‘Mixed-level’ classes benefit pupils claims Dundee headteachers

Fiona McLagan, Julie Grace, Paul Clancy and Andrena Waghorn.
Fiona McLagan, Julie Grace, Paul Clancy and Andrena Waghorn.

Headteachers in Dundee have said delivering “multi-level” classes widens choice for pupils and helps them develop social skills.

Concerns senior pupils were being taught in mixed-level classes were raised by Lochee Labour councillor Michael Marra last month. He said he believed the system was unfair to pupils.

Mixed-level classes can see some pupils being taught a subject at National level, while others are studying for Highers or Advanced Highers.

He claimed teachers were forced to teach the top level of students in each class and left to hope information “trickles down” to pupils studying for lower qualifications.

However, headteachers say mixed-level classes are only used when appropriate and actually benefit the social development of pupils.

Fiona McLagan, headteacher of St John’s High School, said mixed-classes allowed the school to offer French and Spanish to senior school pupils.

She said: “We have offered some courses where we do fourth, fifth and sixth years together to offer the widest range of courses.

“We did that in modern languages and that has ensured we have 25 young people doing French and 25 doing Spanish.”

Ms McLagan said combining classes allows schools to deliver courses which would  otherwise be difficult to offer.

She said: “For last year in particular in French we’d only have had seven pupils for Higher and eight for National, so it would not have been efficient to run.”

She added the mixture of levels actually helps pupils gain more confidence in their subject.

“It creates a different and more responsive work environment,” said Ms McLagan,

Craigie High School headteacher Andrena Waghorn also said mixed-level classes help pupils develop social skills that are helpful when pupils leave school.

She said: “It gives pupils an opportunity to try out things in an environment that’s quite supportive.

“It’s also much better preparation for the workforce. We don’t tend to go out and work with our own age and stage.”

Dundee City Council executive director of education Paul Clancy said mixed-level classes are nothing out of the ordinary.

He said: “There have always been mixed-level classes. Standard Grades were always taught to Foundation and General or General and Credit Level.”