Small primary schools

(28 Posts)
MissTriangle Fri 15-Feb-13 12:24:43

We have just moved to a new area (a smallish village) and there are 2 primary schools nearby. I need to get my DD1 on the list for a preschool place, which are attached to the schools. I know that attending the preschool has no bearing on getting into the primary - however looking at recent years intakes we should have the option of getting into either school.
Therefore I am going to look round the preschools next week but am also keeping the primary schools in mind too. My only worry is the size if them.

School one: has an outstanding OFSTED report and good KS2 results. But has a yearly intake of about 11 students. They combine year groups.

School two: has a good OFSTED report and good KS2 results (but slightly less than school one). They have a yearly intake of 23 pupils.

I am worried that a year group of 11 is crazily small and this might cause issues with friend groups etc. Does anyone have any experience with schools of a similar size? Also would going to a preschool and then a different school matter? How fixed are friendships at such an early age?

Thanks for any advice/help.

My daughter attends a village school in a year group of 10 year ones. There are 6 year twos and 8 reception children, all in the same class.

She is having a wonderful time. She has friends in all the year groups in her class, as well as in the classes above. She knows all the teachers and TA's well and they all know her. The HT also knows all the children personally and they see her as a personal friend, stopping to tell their news, while she helps the youngest ones cut up their hot lunches.

My (generally very shy) daughter is friendly with all the children in her year and frequently plays at their houses, although some are closer friends than others. No child is left out - I know because I help in class every week and there is great opportunity to teach each child at his or her own level, with the teaching groups in 1 and 2 being very fluid.

Can't see anything against it in our case.

On the other hand, an OfSTED grading really means far less than the paper it is written on. It is a subjective snapshot of a day in the life of a school. Don't rely on it.

educator123 Fri 15-Feb-13 14:52:21

Watching with interest as my dd2 is in a mixed class in a small school 8reception with 10year ones.

Then dd1 is in a mixed yr2/3 class 5year2 and 8year3.

When Dd one was in year 1 they mixed r1&2 and I was worried about how they teach such a spread

They adjust it according to intake so now the mix 4,5&6.

They all seem to do well but in the back of my mind I worry, maybe unjustly.

I have been considering moving to a one form entry average class of 25...but it feels big to us with being used to something so small!

When schools are used to it, I think mixed year classes work very well. They allow for friendships to develop between different years, the older ones tend to treat the small ones quite protectively, and there can be a lot of flexibility about teaching, as each child is seen more as an individual.

DS went all through primary school in this kind of school, and it worked very well for him. Teaching usually happens in small groups anyway, so covering a wide range is not a problem - specially when you also have small class sizes. He was also able to go into another class for subjects if there was a group there at a more similar level, they were very flexible about that sort of thing.

AbbyR1973 Fri 15-Feb-13 16:14:37

DS1 is in year R in a small village school with a similar sized intake to the one you have described. There are 12 in his year. There are mixed year classes from Year 1 up but Year R are taught on their own except a pre-school group join them from 9-11 am. It is also outstanding and is the most AMAZING school. We only really got in by luck as we live in a nearby town and didn't get any of the choices and were offered a sink school-seriously dire and was thinking about home educating until a place at a good school came up- until a work colleague said there were still places left at the school her children attend.
DS1 has totally landed on his feet and funnily enough I think the education he is getting is far better than he would have got had he got into my first choice school with 30 children in a class. There is a TA and teacher for 12 children so they get a huge amount of individual attention which has worked very much in my sons favour as he is a bright boy and has been allowed to progress at his own rate. They really worked him out very quickly and had established before the end of the first week that he could read pretty well without me mentioning it.
I find it small and friendly and reminds me a bit of my primary education although my school did not have mixed classes. My only tiny worry is that my sons will be in the same class every other year as DS2 will start in September. I am assured that this is very common in the school and they are very used to dealing with the situation. Some small schools don't have so many options but at ours there is a wide choice of after school clubs as well as breakfast club and tea time club. Another benefit is that parents are welcome in the classroom at drop off in reception which I understand is not the case in all schools and there is therefore excellent communication with the teachers.
I am very very glad that DS1 has had such a super start to schooling and he loves it.

rotavirusrita Fri 15-Feb-13 16:15:18

Ds1 and ds2 both go to a very small school 5- 15 children in each yr group. No problems with the mixed yr teaching.... main advantage is they all seem to be really confident- they all get speaking parts in the school playsmile. There is no- where to hide in a group of 15 so its great if you have a daydreamer. As for friends.... Some are older or younger and some are even girls.

MissTriangle Fri 15-Feb-13 17:44:26

Thanks everyone for your replies. It is reassuring to know that people have had good experiences from small schools.
Abbey- I hadn't even thought about that but I would be in the same situation as my DD2 will be in the next school year from DD1 so in the small school they will be in the same year.

