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Composite classes, pros and cons

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#1 Cheesy Sanga

Posted 11 December 2019 - 06:50 PM

We've just found out the classes for next year. One child is in a composite class, and is in the higher of the 2 year levels in the class.

My partner is very upset as they think that this means our child will be at a disadvantage as they will be taught at the lower of the 2 year levels.

My partner also thinks that being in a composite class indicates that you are a leftover, as in the children who are in a single year level class get picked first, then the leftovers are just put in the composite class.

I have no idea if a composite class is a good thing or a bad thing. If you are a teacher or have had a child in a composite class, can you please tell me the pros and cons. Thanks!

#2 Arabella_Stuart_4

Posted 11 December 2019 - 06:56 PM

Generally, the more talented and experienced teachers are selected to teach composite classes.

I was in many composite classes in primary school, in both the younger and older group,  and found it beneficial and enjoyable. I think in my school they selected brighter/better behaved/more independent learners in each age group for the composite.

Talk to the school if you have concerns and I’m sure they will provide reassurance.

#3 Crazyone26989

Posted 11 December 2019 - 06:56 PM

It’s just a “thing”, neither good nor bad in my teacher opinion. Your child will be (or should be) taught at their level just as they would be in a regular class. The whole class teaching is normally aimed at the “middle” ability of the class so to speak but higher and lower level students are catered for. Reading and maths are generally grouped in some form regardless.

Schools often put the more independent children in composites so it could mean that. But increasingly schools are moving to stage based classes (1&2, 3&4, 5&6) in NSW as a lot of the curriculum is taught on a two year cycle anyway (science, geography, history). As long as the class was created with thought then it’s really no different to a regular class.

#4 Nasty Teens

Posted 11 December 2019 - 06:56 PM

Largely it depends. It works best in schools where multi age classes are well catered for and the 'norm'.

#5 MayaTheGrinch

Posted 11 December 2019 - 06:57 PM

I’ve had kids in composite class. It does not mean they are behind at all. Often it means that they are better at learning independently and taking instruction well. Each year in the class is taught at their level and at our school sometimes each year group mixed with the other kids in their year for things like spelling groups or reading groups.

#6 Jingleflea

Posted 11 December 2019 - 06:58 PM

DD's school does composite classes and they work really well.
Each student is taught to the level they are at, not the lowest in the class.

ALL the classes except FYOS are composite so they know no different.

#7 Crazyone26989

Posted 11 December 2019 - 07:00 PM

View PostArabella_Stuart_4, on 11 December 2019 - 06:56 PM, said:

Generally, the more talented and experienced teachers are selected to teach composite classes.

That’s just not true. I’ve worked with a fresh out of uni composite teacher. I’ve worked with a composite teacher who refused to keep up to date with current teaching practices. There were plenty of other teachers both those times that would’ve been considered more experienced and more “talented”.

Now at my school most of us teach composites!

#8 kimasa

Posted 11 December 2019 - 07:05 PM

The primary school I went to as a child had 1/2 3/4 and 5/6 composites, as does my DD's school. So it's just normal schooling to me.

I was under the impression that the curriculum has been on a 2 year basis for a while now anyway.

#9 Froyohoho

Posted 11 December 2019 - 07:05 PM

Instruction is differentiated to meet the level each child is at composite grade or not.

#10 Melbs2010

Posted 11 December 2019 - 07:10 PM

My son's school is all composites (except prep) by design.  I don't think his learning has suffered in anyway as a result even though it is done purposely at his school as opposed to being numbers based.  The only thing I've noticed is he goes into his shell a bit when he's in the younger group then becomes a bit more boisterous when he's in the older group the following year.

They are grouped for tasks according to ability rather than age.  From what I've heard (and PP said above) teachers nowadays are expected to tailor classes a lot more to individual abilities than teachers decades ago.  This includes single grade classes.  There would be a range of abilities even within a single year level and teachers already design their classes accordingly.

