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Petersham Public School

Petersham Public School

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Multi-age Classes

At Petersham Public School, students in Years 3-6 are placed in stage-based ‘multi-age’ classes in Years 3-6, as there are social and academic benefits.

Our classes reflect that the NSW curriculum is arranged in stage-based, rather than grade-based outcomes. On occasion, we will need to form a cross stage class (e.g. 4/5), which is necessary due to enrolment numbers.

Single-grade classes are an administratively convenient way to organise schools. However, single grade classes are made up of learners with a wide range of abilities, working at different developmental stages. In a sense, every class is a ‘composite’ class.

Quality teaching that is differentiated to meet the needs of every student, well supported by mentoring, instructional leadership, teacher collaboration and professional learning, has a far greater impact on student achievement than the structure of classes.

Teaching practices such as explicit teaching, formative assessment and flexible grouping strategies all of which are routinely implemented across classes at Petersham, are equally effective in multi-age classes as in single grade classes.

Educational research does not show a clear positive or negative impact of multi-age classes on academic achievement. However, multi-age classes will enable larger teams of teachers working with similar cohorts in Stages 2 and 3, increasing the capacity of teachers to authentically collaborate on programming and assessment, enhance consistent teacher judgement and practice, and create flexible groupings across classes in specific curriculum areas. We will collect data and measure the impact of this increased collaborative practice on student achievement.

Educational research does show that multi-age classes have positive impacts on students’ social and emotional outcomes and wellbeing. Friendships and social connections across grade levels increase tolerance and social cohesion and provide students with more opportunities to make connections with students of a similar age, with shared interests or compatible personalities.


Frequently Asked Questions

Will my child be doing Year 3 work in Year 4? Or Year 4 work in Year 3?

There really isn’t such a thing as ‘Year 3 work’, or work specific to a grade level. The curriculum is arranged in Stage outcomes which students work towards throughout the two years in that Stage. Some Stage 2 students might have already achieved those outcomes and be starting on Stage 3 outcomes; some students might still be working toward Stage 1 outcomes in some areas. This is the case in a single-grade or multi-age class.

Our teachers all work hard to differentiate the curriculum, through providing modifications (scaffolds and supports, extensions and enrichments) to enable students to work on a common task, or a range of tasks, at their level.


My child has learning difficulties – will they be lost in a class with older kids doing more advanced work? OR
My child is an advanced learner – will they be held back by being with younger children?

Single grade classes also have students with wide ranges of learning abilities, and we differentiate to meet their needs. While the range in multi-age classes is wider, quality teaching, flexible grouping strategies and differentiated tasks will ensure that every learner is met at their point of need.


How will the teacher run two programs for the two grades in the class?

They won’t. The class will all work on the same focus areas in different curriculum areas, but they will be differentiated to meet learners at their point of need.

For example, in a Stage 2 lesson focusing on using multiplication to solve real world problems, the teacher might form a number of flexible ability groups, based on pre-testing of students’ knowledge and skills, not their year level. One group might be solving single digit multiplication using skip counting and arrays, a second group solving two digit x one digit problems using knowledge of times tables, and a third solving two digit x two digit problems and designing their own problems for peers to solve. Each group may contain children from either year level.

Three findings stand out in the research about multi-age classes:

• Class organisation "...will not determine either educational advantage or disadvantage..." (NSW DET 1997).

• The most important factors in determining student success are the quality of the teacher and his or her teaching.

• Multi-age classes may benefit students both socially and emotionally.

The Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, NSW. 2014-2017