With our school moving across to the Australian Curriculum next year in terms of formal reporting, the question arose about how to tackle composite classes and the year-level specific content – mainly in the Science and History areas.
There seems to be little in the way of guidelines from the WA Education Department (and a conversation between our Principal and head office didn’t clear up too much apart from some very general, sweeping statements about “making it work”), so it seems it really is up to individual schools to plan effectively. With the old Schedule A policy, schools were required to formally report on each outcome at least once every two years. This meant a rotation of Science topics over a two-year period – 2010 could have been Earth & Beyond and Energy & Change, and 2011 Life & Living and Natural and Processed Materials. The Australian Curriculum requires all four content areas to be reported on each year – effectively one each term instead of one each semester. The first question asked was, “If we have a Year 4/5 class, do we teach all of the Year 4 and all of the Year 5 content?”
Suggestion 1 was to work off an A/B rotation – in even years (i.e. 2012, 2014, 2016 etc), all classes work towards the even year-level content (Yr 2, Yr 4, Yr 6), and in odd years the odd year-level content. On the face of it, this seems a good solution… until you start digging in and providing scenarios. There is every likelihood that Jimmy, a Year 2 student in a Year 2/3 class, will learn the Year 3 curriculum on 2013, having learned the Year 1 outcomes on 2012. In 2014, as Jimmy enters Year 3, and is placed in a Year 3/4 class, he now focusses on the Year 4 content… missing the Year 2 content all together. End of the world? Maybe not, but certainly not the clean solution that some suggest. Another scenario sees young Alice enter a straight Year 1 class in 2014 and learn the Year 2 content. In a straight Year 2 class in 2015, she learns to Year 1 content she missed the previous year. Come 2016, Alice is placed into a Year 2/3 class as a Year 3… and learns the Year 2 content she covered in Year 1! All of this A/B concept works perfectly if students remain in the same classes, streamed through primary school. However, the reality is that composite classes are usually formed out of numerical necessity, and throwing another constraint into class structuring would be a logistical nightmare for administration.
History Key Ideas
Having had discussions at a school level, and reading documentation from other states’ education departments (such as South Australia’s), we decided to take the approach in History of creating composite-class guidelines by focussing on the key ideas of the Historical Knowledge and Understandings. Linking key ideas from (for example) Year 4 and Year 5 allows for a guideline for a Year 4/5 teacher to follow. History outcomes are still broad enough to allow teachers to choose their own topics and directions to take in delivering content, and the document we have produced will hopefully help us to see the connections that are to be made between year level outcomes. This should ensure that the key concepts are still covered, regardless of whether students are in a straight class or a composite class. All other skills strands and aspects of the History learning area can still be used as a way of differentiating expectations between different students, and links therefore do not need to be made.
Our History document is still in draft form at the moment, and composite statements are yet to be fully discussed and ratified by our staff for 2013, but I feel it is a good start for teachers of our composite classes to begin planning around how to best deliver and cater for both year levels. We’re still discussing Science as a staff – the outcome statements appear to be a little more independent of each other as compared to History, and require more thought.
feature image source: dakardus @ deviantART