I really don't think composite classes are selected like some sort of PE class where the least skilled get picked last!  That's a pretty horrible suggestion!  A lot of consideration would have gone into which kids are put into which class.  The composite may reflect kids who are fairly evenly matched (e.g. the highest achievers from the lower grade to be closer to the level of the older grade).

#11 Paddlepop

Posted 11 December 2019 - 07:11 PM

Composites are completely standard and normal practice at my DD's school. There's very few single year level classes. Even year 6 this year was composite with year 5. No single level year 6 class. Your partner's assumption that students in composite classes are "leftovers" is silly. Would he assume all of the year 6s were leftovers?

My DD is just finishing year 4. So far only yr 1 was a single year level class. All other years have been composite. Next year will be a 4/5 composite for her in year 5.

Bet OP's partner would really freak out at most of the classes have two job sharing teachers per class, with them working a 3/2 or 4/1 day split each week. A single year level class with a 5 days per week single teacher is almost unheard of at DD's school. Next year not only will be DD be in a composite but she'll also have two teachers on a 4/1 split. She had the same in year 2 and it worked well. I think she benefited from the different styles of the teachers.

OP: Team meh here for composites. No big deal, just normal for us.

#12 chicken_bits

Posted 11 December 2019 - 07:12 PM

I was a bit nervous at the end of last year because this happened with DD. She went from a single Grade 1 class to a 1/2 class this year. ETA: The only reason I was nervous was because it was going from a single to a composite and was concerned the same curriculum would have to be covered again.

The reason they did it at our school was just purely a numbers thing. All of the 1/2 classes were composite.

In reality, there was no issue. The classes were still streamed and when they weren't, there was still opportunity for kids to work at their own level. The teachers ensured that when group work occurred that there was a mix between ages.

Edited by chicken_bits, 11 December 2019 - 07:13 PM.

#13 babybug15

Posted 11 December 2019 - 07:16 PM

Even in a single year class there will be a wide range of abilities within the student group. The teacher should be differentiating for all abilities, regardless of the formal "year" the student is in.

#14 Kiwi Bicycle

Posted 11 December 2019 - 07:20 PM

In my NZ primary school it was composite classes all the way for myself. No issues, we often went to " streamed" sessions for maths and reading (with other teachers of the same grouped classes).
DS's school here in Australia is totally composite. I am not worried at all.

#15 PrincessPeach

Posted 11 December 2019 - 07:22 PM

The kids in the composite at our school next year have actually been cheery picked for that particular class.

They are all independent, high end learners - it's a 3 yearlevel composite & it was done because otherwise they would have needed to have over half the classes as composite, including a prep/1, which the school desperately trying to avoid,

#16 Expelliarmus

Posted 11 December 2019 - 07:46 PM

The one time I had a class that wasn’t multi level I still had students working from preschool to year 3 in Year 2. It may as well have been a class with 4 year levels in it. When I have a multi year level class I’m never teaching less than 4 year levels regardless of the actual year levels on the roll.

I’ve never seen ‘leftovers’ be the reason for a multi year level class, it’s usually a numbers game based on standard educational practice.

#17 little lion

Posted 11 December 2019 - 07:59 PM

My children’s school deliberately chooses this method, although they refer to it as “multi age classes” (which might be a useful term to Google for more current education references on this approach).

#18 Prancer is coming

Posted 11 December 2019 - 08:38 PM

When my eldest went through primary, the school only ran composites if they had to (eg numbers) so the classes were mainly single grades with the off composite thrown in.  I think they were carefully selected.  My smart, independent and able to take care of herself child always ended up in composites in the lower grade.  

Like any class there was a mix of abilities, but gives easy extension options for the younger grade.  When our school have done more unusual composites (eg 4/5, kinder/prep) the kids do seem carefully chosen.  Often the higher grade kids are smart, independent workers.  The teachers on these classes tended to be experienced, as you were juggling 2 different curriculum stages.

Our school has now moved to all composites (straight kinder and prep if numbers work) and it is so much better as there is no angst.  There previously was an assumption that if your child was chosen for one and in the lower grade they were smart, but if they were in the higher grade they must be a bit behind.  

