In our small village school, we have small cohorts and benefit from three mixed-age classes. We feel really passionate about this approach to education. We'd love to show you around our school so you can see for yourself but, in the meantime, here are some of the benefits to mixed-age teaching and small cohorts that we have experienced:
Small class sizes
Our average class size is 18, which means our learning climate is really calm and nurturing. We have 6 adults working across 3 classes and an army of volunteers and so we are able to work really closely with children on the next steps in their learning.
With such small cohorts, staff get to know children very well indeed and Ofsted commented on how well-tailored our curriculum is to the individual.
Aspiration, pride and explanation
We find that children really benefit from learning with different year groups because of the ease with which they can see and experience the learning of those who are working earlier or later in the curriculum. Hearing the reading and seeing the writing and maths of older children allows children to set their own goals and to know their own direction of travel; they look up to each other.
There is also a benefit to being the experienced and knowledgeable older group; these children feel responsible and mentor those younger pupils around them.
There is a clear explanation for the benefit of this system in cognitive science - as children are required to retrieve and synthesise the information they have learnt to mentor someone younger, they form stronger links in their brains and form reliable schema.
With small co-horts, we are not forced to choose which children will benefit from opportunities such as inter-school sports tournaments, design events, Science displays at local secondary schools tec - we simply send the whole co-hort. This means that children are able to attend every event and staff do not have to select children sparingly.
Our whole school fit on one coach and so we are able to take children out to complete fieldwork and take part in other whole-school adventures with real ease. This is what allows us to provide so many rich experiences.
Friendship & family
Many visitors to our school, including Ofsted have commented on the strong 'family feel'. Because children are used to mixing with peers from a range of different year group, this also comes very naturally when they are at play. It is very normal for children to be seen playing with others who are a lot younger or older than themselves.
This creates a sense of cohesion across the school which feels like a family - younger children look up to older children and older children look out for the infants and also help to guide them when needed. Every child in the school knows every other child in the school really well and this leads to genuine empathy and understanding of difference.
Our children stay with the same group of adults for more than 1 year rather than changing teacher every year. This means that the transition between one year group and the next is seamless; when a child moves up a year group, they can continue to make progress from day one without any need for the period of mutual learning that takes place when a child meets a new teacher.
Because of the small whole-school numbers, adults meet regularly as a team and we discuss together the progress and well-being of every child in the school. This means that every adult knows the needs of every child, even before they are the official class teacher.