Mixed-Age Play

Mixed-Age Play at Parkhall Primary

Parkhall Primary in Antrim has two classes in Foundation Stage: one Year 1 and one Year 2. The Foundation Stage Co-ordinator was appointed to the school in September 2017 and is the Year 1 teacher.

Below are details about how mixed-age play was implemented at Parkhall Primary and the advantages for the school’s children in Year 1 and 2 and staff

Baseline Position

The baseline position indicated that:

  • ETI inspections in December 2015 and May 2017 highlighted play-based learning as an area for development; and
  • the Foundation Stage Co-ordinator was aware of the mixed-age approach to play research in Ireland and Northern Ireland (Doherty 2016), Dublin (Goodwin 2014) and America (Gray 2011) and had discussed this approach with Glenda Walsh, Head of Early Years Education at Stranmillis University College.

Foundation Stage staff agreed that mixed-aged play would:

  • benefit the children’s learning and help to address individual needs;
  • facilitate a daily outdoor play session for all children; and
  • provide a solution for the upskilling needs of Year 2 staff.

The approach was agreed at a Senior Leadership Team meeting.

The following video and infographic give an overview of the intervention:

Overall Impact

Foundation Stage staff noted these advantages:

  • all children benefitted from being in a smaller group and having more access to limited resources, a higher adult-to-child ratio and more interaction time with an adult;
  • children’s language developed from working collaboratively in mixed-age groups;
  • the children showed how much they loved working in mixed-age groups, as illustrated in the quotes below:
  • ‘I love playing with the Year 2s because they can help us. When I am in Year 2, I can help the new Year 1s’;
  • ‘The Year 1s are my friends’; and
  • ‘I get to play with my cousin because she’s in Year 2’; and
  • teachers and classroom assistants completed their observations using Walsh’s Quality Learning Framework and Leuven’s Scale of Wellbeing and Involvement, and both showed that the children’s levels of engagement and wellbeing had greatly improved.