The ability to work in a cross-age setting is another of the many benefits of a small school. The older students are able to build meaningful mentoring relationships with the younger students that mutually benefit social and academic learning. In alignment with futures learning, our class structures are organic and flexible. Staff, students and parents work together each year to structure each class in ways that best meet each child’s emotional, social and academic needs. This means we provide both single age and multi age classes, the cohorts of which change and evolve over the years in response to changing and evolving needs.
The multi-age approach encourages every student to work towards their individual potential in all areas of their growth, not only academically. Opportunities to learn from peers allows for active engagement in a challenging and supportive learning environment where effective teaching strategies improve student learning. As students grow, teachers continue to scaffold and support them to promote and develop independence in learning individually and provide opportunities to consolidate collaboration skills and gain success through working with others. Student agency is encouraged at all times so children learn to take responsibility for the learning. The pedagogy of ‘inquiry’ used at St Peters Lutheran School, and encouraged by the International Baccalaureate curriculum framework, is a perfect fit for the multi-age classroom.
Even within single age class, academic needs will be as diverse as those within multi-age classes. Research tells us that when working within groups of diversity, students are known to achieve higher gains in the ‘soft’ skills of communication, flexibility, leadership, collaboration, time management and empathy. These are the highly desirable skills needed by today’s children as they grow and learn to participate and contribute in tomorrow’s world.
Buddy time operates across classes throughout the whole school. The Buddy Program consists of regular shared activities, peer teaching and sharing of achievements. The children are often found reading, helping, playing, mentoring and completing activities or projects together.
There are many benefits of having buddies within the school. The younger children feel safe and cared for while the older children feel valued and respected. The buddy programme promotes social and support networks for all children.