Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Reconstitution of classes

Scoil Niocláis, Frankfield, Grange, Cork Roll Number: 20106E 'Phone/Fax: 021 4899567 Mobile: 086 8270057 E-mail: Reconstitution of Classes 1. Rationale In Scoil Niocláis, four Junior Infant classes have been enrolled in the last four years. For one reason or another, some classes have had that uneven mix of pupils. This may have been due to the gender imbalance or an usual amount of pupils with special needs, language needs or children with emotional/behavioural problem in one or two classes. If this situation was allowed to continue it would mean less teaching and learning in those particular classes for the period of their primary schooling. The aim of reconstituting/mixing the classes at senior infant level is to redress this imbalance and have even mixed ability groups across the four classes. This remixing will first take affect at the end of the 2012-2013 school year, with this year’s intake of Junior Infant pupils. The principal may, in exceptional circumstances, for educational reasons reconstitute classes again further up the school e.g. third/fourth class. It is also possible that, in a large school, children can go on to secondary school without ever having the opportunity of getting to know many of the children from their own year. The Principal and staff of Scoil Niocláis have worked out a system of reconstituting classes and the system has gained wide acceptance from Board of Management(BoM), parents and teachers. The process is time consuming, depends largely for its success on the teachers who designed it, but it is widely accepted to be very worthwhile on many fronts. This method is most suitable for a large school which has three or four classes at every level. The proposal was put initially to the BoM for approval and parents were consulted. The following are the main benefits that would flow from the annual reconstitution of classes: Children would get the opportunity over the remaining years of meeting and getting to know all the children in their own year. It is very important for the social development of each child and links into the SPHE programme It would be a good preparation for secondary school, as it would help the children to get used to change within a safe environment, and with the support of friends. When they move on to secondary school, they would have a better chance of being in the same class as children they knew well and from whom they could get support and, with whom they would find it easy to form friendships. 2. Method for Reconstituting Classes Early in the second-term, the SPHE programme has a focus on ‘Friendship’ and teachers teach a series of lessons on the importance of friends and what friendship means. At the end of this process every child fills in a personal ‘Friendship Worksheet’, where they write the names of their ‘Best friends’ and their ‘Other Friends’. Teachers keep these worksheets in case questions arise later At the start of the third-term, using these worksheets, the information from test results and teachers’ observations, each teacher divides their class into three or four co-operative learning groups of approximately 6/7 children. Each working group should have the following elements: a) A good balance of abilities according to Standardised Tests, school tests and teacher observation. b) As good a gender balance as can be achieved c) At least one or two friends for each child, with this information coming from the worksheet d) Children with educational/behavioural/emotional problems in different groups where possible, but always with some friends. The children work co-operatively in these groups for the third-term, get to know each other and get used to working together. The teacher can make some changes to these groups initially if there is good reason, but the four elements listed above must be maintained In June, the teachers come together for ‘class formation’ meetings. The first new class is formed by taking one working group from each of the four classes and putting them together. The teachers can spend a number of hours at this exercise as they debate which group will work best with which other group. Teachers know best from their own professional experience and judgement. At this stage, the classes have not been allocated to any individual teacher, so it is in everybody’s best interest to get it right Class lists are finalised at the end of this process. Children and teachers know their new classes by the end of the school year before they go on holidays This process is carried out with great care and professionalism, and that the interests of every child is carefully considered. Where this process has been initiated in other schools, children adapt to it very easily, have become very open and flexible socially. We have only seen positive results. The system will be evaluated annually by the teachers and changed slightly if this is seen to be necessary. The original method may change somewhat as fine-tuning takes place. It will be mentioned in the school information booklet so that parents are fully aware of the system when they enrol their child in the school. Micheál Ó Cochláin Priomh Oide 6.4.11