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What do you think of composite classes?

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#1 ESL

Posted 23 July 2009 - 06:42 AM

My daughter is starting preps next year and we have two schools to choose from in town. One is primary and one is catholic primary. I am leaning towards the catholic primary but have been told that if there are not enough preps then she will be put in a composite class of prep/1's.
I'm a little worried about this as I know how important the first years of school are in terms of learning and  development. I'm worried that she wont get enough attention. After all the teacher has two year levels to look after.
I'm interested in hearing from other parents who have had their children in composite classes. What are your experiences?


#2 toosenuf

Posted 23 July 2009 - 08:05 AM

Personally i dont like them. DD1 was in a composite 1/2 when she was in yr 2.  This was our experience.  They took the most clever students of yr 2, with a handful of average students of yr 2 & put them with a mixture of students from yr 1.  For most of the year the teacher would give the yr 2 kids thier work, which they were left to complete, & then the teacher would then teach the y1 students.  So not only did DD1 have to sit & learn all the yr1 work again, she also had to deal with thier immaturity as well, (DD2 was also in yr1 at this time).  Another thing is that with all the yr2 kids, say of 12 kids there was 8 boys, that left 4 girls, and 2 left, the remaining 2 were not that nice, well at least to DD1, so she was left to play the Yr 1's, (and yes I did on many occassion suggest that she play with the other kids from the yr2 class, but she couldnt/wouldnt do it).

The school never admitted that it wasnt the best setup.  Apparently NSW Dept Ed, have this notion that it is in the best interest of the children to have a full mixture in the class, meaning all academic levels, even if it is for composites.  Well in my opinion and some other parents of those children that year, it doesnt work, if it is your kid towards to top of the class.  For me, a composite class should be those at the top of the lower year and those at the bottom of the higher year.

Op, i am not sure now that my ranting can help you, but all i can suggest is that you approach the school, and talk to them about it, ask them what academic level do they think the yr 1 kids will have.

I also think that some teachers suit composite classes better than others.

BTW we left the school to go to another school (private) who never has composite classes, yay, will never have to deal with that again.

#3 Belinda

Posted 23 July 2009 - 08:18 AM

Multi-age and multi-stage classrooms can work very well and have lots of positives. The school where i work used to run this way under our previous Principal due to the research on its benefits.  Our current Principal prefers  not to, unless it's for numbers reasons and it can't be avoided.

I think my answer would be based on these things if it were my child starting Prep/Kinder/whatever it is called in your state:

*In the State system, what is the max number of students allowed in Prep/Kinder?  In NSW there is a max of 20 students per class.  This results in more 1 on 1 time and improved learning in the early school years, as all Kinder-2 classes have capped limits. Private sytem does not have to enforce this, so it would be possible to have up to 30 in a class.  Given the choice of those 2, I know what I'd prefer for my child!

*Composites can work really well!  If you have a teacher that is organised and experienced, it does not have to be a bad thing. Most teachers are not teaching to one level of knowledge /understanding even in a non-composite class! So teaching to different grades within a room is not too difficult. It can be achieved many ways, through extension, group work, etc.  

*If you do decide to go with the school that may use the composite class, ask the Prep Supervisor or AP or principcal of the school what extra help will be provided within the classroom. This may not happen in all schools or even across all grade levels for that matter, but at my school there are often extra teachers (not aides, actual teachers) timetabled to come into the classroom for various times of the day to assist the teacher. We have a Kinder/1 composite and she is a very  talented teacher, but she is also given extra assistance so that she can dedicate part of her day to one grade and the other teacher, the other. Our Learning Support Team provide this role at my school (which I am a part of while I am part time load).  It works very well. Mind you, we have the small class sizes and the extra teaching staff on hand in that Kinder/1 class, so it's just a lovely environment to work in with all kids getting the learning experiences that they need  original.gif

I hope this helps!

#4 allenall

Posted 23 July 2009 - 09:58 AM

I love the idea of composite classes, and this is one of the reasons we have chosen the school for our 5yo to start at next year.  I think in prep the students get the benefit of having the older kids as role models and access to a more advanced curriculum if they need it, and in grade 1 they get to be leaders and teachers of the younger kids, teaching them responsibility and cementing their own knowledge by passing it on.

I guess it just needs to be managed correctly by the teacher and school.

#5 ~JASB~

Posted 23 July 2009 - 10:03 AM

Our school is completely multi-age, and it's one of the reasons we chose that school.  It can work really well if it's run properly.  My DS1 has absolutely thrived in a multi-age environment original.gif

#6 Julie3Girls

Posted 23 July 2009 - 10:26 AM

I think if you have the right teacher and the right setup, they can work just as well as single year classes.

