We work incredibly hard to ensure our classes have the best possible balance to allow for a highly focussed learning environment. In order to help us achieve this in 2017, we will be grouping our classes as composites across the primary school.
In 2018 we will have 3 classes of Years 1 and 2, 5 classes of Years 3 and 4, and 5 classes of Years 5 and 6. This is in addition to the students in our Foundation class and our Year 1-3 and Year 4-6 Roopus.
What are composite classes? Composite classes are classes where the children may be from two or more Ministry defined year groups (e.g. Years 1-2; Years 1-3; Years 3-4; Years 5 and 6) All classes (including composites) are formulated considering a total balance in each classroom - taking into account learning needs, gender balance, social behaviour etc. By combining two or more year levels in one class, schools can successfully keep class sizes at a manageable level.
People often dismiss or distrust composite classes thinking that they only work for the students who are younger in the class, by allowing them to "learn" from the older students. This neglects the fact that age does not denote ability or wisdom, and that younger students may have a lot to share with their older counterparts. The key to appreciating the benefits of composite classes lies in understanding that a student's growth takes place in "stages, not ages". The New Zealand Curriculum is set up in developmental band widths and New Zealand teachers are trained to teach in ability groups that cross over these developmental band widths.
Teachers do not teach year levels, they teach children, taking them from where they are to their next step. Despite the National Standards giving different benchmarks at the end of each year level, this is NOT a prescribed curriculum or expectation that those skills are taught to the exclusion of others. So there is no such thing as "Year 3 work".
What does the research say about composite classes?
There is no evidence for any assumptions that student achievement is hindered by being in composite classes.
There is evidence that being in composite classes leads to children who can operate better as part of a group, are more assertive, become more independent learners and better problem-solvers
Educational experts agree that composite classes are not educationally detrimental for the acceleration of more able students
Composite classes encourage more of a family or community atmosphere
It does not matter if children are in single or composites, it is the teacher that makes the difference