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Admissions Policy

Mixed age classes

We are still a (relatively) small school with 5 classrooms into which we have to fit 7 year groups! This inevitably means mixed age classes, or classes with 2 year groups in.

This is an issue that often raises some questions and hopefully this section will answer some of them!

Which age groups are split? It depends upon the number of children in each year group- sometimes Year 2 has been split across two classes, sometimes Year 5. We work with the numbers that we have.

How are the classes split? The key factor is confidence, which I will come to in a moment.

Obviously the numbers make some difference, and the ability of the child makes some difference but the key factor really is confidence. If a child is able but lacks confidence then being in a class with far older children who appear to be able to do far more can be a real blow to confidence. They might do far better in a class where they are the big fish in a small pond and are setting the standards.

Equally a child who enjoys the challenge and struggle of learning and has lots of confidence could find being the oldest in a class of children who are still acquiring the earlier skills and knowledge could find themselves bored. They might do far better in a class where they are a small fish in a big pond and they relish the challenge.

Who makes the decision? Ideally everyone gets involved! We always achieve the best result if school and home can work together! Sometimes the numbers mean that this is not possible and we do just have to take a decision. It is worth bearing in mind if you choose the Belfry as your school - it may happen. However we would say that your child will do well in whatever class they are in! 

Won't they lose their friends? Two answers. a) No and b) They get to strengthen their social skills.

a) No. What we see again and again is that friendships continue across mixed age classes. The whole school meet at play and at lunch and those friendships continue! And new friendships develop!

b) Imagine being in the same group of children for 7 years, in a single year group class. Your social skills would not need to develop and you'd always have the same narrative role - you'd always be 'the youngest', or 'the best at art' or 'the quietest' etc. However by being in mixed age classes the composition of the classes changes every year, and so children test and develop their social skills afresh, and they take on new roles. One year you could be a child who finds maths tricky, and the next you are the child who sets the standards for maths in a class! You can go from being the oldest who finds everything easy to being the youngest who has to work that little bit harder. Nobody benefits from staying the same - change and the support we offer is what allows the children to develop and succeed.

Won't they be taught a different curriculum? There's no two ways about it, having mixed age classes is tricky for the teachers both in terms of planning and delivery; however it's a challenge we are well acquainted with! Personally I think it benefits the teachers, for the same reasons as discussed above. The challenge means that teachers cannot just teach the same thing year after year in the same manner. They have to adapt and change and although it is tough it does make for better teachers! Your child will be taught what they are entitled to be taught, as listed in the National Curriculum - how that happens across mixed age classes is down to planning and organisation! The best way to see is to come and visit!

I'm still not convinced! And that's fine too - we are a small school and that brings amazing benefits, but some people see them as drawbacks. Personally I see mixed age classes as a feature of the school, not a bug (to use computer terms). The challenge and support the children and teachers get from mixed age classes benefits everyone, I believe. It is harder at times but the benefits are very real. We are lucky in North Norfolk in that there so many different types of school available! Some are even smaller and have 3 or more year groups in a class, and some are larger and have single year groups, so the choice for parents and children is there!

So, you see mixed age classes as a 'feature of the school, not a bug'? Couldn't have put it better myself!smiley

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