For the younger half of the class - gives them a chance to advance academically. Gives them older kids in the classroom as role models.
For the older half - a chance to be leaders, revision of work if needed.
For ALL the kids, they are encouraged to work independently. But honestly, the teacher should be able to cope with all ability levels in the classroom.

As our principal said, ALL classes are composites, because every class has a range of abilities and personalities.
In NSW, they do try and keep the composites within stages (yr 1/2, yr3/4 and year 5/6) because they are working within the stage curriculum.

But it doesn't always work out that way. Due to being 4 children of an extra teacher/class this year, our school ended up with a LOT of composites, including ones across stages. Yes, it has made some things harder, but for the most part, it's working ok. The school has been working hard to manage it, and I think they have done a good job. A lot of things are done in year groups anyway, like sport and music. So the kids still get to mix with their own age group. Within the classes, there is a lot of small group work as well.

I agree with the pp comment about size of classes. Ours at the public school are capped at 20 for kinder, where I know someone who teaches kinder at a catholic school, and she has 31 kids in her kinder class, with no teachers aid. That's a huge difference.

#7 FionaM

Posted 23 July 2009 - 01:38 PM

My DD is in a composite class this year and i must admit i wasnt too happy to start with, but she loves and is really thriving in the class (she is in year 1 of the 1/2 composite) and that is the most important thing for us.

The majority of our school (except kindergarten and year 6) are composites or multi-age as our school refers to them.

I think also to have good communication with the teacher and if possible help with reading, etc.  I havent done anything this year as ive been working but last year i would help every Friday morning for an hour with the reading.

OP - I hope all goes well with your decision.

#8 JKTMum

Posted 23 July 2009 - 02:34 PM

Our school runs on the Victorian Essential Learning standard levels, so has classes to match.

Basically it means that Prep = Level 1, Year 1 and 2 = Level 2, Year 3 and 4 = Level 3 and Year 5 and 6 = Level 4, so all classes are Prep, 1/2, 3/4 and 5/6.

Last year we had a bigger intake of Preps and due to not having enough for 4 straight Prep classes, but too many to put them all into 3, they made 3 straigt Preps and a Prep/1 multiage. My DD2 was fortunate enough to be in this class as a Prep and did extremely well. She was already reading prior to starting Prep and having 2 older siblings already there was very ready socially, so with the brilliant teacher they had, she just powered along.

This year she is in a year 1/2 class as a year 1 and again does some of the year 2 work (reading, writing and maths), while still covering the stuff she is at year 1 level with (PE, IT etc). Next year though, she will again be in a year 1/2 class but as a year 2 and this may cause some problems. In several areas by the end of this year she will be working at the end of year 2 levels, so I'm not sure how much they are going to be able to extend her. There is no official extension program at their school, but fortunately again there are several more kids across the year 1 classes this year who are similarly advanced, so she wont be the only one they are trying to cater for. There is talk of putting the advanced kids in one or two classes (out of the 7 classes) so that they have kids of similar ability with them and can do small group work together.

Ideally she would always do well as the younger of the levels, so if a year 2/3 class was offered next year I'd want her in that, but they never happen at our school, nor do year 4/5 classes. Year 2, 4 and 6 are all going to be the same balancing act in terms of keeping her motivated and interested, while the teacher has to also cater for the range of skills of the other children in the class. All classes (straight age too) have this range of skills from struggling to advanced (and sometimes gifted), but in a composite/multiage class it just goes a bit further at each end.

Socially there have been some benefits (getting used to a wider range of children), but also disadvantages. DD1 got quite friendly with a few year 2 girls when she was in year 1, but the following year they went onto a year 3/4 class together and she was still in a year 1/2 class. In DD2's class this year there are only 4 year 1 girls, a larger group of year 2 girls, so in that way they dont have as much scope to find friends they can continue on wilth the following year (similarly there are lots of year 1 boys and only a few year 2 boys).

#9 mumto3princesses

Posted 23 July 2009 - 07:06 PM

Other people have explained it better but I just thought I would add that I think they work quite well.

At our school all the primary classes composite. So there is always  year3/year4 classes (stage 2) and year5/year6 classes (stage 3). Then the rest depends on numbers but most of the time there is one composite class for the other years. They aren't graded at all either so there is no smarter class etc. Although I believe there is an exception this year as they have a few year 4's in a senior class that were able to cope with stage 3 work.

DD3 is in a K/1 composite (in Kindy) and it's no different for her than it is for her twin in a straight Kindy class. They also get all the kindy's together at times as well so they do get to know the kids from the other classes too.

