Composite classes, or split classes, consist of one class containing two grades or years of schooling. Extensive research shows it makes no difference to performance whether students are in a straight or composite class. It is the teacher and the relationships built with students that play a key and significant role in the development of students. Strong teacher student relationships shape the way children think and act in school. When a student has a good relationship with their teachers, they are more likely to feel positive about class and about school in general. They are also more willing to have a go at hard work, to risk making mistakes, and to ask for help when they need it. At Forrestdale Primary School, we have highly dedicated teachers who maximise the learning potential of all students in their class, regardless of the class structure.
Reasons for a Composite Class
Composite classes are a practical response to the problem of uneven grade enrolments; for example, when there are too many students to form one ‘straight’ grade but not enough to form two. Combining students in this way is often an administrative solution that not only allows schools to ensure more consistent class sizes, but more easily match teachers to student need; maximise school and teacher funding and resources; and cope with declining or increasing enrolments.
Teaching in a Composite Class
Despite much positive research regarding student growth in composite classrooms, negative perceptions persist, particularly among parents. Many fear their children will be unable to keep up with work; will have fewer friendships; feel that younger children will be overlooked or that older children will not be sufficiently challenged; that children with learning difficulties will suffer more anxiety; or that the curriculum for each year level will be inadequately covered.
Aligned with current research, at Forrestdale Primary School we believe education is not only about academic achievement, and age is not an accurate predictor of a child’s development. A wide range of student abilities exist in children of the same age, and not just in composite classes. Multiple studies conclude it makes no difference to performance whether students are in a straight or composite class. Experts agree the most important factor in determining how well a student does is the quality of the teacher in providing a ‘differentiated’ curriculum. This refers to catering to all of our students as individuals in accordance with their needs. Differentiation, describes a concept being taught to all students within a class, and creating related tasks at varying levels of complexity. When differentiating instruction in this way, teachers are providing for the needs of students at multiple levels of understanding at the same time which in turn, allows students to see clearly not only where they are at, but where they are going. Differentiation occurs in every classroom at Forrestdale Primary School and children are taught in accordance to their individual learning needs.
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