Parents’ concerns about split grades are “one of the most challenging consequences” of the class cap in Ontario’s primary classrooms, says a new report.

Even though school boards were able to achieve the province’s mandate of 20 students per class from junior kindergarten to Grade 3 in 90 per cent of classes in just a few years’ time, one side-effect was more combined grades overall.

Principals surveyed for the study, conducted by researchers for the Canadian Education Association and Ontario’s Ministry of Education, said that was the major issue for parents.

The report also found a significant increase in the number of “unbalanced” split-grade classes, which occurs when the number of students in one grade outnumbers the other. In general, educators prefer to have as even a split as possible.

Patricia MacNeil, spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, said research on split grades shows students tend to do well in them. “The younger students have the benefit of the older students, and it also helps instill confidence in older students.”

And, she noted, “combined grade or not, teachers will teach to students with a range of capabilities.”

When asked about the unbalanced classes, she said the ministry “continues to look at the report ... the whole purpose of reviewing the report is to see what are some of the learnings we can take from here.”

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