With DD1 (year 5) they get put into maths groups according to what level they are at not what year they are in. Then the work they need to do for each stage is covered over 2 years. And I know it's similar for my twins where they will get put into groups for different things according to what level they are at. Which is what you would want anyway. There will always be different abilities even in a straight class.

Edited by mumto3princesses, 23 July 2009 - 07:07 PM.

#10 mum850

Posted 23 July 2009 - 07:57 PM

In my daughter's straight prep class ( non composite) the reading levels cover four grades of school, and the maths levels three. So even in a straight prep class the teacher has to cover a really wide range. There are kids reading novels on one side and kids learning their alphabet on the other. I think it depends on the capability of the teacher rather than whether the class is composite or not.

#11 ytt

Posted 24 July 2009 - 09:58 PM

DD is in a kindy/year 1 class, she is a year 1 child.

I swing from thinking it is good to not happy at all. I really wish she was in a year 1/2 class but all the boys got into the year 1/2 class and they put the girls into the kindy/1 class. They expected to get more students into the school and they were going to put the girl year one's and the boy year one's into a class.

I am not happy that she is doing things she was doing last year (ie like learning about dinosaurs) but happy that the kindy kids get pulled out and then there are only 9 year 1 kids having lessons.

Also I believe DD may be gifted (her brother has been recently identified and DD's teacher keeps telling me how bright she is) so I don't think she is being challenged enough - saying that she has a great teacher that  pushes her and believes she is bright.

All up I am not all that happy with DD being the older kid and the brightest kid. I will be having a meeting with the principal at the end of the year to make sure she is put in a straight class or one of the younger kids in the class (ie a year 2 in a 2/3 class).

#12 crankybee

Posted 25 July 2009 - 11:40 AM

Haven't read everyone's replies (short on time!) but can I say that the Catholic curriculum for K - 2 has changed (in NSW anyway) and it looks fantastic - I'll def. be considering a Catholic school for my children. I went to one from K - 12 and had a great experience.

In K-2 I was in the same class - yes, 3 years with one teacher. It was a very small school and the class was challenging and I never felt neglected. The advantages are that you always know some kids from the year above/below you.

#13 localyokel

Posted 25 July 2009 - 11:53 AM

I've had kids in straight classes and in multi age classes.  I've had problems with kids being left behind in straight classes but going ahead in multi age.  At the catholic school the 'preps' or kinders as they are called here were the only straight class.  All prep/kinder classes were no exception.  Then all other grades to high school were multiage.  so stage 1 grade 1&2; stage 2 Grades 3 & 4;  stage 3 Grades 5 & 6;  It seemed to work well - but my way of thinking is that all the teachers there are familiar with teaching in multi age/stage groups and so its not a 'make do' sort of thing that is thrown at them at the beginning of the year unexpectedly.  I didnt have any problem with the academics of it.
But i did notice with dd that she would be friends with some kids who then went off to the next stage, and some left behind werent as friendly, but by the time she caught up with the other girls at the higher stage they had friendships that didnt include her, so from that pov it didnt work for us.
Dd is now in a very little school tho so its only got 2 stages - the big ones and the little ones lol!  They are really encouraged to spend time with each other and not form exclusive groups so it is great!  Ali

#14 sophiasmum

Posted 25 July 2009 - 07:09 PM

My DD1 was going to be in a composite kindy/Y1 class at the start of the year (she was starting kindy) but then they had enough for a full kindy class so they didn't do composite. But I was quite ok with composite because she is older (5 & 1/2 when she started school) and smart so I thought it would be good for her to be exposed to a higher class environment.

#15 Fifi

Posted 25 July 2009 - 07:29 PM

original.gif I'm a teacher and have taught both composite and straight classes. My opinion is that EVERY class is a composite class. You will always have a mix of students of varying academic ability and will always have to cater to different levels of learning and maturity. In an average Kindergarten intake, you will have students aged from 4-6. That is three years difference in terms of development. My program needs to be individualised for this. A composite program is not really that much different.

I am also an advocate for public school class sizes. In NSW they are maximum 20, in Catholic schools they will keep taking up to 36 students. This is a huge difference in terms of individual time that a teacher can spend with your child.

Good luck with your decision. original.gif

#16 hamiriver

Posted 27 July 2009 - 06:13 PM

I personally dont think much of them.
When we moved recently we werefaced with school options- some with composite classes.
I spoke at length to a wonderful teacher who taught my son prep and she said they dont really work. full stop.
They make work if you have an inspirational teacher, small numbers and kids close in ability and age- but composite classes are generally the opposite of all those things.
I did a fair amount of research on them and talked to lots of parents and basically 90% of the time it was always the same comments. No good.

I chose a school who will never have composite classes.

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