know how the teacher did it!  She didn't know any different as a kid so doesn't really know if it disadvantaged her.

#22 2bundles

Posted 25 November 2012 - 07:28 AM

Sorry, I should have said Naplan "preparation".  Things like exploring the writing style required. This something that yr 3 are only just ready for, but is beyond most yr 2s.

I don't think a school is doing a child any service if they ignore the fact Naplan is coming. Most kids are less anxious if they know what to expect. Like it or not these yr 3 results are being used for high school selection!

Naplan has been a great thing at DS' school. It identified the school was behind in reading, so the school began a year long emphasis on reading. The Naplan results have improved markedly, but more importantly the kids are reading better.

#23 Coffeegirl

Posted 25 November 2012 - 07:50 AM

DD was in a split 5/6 Extension class last year as a year 5 and she excelled. However year 6 has been a struggle.

This year the school dropped all seperate extension classes and she is in a regular year 6 class.  DD has really struggled with boredom this year and although her teacher has given the couple of ex-extension children extra/extension work during the year, DD has not enjoyed it.  Part of this I thnk is because the school has had seperate extension classes for years with specific teachers, the mainstream teachers have not had to prepare as much extra work to extend children in their classes, so they themselves are struggling to keep these kids 'pushed'

On the upside, as mumto3princesses said, DD knows quite a few year 7 children and I believe this will help her move into high school next year.

As to NAPLAN,  DS is in year 3 this year and they did a lot more preparation than I remember DD doing in year 5 last year.   As PP said, to assist them in learning the style of writing needed,  but even if there wasn't a NAPLAN.  My understanding is that the year 3 children would have learned this through the course of the year anyway.  It just gets more recognition, because it is part of NAPLAN.

#24 Kay1

Posted 25 November 2012 - 08:06 AM

DS1 is in a 1/2 composite and he is in Year 1. I was a bit worried about it but it seems to have gone well. He is happy and all the kids mix well and the teacher seems to manage it all very well.

#25 brazen

Posted 25 November 2012 - 08:51 AM

all classes from year 1 - 6 are composite at our school we love them! i have found them fabulous for all of my kids.

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