Our school finds it can offer stages in the curriculum better by having composites.  Also it gives more opportunity to seperate kids that need to be separated (if you have 3 kids that need to be separated but only 2 grade 3 classes, you can’t do it, but 4 3/4 classes gives more scope.  We also have a few grades that have a gender imbalance, so this helps even it up a bit too.

#19 seayork2002

Posted 11 December 2019 - 08:57 PM

My son has been in one for the last 2 years, I figure there is more than just him in the class and they know what they are doing.

Not noticed an advantage or disadvantage it is just a class like any other

#20 knottygirl

Posted 11 December 2019 - 08:59 PM

It’s definitely not the leftover kids. Kids get picked for composite classes who more independent learners.

The range of abilities just in a single year level can be massive anyway and teachers can provide differentiation to 2 year levels the same way that they have to with the lower level and the gifted in a normal class.

I was in composite classes pretty much every year of my primary school life except for prep and year 3.

#21 seayork2002

Posted 11 December 2019 - 09:02 PM

Why would your child be disadvantaged over others in the class?

#22 laridae

Posted 11 December 2019 - 09:08 PM

DD1 was in a 2/3 class this year, with 2 part time teachers as well. I was a little concerned, but it mostly went ok. She's done well academically.
They split into separate maths groups over all grade 3 classes (2 straight 3s and the one 2/3), as well as for English.
Definitely wasn't the kids that we're behind or anything. I think it was probably the more independent learners.

From a friendship point of view though, it was a little hard. She got separated from the good friends she'd made the year before (seems to happen every year), and sort of by default ended up just being friends with the only 2 girls that had been in her class since prep. And I think there weren't man6 more grade 3 girls in the class - they were mostly grade 2s.
And her 'friends' can be quite mean sometimes so it's been a bit hard. Sometimes she would get quite upset and tell me she had no friends.

I'm really hoping she's not put in the 3/4 class next year (also has 2 part time teachers), and hopefully there will be more friends to chose from. I think she needs a break from the current ones. Have to wait until next week to find out!

DD2 got her class allocation today though and it looks pretty good. 2 kids that went to daycare with her (only 4 from that daycare in her year level), a couple of kids that she plays with that are in her kinder class, and a one that is in a different class but always gets really excited and says hello when she sees her, so lots of friends to play with. She's in a straight prep, but there is a prep/1 and apparently the kids that were picked for that were supposedly those that settled well at kinder and they thought would cope with older kids.
Though funnily enough one of the kids that got that class always has trouble at drop off So I don't know if that's necessarily true.

#23 Leslie Knope

Posted 11 December 2019 - 09:18 PM

View PostArabella_Stuart_4, on 11 December 2019 - 06:56 PM, said:

Generally, the more talented and experienced teachers are selected to teach composite classes.

I was in many composite classes in primary school, in both the younger and older group,  and found it beneficial and enjoyable. I think in my school they selected brighter/better behaved/more independent learners in each age group for the composite.

Talk to the school if you have concerns and I’m sure they will provide reassurance.

All classes at my kids are composite except kindergarten (FYOS). So your claims are not entirely correct.

#24 Cheesy Sanga

Posted 12 December 2019 - 12:02 AM

So apparently it's pointless to discuss this with my partner.

Schools only do composite classes to make up the numbers of students per class.

Composite class teachers only teach to the lowest level of the lowest year.

Partner insists it's all negative and our child will be disadvantaged. Partner is refusing to listen to any possible positives. Partner is even considering moving to another local school that doesn't have composite classes. Partner is being a Richard Head!

Thanks for all your thoughts. Our child is a self directed motivated learner who should be perfectly fine in whatever class they are in.

#25 Paddlepop

Posted 12 December 2019 - 12:10 AM

Cheesy Sanga: I'd be suggesting that he talk to the principal about it, and find out the truth about composite classes. I'm sure the principal would set him straight. So, would a different school guarantee no composite classes ever? I doubt it. Good luck putting up with him and his stupid ideas.

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