The children of Pluckley Church of England Primary School are taught in four classes: Year R (EYFS), Year 1 / 2 (KS1), Year 3 / 4 (LKS2) and Year 5 / 6 (UKS2)
Although slightly different than the ‘norm’, mixed-age classes have many advantages for the children within them. For a start, studies have shown that children can develop cognitively and socially through interacting with older and younger children. One important fact to have emerged is that children benefit greatly from the opportunity to become an ‘expert’ for younger children to learn from. Younger children look to the older ones to teach them, and older children view the younger ones as in need of teaching and support. Educationalists have argued that this can nurture thinking skills, problem solving skills, vocabulary and other social competencies.
Mixed-age groups are also an environment in which more able younger children are able to work alongside older children who are working at a higher level, thus providing great opportunities for their learning to be extended. Likewise, older children who are not yet achieving age-related goals benefit from being taught by a teacher for more than one academic year and will not feel isolated, as they may do in a mono-aged class.
Moreover, spending more than one year in class means that the children are already settled and established after the first year and get off to a flying start in the subsequent year. It is also now acknowledged that putting children into sets according to ability is ineffective as it limits expectations. It follows, therefore, that mixed-age and mixed ability classes allow fluidity and open-ended development.
Due to careful planning, we ensure that all children have full coverage of the national curriculum over a two-year rolling programme and no child (unless they move from another school) will repeat topics.
Research supports our positive view, some of the key advantages of a mixed-age classrooms are that:
- Longer time spent together means that children and teachers have more time to develop a close bond and children feel “known.”
- Children are more likely to form friendships across age groups, facilitating a more inclusive school culture.
- Children are more likely to learn how to co-operate, support, and care for each other.
- “Where mixed age classes are intentional, the perceived benefits to pupils, their families and wider communities are well documented” (Cronin, 2019)