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Organisation of classes

Organisation of classes

Every international school will have developed its own ways of organising how teaching and learning take place in each class, just like schools in each country’s own educational system. Although much of the teaching you’ll see in international schools will be very familiar, there are a number of terms that may need some introduction. Here we explore some of the modes of classroom organisation that you’re most likely to encounter.



This is where children of similar ability in a particular subject are placed together each time that subject is taught. This is more common in some subjects – for example mathematics – than others.

It means that children of a similar strength in that subject will be set the same work. The format allows teachers to focus the work specifically on the abilities of each group.

The pace of the learning meets the needs of each ability range, and ensures that able children are working to their fullest capability.



Children are placed in different classes for most of their lessons dependent on their ability. The child’s ability level may be ascertained through tests or other assessments undertaken when they start school and during the school year itself.

Teaching is more focussed because of the narrower ability range. Able children are stimulated by each other and can be stretched much more, and a different pace and curriculum can be set for every class.

Mixed-ability grouping

This consists of children of varying abilities working together. This format is particularly useful in tasks where opinions, problem-solving and discussion are important.

Mixed-ability groups can encourage a greater degree of support and interaction. The approach can give more opportunities for less able children to flourish and more able children to be supportive. It should not to be confused with mixed-age classes – discussed next.

"...mixed-ability groups can encourage a greater degree of support and interaction..."


Mixed-age classes

Sometimes known as Family grouping or Vertical grouping, a mixed-age class is where a class can consist of more than one year group. This format is more likely to be found in the primary sector.

The main reason for mixed-age classes is usually uneven intake. Smaller schools in particular will follow this practice in order to maintain reasonable pupil levels in each class.

Often the oldest children in the lower year group are mixed with the youngest in the higher year group. This avoids summer-born children always being the youngest in the class.

Mixed-age classes give the school greater flexibility when placing students in classes and greater potential for setting across year groups. There is scope for greater differentiation in the work given to individuals and groups. This can be very helpful if a child’s ability level is impeded by the need to acquire a second language.

For more information about the types of curriculum and assessment used in international schools, see the articles Types of curriculum and Types of assessment.

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