On this cold, wet, and horrible afternoon in the soggy north east of the country, I decided to write a blog about mixed groups. By mixed groups I mean mixed age groups in education. Recently I did a small amount of research about the benefits of mixed age groups in preschool. This turns out to be quite a positive thing with the older children supporting the learning of younger children, younger children copying the models of the older children. But after working in a school this week, specifically in a class of year 5 and year 6 children, I can see a very big negative side to the mix. Not only do the differing abilities of the children become more apparent, and the behaviour of the children is difficult at best (mostly due to copying) the biggest single factor I have become aware of is the difficulty the teacher has in differentiating the work for the different syllabus needs of the different age groups. The year 6 children need to have a lot of revision time for their SATs; which they will be sitting in the next few weeks, but the year 5 children need to continue with their usual timetable and structure to prevent them becoming bored.
Although the idea of mixed age groups works well in some settings it is not a universal answer to small class sizes. In an ideal world every child would be taught to their own ability level, and be grouped with ability not chronological peers, but in our schools system that is not possible and the teachers, who are doing a great job, are required to make the best of a bad situation.