The Multiple School Years: Best Practice and School Policy – Parent & Teachers Guide

When multiples are registered for school it is important to consult with the parents and to assess the children.  Remember to:

  • Identify the children by name
  • Assess and treat the children as individuals
  • Bear in mind that they may be affected emotionally by being a multiple e.g. upset if their co-multiple is upset, competing against their co-multiple rather than their peers
  • Give both children messages and letters to take home
  • Arrange separate parental consultations ? do not compare one to the detriment of the other
  • Be sensitive when children are given reading books particularly if one child hasn?t started reading
  • Be flexible
  • Highlight the positive aspects of being a multiple


Developing a School policy regarding multiples


Choosing a school

The following taxonomy of school type has been developed to move away from just considering how many classes each year group has. Schools that mainly view multiples as a natural unit or couple are described as “closely coupled”. Schools that mainly view multiples as individuals are described as “Extreme Individual ” and schools that take into account the development and needs of each set of multiples in their school and adopt a flexible approach to separation are described as “Flexible” schools.

School Type Based Upon Attitude To Multiple Birth Children

Extreme Individualising SchoolsFlexible SchoolsClosely Coupling Schools
Multiple birth children are always separated as it is believed that this will help the children to develop as individuals.

Schools may not:

  • acknowledge the multiple relationships and the possible need for the children to be near each other or to be able to check out what the other is doing
  • take into account that one child may be affected by the other e.g. by being extremely competitive or by opting out
  • support the children personally, socially and emotionally in order to develop as individuals
The school is aware of the potential needs of multiple birth children and their families.

  • Parents and children?s views with regard to separation are taken into consideration.
  • The children are assessed to consider whether separation is appropriate when they start school.
  • Arrangements can be changed according to the needs of the children.
  • The multiple birth relationship is acknowledged and celebrated as well as enabling children to develop as individuals.
  • The children are recognized and called by name.
  • Individual achievements are recognized and celebrated
  • The children are comfortable selecting the same or similar subjects/activities understanding that being an individual may mean doing the same
Multiple birth children are always kept together as it is believed that they are a natural unit.

Schools may not:

  • recognize individuals
  • call individuals by name
  • assess the children separately
  • report on their progress separately
  • recognize individual problems and issues
  • provide for multiple birth children as individuals e.g. when one has a special need

Although single form entry schools do not have the option of separating multiple birth children into separate classes, they may be assessed according to the categories in the table. Children may be placed in separate groups, rather than separate classes and staff attitude to multiple birth children may also be assessed. For example, if staff are unable to identify multiple birth children and call them by name, they may be treating the children as a unit rather than as individuals. Rather than simply considering whether schools have enough classes for separation, parents may wish to visit prospective schools in order to decide which “type” the school appears to be and whether it is likely to meet the needs of their multiple birth children. Schools considering how to meet the needs of multiple birth children may also first wish to consider what sort of school they would like to be as measured against the descriptors in the table.

Delayed School Entry

Many multiple birth children are born prematurely. As well as physical disabilities resulting from prematurity and low birthweight, the actual date of birth may be extremely important. Premature children may be forced into the school year above their “correct” year if they are born several months early. This may result in the children being assessed as behind their peers when in reality they are being compared with an older age group. When assessing premature children, it may be helpful to compare them with the year group below, to see if their development and performance is more in line with this year group. Parents and educators may consider applying for delayed school entry, or for additional time in the early years setting in order to allow such children further time to develop.

Best practice in meeting the needs of multiples – A balancing act

No one would claim the decision about separation is necessarily easy: it is a complex balancing act between two sets of needs. Multiples do need some independent development, as eventually, they will go their separate ways. On the other hand, they can have a special bond and a uniquely supportive friendship it is tragic to destroy needlessly. Conversely, twins can compete to an excessive and destructive extent. With higher multiples collaborations and competitions can arise which continue throughout life, as one or more bear the grudge as to why they were the one(s) left out in the cold from the closeness which the others developed and still share. However, they may also go through school helping each other while also being rivals to a mild and stimulating extent.

One of the most important points has been kept to the end. Probably no other phrase than “A balancing act” exemplifies what can make multiples so special and their needs so different from those of single-born children. Separation is just one of many factors which can contribute to meeting these needs. It must always be seen in the context of other things at home and at school being done to help the children.

All of us need to learn more about many aspects of the multiple situations. In particular, we need to be sensitive about how much of the multiples? attitudes to each other and to society are learned from parents, teachers and other adults. When we complain about multiples being competitive with each other and overemphasizing small differences in behavior or ability, we have to ask from where this behavior originated. It can be difficult enough for multiples to learn to live with the assets and liabilities of their relationship, without adults complicating matters even more! We hope this website will help all adults become more aware of ways in which the twin relationship can be special and of how they can help children develop fully both as individuals and in the unique situation which arises with multiple births.

Being a multiple birth child is not a disability. The following are some of the advantages of being a multiple:

  • a unique and special relationship that is not available to singletons
  • an understanding about sharing and waiting for adult attention right from the start
  • having a companion and friend available particularly when tackling homework and revision for exams.
  • having a competitor who can spur you on to do better

Multiples are special people who often receive special attention. As long as this does not go to extremes and the children develop as mature ? dependents? comfortable both as multiples and as individuals, there is no problem.

With understanding and support where necessary, multiple birth children can make good progress in school enjoying and celebrating the fact that they are a multiple.

Skin Deep

Look at me
And know me
Remember me by name
Look at us and know us
We are not the same

I look like him
He looks like me
But that is just for show
Talk to me
Listen to him
And the difference you’ll then know

We sound alike
We look alike
We’re hard to tell apart
We’ve learned to share
Of all that?s there
But not our minds and heart

I need my space
To find my place
My brother needs it too
He needs his say
To find his way
In all, he wants to do

I want some time
To find what?s mine
I think it?s only fair
We need to know which way to go
And find our own way thereI can?t live my life through him
He won’t live his through mine
Help us to see
What we can be
Where we both have room to shineTake time to look into my eyes
And see beyond the skin
Although we look so much alike
There is a me within
By Karen Jeavons


What would you do?

Sharon, David, and Tom are triplets now aged eight. Tom has always been the smallest, who spent longer in hospital after they were born and Mum is especially protective of him. Sharon and David are doing well in class, at sport and have lots of friends. Tom is not doing well at school and is becoming very moody and irritable. He does not want to go to school or do “anything”. Mum says she wishes there was just one thing Tom could do as well or better than the others. What can the parents and school do?



References: See here




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