I'm Peter Barnard

For 25 years I've been working with schools that have abandoned trying to make the same-age, grade, or year system appear to work. I appreciate that transitioning to a multi-age tutor group organisation (vertical tutoring) is very threatening to school leaders but not so for staff, parents, or students. The near-universal same-age hypothesis is based on management/power assumptions that no longer hold and diable individual and organisational learning. I've attached a few research papers on friendship, bullying, mental health, parent partnership and learning relationships to illustrate differences between the same-age and multi-age systems. Don't hesitate to contact me if you'd like to learn more. The transition isn't easy so please don't assume it is, but it is worth the effort and many schools have made the change. 


The peer group or grade system now 175 years old and in universal use was never intended for an emergent and joined-up world. It was designed to separate and limit and is a system beset by communication and value issues. The research into same-age v. mixed-age groups is clear. Same-age groups have an increased potential for bullying and are out of synch with social psychology, cognition, and child development. Across the world we are witnessing the collateral damage of the same-age system.  The result is a a system that requires ever more add-ons and fixes (pro-social programmes) and is reliant on the single idea that all that matters is the teacher in the classroom rather than a fully integrated system .

Benefits of multi-age organization include:-

  • Parent partnership designed-in, not added on.

  • Wellbeing designed-in along with mature behaviour, resilience and empathy, lessening the need for pro-social programmes.

  • Every child, not the few, a leader and a mentor.

  • Learning relationships reconnected and learning better supported. Every child known and supported.

  • Assessment for learning upgraded (reports, reflective learning conversations, strategies for achievement etc.). Information allowed to flow to where its needed.

  • Learning relationships improved across the school (staff/students/parents).

  • Tutors enabled through organisational change. 

  • Management redesigned to suit the the transformation and enable staff to self-manage.

  • Psychology and values designed in.

  • Leadership distributed and management liberated.