Kyeemagh Public School

Kyeemagh: Beautiful Dawn

Telephone02 9567 5819

Multi-age Classes


Historically, classes at Kyeemagh Public School have been mostly single-grade, with ‘composite’ classes containing two grade levels formed to address the problem of uneven grade enrolments.

For 2024, we have made a decision to form stage-based ‘multi-age’ classes. The aim is the social and academic benefit of our students as well as allowing teachers to tailor curriculum to the needs of individiual students. We anticipate that we will form three Stage 1 classes, two Stage 2 classes (Years 3 and 4), and one Stage 3 class (Years 5 and 6). These classes reflect that the NSW curriculum is arranged in stage-based, rather than grade-based outcomes. 

Why multi-age classes?

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, flexible grouping strategies and collaborative inquiry-based learning, all of which are routinely implemented across classes at Kyeemagh Public School, 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, 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.

Older children in a multi-age class can receive a self-esteem boost from acting as role models for younger children. Younger children can aspire to achieve at the level of the older children in the class. Multi-age classes also create more class groups for each grade level, enabling teachers to strategically separate children who have an adverse effect on each other’s learning or wellbeing. This greatly benefits the culture and learning environment of classrooms across the school.

Frequently Asked Questions (examples)

Multi-age Classes: An overview of educational research

Multi-age classes are classes composed of children from more than one year level – usually two, but sometimes three consecutive year levels. 

In larger schools in NSW, they are usually formed for one of two reasons:

  1. ‘Composite’ classes, formed to cope with the problem of uneven grade enrolments.
  2. ‘Multi-age’ classes formed by philosophical choice, aimed at gaining academic, social/emotional and pedagogical benefits from mixing students of different ages. These multi-age classes are often designed to match the organisation of the syllabus, which is based on ‘stages’ running over two years.


Multi-age classes were generally rare in the 20th century outside of small rural schools, although they were in vogue during the 1960s. They fell out of favour with researchers and administrators from the 1970s-1990s, but have become increasingly common in the 21st century as research shows social-emotional and academic benefits to learners, provided quality teaching practices are in place.

Composite classes, in schools where most classes are single-grade, can be unpopular with parents, who may believe that their child is disadvantaged by being in one. This perception is often regardless of whether their child is in the younger or older cohort.

What does educational research tell us?

This section provides brief summaries of three educational research sources. Links to full documents and further sources are provided below.

The Conversation: Are mixed-grade classes any better or worse for learning?
Linley Cornish, Chair of Teaching and Learning, UNE

Putting students into classes based on their age is an administrative convenience. As all parents and teachers know, a child’s age tells you nothing definitive about his or her development. Children achieve different levels of development in different domains at the same age.

Various studies and meta-analyses have consistently shown positive results for multi-age classes which are formed by choice and have a strong focus on individual learning needs and learning with both older and younger classmates. When social-emotional factors are considered, the evidence for mixed-grade classes is positive. Results over a large number of studies are not unarguably conclusive, but they are more strongly positive than for academic achievement.

It is not the class structure that affects learning so much as the type of learning activity engaged in, its relevance, its interest, a student’s learning to date, and many other factors including the student’s active involvement in the learning and the quality of the teaching.

Research into cooperative learning shows consistently positive results. Learning with others in genuinely collaborative groups is effective and can be organised in any type of class, but mixed-grade teachers have more opportunities to group students flexibly, in different ways at different times.

Multiage Education: An Exploration of Advantages and Disadvantages through a Systematic Review of the Literature
Ronksley-Pavia et al.

Stage classes

In some areas of Australia (particularly NSW), a type of mixed-grade class has emerged called stage classes.  Stage classes are organised around the stages of expected skill attainment. The primary purpose of organising classes through the stage model is to undo the limitations around mono-grade classes in order to deliver a learning approach based on developmental stages and in so doing encompass some of the associated benefits of multiage schooling.

Teacher attributes

To be able to teach successfully in mixed-age settings, teachers needed to be experienced, and well-trained in pedagogical practices specifically in these settings (e.g., grouping practices; differentiation), be well-supported (by schools and communities); able and willing to work collaboratively (such as team teaching, and group planning); be flexible; and be able to provide safe, supportive, and nurturing classroom environments.

Teaching practices

Successful approaches in multi-age classes included grouping practices, collaborative learning approaches, process approaches to learning, flexible assessment practices, and combinations of these approaches, used in conjunction with curriculum practices, classroom layout (seating arrangements), and collaborative teacher planning.


The Conversation: Are mixed-grade classes any better or worse for learning? (2015) Linley Cornish, Chair of Teaching and Learning, UNE

Multiage Education: An Exploration of Advantages and Disadvantages through a Systematic Review of the Literature (2019)
Ronksley-Pavia, Barton, Pendergast: Griffith University and University of Southern Queensland


Other relevant sources

My child is in a composite class. Is this a good thing? (2023) Katherine Bates, Lecturer in Initial Teacher Education: English Specialisation, University of Technology Sydney