Why Does Class Placement Matter?

Administrators sorting classes using Post-it notes

Class placement is something administrators must do every year, and it takes weeks of focussed work to do it well. No wonder, then, that many staff feel a sense of dread at the end of the summer term, when it’s time to arrange class lists for the following year.

Class placement affects learning outcomes

Ensuring that each student has the opportunity to learn to the best of their ability is vital for success. Class placement is all about creating an optimal learning environment for each child.

If class placements are ‘sub-optimal’ at any stage of their schooling, students can become disengaged, experience a drop in motivation, and lose their enthusiasm for learning – producing a knock-on effect on their schoolwork and future studies.

Social connection is essential for mental and physical wellbeing, so placing students in classes where they have positive relationships should be a priority. Students with weak friendships tend to be identified as targets for bullying, have low self-image, and feel the stress of verbal or physical abuse more keenly.

Class allocation is also vital throughout the year and can be revisited, as when students transfer to a new school. Keeping them engaged in learning by ensuring suitable class placement will help minimise the impact of a change in school environment.

What criteria are used to make up class lists?

Each school has different criteria – and not all schools weigh all factors the same way. For example, some schools value academic streaming and think it’s more beneficial to band students according to test results, while others put more emphasis on keeping classes diverse in language and culture.

Criteria vary across different age groups too. While colleges tend to structure their classes around streaming and subject selection, primary and intermediate schools base class placements on a unique mix of academic, emotional, and social criteria.

Depending on what the school believes is vital to a class’s learning environment, criteria may include (but are not limited to):

  • Language
  • Gender, to create a balanced ratio of boys to girls
  • Subject skills, to create a balance of achievement levels in literacy and mathematics
  • Behavioural factors
  • Learning needs
  • Social needs (for example, a child’s personality or honouring student friendships in class placements)
  • Interests
  • Leadership qualities
  • Student-teacher compatibility
  • Social and emotional maturity
  • Compatibility with others in the classroom (for example, separating students who have not worked well together in the past)
  • Family situations (for example, keeping twins or siblings together or separate)

The importance of class placement for teachers

Class placement isn’t just important for students – it matters for teachers too.

Schools may decide not to place students with behavioural issues with beginner teachers, as they don’t usually have the coping skills yet. A more experience teacher, on the other hand, might have a few kids on behaviour contracts.

That being said, even if a teacher is incredibly talented at with dealing with a specific issue, you shouldn’t overload them. Creating “fair”, balanced classes allows every teacher to perform to the best of their ability.

(It’s worth noting that building “fair” classes also benefits students. If children struggle with self-regulating, being in an environment where they see other children doing exactly that is highly beneficial.)

How Pluto makes Class Placement easier for schools across New Zealand

As you can see, there’s no “right way” to sort classes, and criteria and weightings will vary by school and age group.

Without Pluto, considering all the variables took weeks: complicated spreadsheets, long meetings, and a kaleidoscope of Post-it Notes shuffled around a wallchart.

Now, Pluto’s class placement software does the hard work for you, helping you build the best classes quickly and easily. Pluto sorts classes according to your school’s priorities, flags any potential conflicts, and allows you to make changes and provide feedback on those changes.

Hillpark Primary School and Murrays Bay Intermediate School say Pluto is “a dream come true” and “the best thing since sliced bread.” (No, we didn’t pay them to say that for us – they did it on their own!)

Curious about whether Pluto could work for your school, like it already has for hundreds of schools around the world? Try Pluto now