Combined Grade Classrooms

What is a combined grade class?
Many elementary schools in Canada have combined grade classes. A combined or split class contains students from two consecutive grades, for example, a grade 7/8 split class is comprised of students from grades 7 and 8.

Why do combined grade classes exist?
Frequently, combined grade organizations are the result of the number of students at particular grade levels. Sometimes, there are too many students to form one class, but not enough students to form two classes. In these situations, students from two different grade levels are grouped together to form a combined class. 

Why was my child chosen for the combined class?
When the school principal and staff consider students for a combined class, the following criteria may be considered:

  • work habits, maturity, co-operation
  • a balance of ability, interests, and talents
  • social or behavioural considerations
  • ELL or Special Education needs
  • learning styles of the students

The placement of your child in the higher grade of a split class does not necessarily mean that your child has not met curriculum requirements. If your child is in the lower grade, they are not necessarily ahead of their peers in a straight grade.

Are there any benefits to my child being in a combined class?
Educational research supports many benefits for students in combined classes, including:

  • the development of independent learning skills
  • students learn from each other
  • the enhancement of social/emotional development
  • leadership opportunities for students

Are there disadvantages to a combined grade?
No. An effective teacher and supportive parents provide a positive learning environment for children in any classroom organization. When student achievement is examined, the educational research has determined that there is no significant difference between single and combined or multi-grade classes.

Will my child be prepared for the next grade if they are in a combined class?
Yes. At the beginning of each school year, teachers use a variety of methods to assess the needs of each student regardless of the composition of the class. Using the Ontario Curriculum in each subject as a basis, the program is planned to meet the needs and abilities of all students in the class and to prepare students for the next grade.

Is the achievement of students in a combined grade comparable to children in a straight grade?
Educational literature shows that children in combined grade groupings function at a level that is comparable to children in a straight grade. Student achievement is not compromised. In addition, the research suggests that multi-age grouping is associated with a more positive self-concept and an enhanced attitude towards learning.

How can I support my child who is in a combined classroom?
Parents can help in a variety of ways including:

  • talk to your child about each day’s work
  • support your child’s completion of homework
  • talk to the teacher about any concerns
  • share with the teacher any information about your child’s strengths, needs and interests

What kinds of teaching strategies will the teacher use in a combined grade class?
The teacher may use strategies:

Note: Under Regulation 298 of the Education Act, “The principal of a school, subject to the authority of the appropriate supervisory officer, is in charge of the organization and management of the school.”

Additional Resources: