Tuesday, 27 May 2014

How do we place students in their class?

It is that time of year again- when we need to place students into classes for the next academic year. When I first started at Bradbury, classes didn't change. The peers you started with in Year 1 were the peers you graduated with in Year 6. This was a great system assuming that no child left, all in the class were friends and that the class was well balanced to start with! Of course this was not the way it worked in reality. Students left, others were admitted and with a system of admitting where there is a vacancy, there was no possibility of placing a student to ensure a balance. So, classes ended up with a huge gender imbalance, or ability imbalance or a social one. Those who came in in the senior years found it difficult to 'break in' and make friends, those with social difficulties never did and so it was six years of unhappiness for them.

So now we change classes each year.
When we make up class lists, we look to balance
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Learning needs
  • Social behaviour
  • Ethnicity
Friendship groups are not a consideration.  Apart from complicating a fairly simple process, in our system, children are with 25% of their current class.  If a child has been at Bradbury since Year 1, they should know most of their peers in their new class anyway and have no doubt been placed with them at some stage before. One of the aims of our school is to ensure our students have the opportunity to hone and refine their social groups,their ability to communicate and make to friends.

How it works is like this:
The individual class teacher splits their class into four groups using the above criteria. Then, the four teachers of the current year group get together and again, using the above criteria, make up four class lists from the current four individual teacher lists. This list is then run past Phase Leaders, who may suggest changes. It goes back to the teachers again for refinement before coming to me for sign off. Of course, I do not have the in depth knowledge of each student that the teachers have, so I tend to assume that the mix is one that will work.

Sometimes,a parent has spoken to me about a type of placement they believe their child has and if I support this request, I will pass it on to the class teacher. A request for a particular teacher is never passed on, for a couple of reasons, one outlined  below and another being that the parent has assumed, sometimes mistakenly, that the teacher will be in the same year group next year. Or maybe I am aware of a learning or social need that a student may have and so I have some input at the beginning stage of the process. At this stage, no teacher's name is attached to the list. Once the list is signed off, teachers are then assigned to the groups, fairly randomly, unless there is a particular student/teacher mix that is seen as beneficial.

It is interesting to hear the myths that spring up around the whole process! I have heard for example, that it is Bradbury practice to place siblings with the same teacher as their brother or sister had. Unfortunately, not true.

It is a complex process, one that takes quite a while to perfect, but I can say hand on heart, that every single child's placement is individually considered in this system. It is for this reason that class lists are final and no changes are made once they come out.

Ultimately, our goal is to create balanced, heterogeneous classes, which makes for the most productive learning environment for all students and for the teacher, a class that is a joy to teach!

No comments:

Post a Comment