Roseformeplease Fri 15-Feb-13 17:47:55

Lots of experience of this (rural Scotland). Both my children have flourished ad been given work at their own pace. They have friends of all ages and were never bothered during the two years they were in the same class. The school is tiny (22 pupils in total in 2 classes) and so they get lots and lots of individual attention. Behaviour is exemplary and they all get on very well. I really like the "family" atmosphere and my son was allowed to push on very fast as he was ahead of the one other pupil of his age. Really, really recommend it and couldn't imagine a situation where my children would have been happier or more settled.

educator123 Fri 15-Feb-13 20:27:20

That is really reassuring Rose...I feel like I've almost been making myself I'll worrying about my children at their small mixed class primary 43 in total. IT was after I started a thread on here for opinions on small school and hits of negative points come up about friendship issues and possibilities to teach mixed classes to the same standard lack of opportunities,hard translation to secondary

I've felt like I've falling out of love with our school due to worry. I've even been considering a move to a single form village school with a be all and end all reputation in terms of extra curricular, results 50 per cent achieving level 5s etc

Educator, it depends so much on the school and your child. Your child could be really unlucky with the friendship groups ... but is probably far more likely to make firm friends for life.

And why on earth should a teacher be less able to teach to the same standard as in a larger school; quite the opposite, I would have thought. She will know the individuals far better and for much longer. Trying to get to know 30 children in one year is harder than getting to know 24 children whom you teach for 3 years.

After-school clubs are run by parents, TAs and outside groups as well as teachers. It all works.

educator123 Fri 15-Feb-13 21:13:48

These are not things I came up with, I was of the view that the small numbers would enable better learning and teaching, hence why we chose the school originally but like I said when I started a thread about small schools/ mixed classes there was a few posters saying that the mixed classes counter act the small numbers as dispute a school saying other wise it is very difficult to teach such a broad ability/age range and different curriculum or key stages.

My Dd1 is in year 2 and has had her teacher for three years and like you say, I would like to think of that as positive and that she must really know my child and how she works etc. Others have said if the teacher is not great or your child doesn't get on with them it can be awful as as they are stuck with them for a long time, which I hadn't though of. It felt like all the things I loved had become worries.
I had also viewed the friendships as positive - learning to socialise will younger and older children but then my d daughter has clicked with one friend who is now leaving and I am worried how she will cope with so few others.
Then lots of added stuff about the small school going downhill due to lack of funds for staff, equipment etc

Generally small schools have good support systems and are closely linked with the commity, which helps with the opportunities in music, sport, etc. We get away with a lot by saying 'we are only a small school, you know'.

The most important thing a child learns at school is how to learn. I think that the environment in which my daughter is learning is probably even more condusive to that than being in a large straight cohort. More independence, older children helping younger ones, younger children learning by osmosis from older ones ...

rotavirusrita Fri 15-Feb-13 21:37:56

Very small schools are a bit "marmite" i think. I've heard some local parents say that they worry about the school closing due to its size however they wrte saying that when ds1 joined and he'll be leaving soon. Due to parental help and a good headteacher we take field a competitive football team/ have a choice of 4 different musical instruments/ after school club. The teachers know all the children their strengths and weaknesses.
I love it.

DewDr0p Fri 15-Feb-13 21:38:50

I think there are pros and cons to very small schools.

Pros already outlined by pps. I think you can get a fantastic family atmosphere in a small school.

On the other hand, if you are unlucky with your intake then friendships can be more tricky. My friend ended up having to move her dc as there were only 3 boys his age and he just didn't click with them. My own ds3 is in an unusually small year group (our school usually has mid20s intake per yr) and socially it's not brilliant for him imo.

It can be difficult to form sports teams (if your dcs are so inclined)

If you don't get on with the teacher then you are stuck with them for several years. secondary school might come as quite a shock having only been taught by 2-3 teachers throughout primary.

Have you been to look at the schools yet OP? I think you will just get a feeling for which one you prefer. Also it's worth looking at when the schools were last inspected - Ofsted has made it progressively harder to get Outstanding over the last few years so an old Outstanding is possibly only worth a Good under the current framework.

educator123 Fri 15-Feb-13 22:18:37

My dd1 is in yr2 and i hadnt considered the friendship part until recently as like others have said they seem to play across the year groups to a certain extent and the older ones look after the younger ones.

But dd1 went in with 5others which consisted of 2boys, twin girls and another girl whom dd is joined at the hip with, said girl is leaving and i feel sad for my dd that now she will loose that friendship, she will be ok, but its a shame that she wont have the oppotunity to make another close friend her age due to numbers.

Dd2 is in reception and went in as one of 8 and is struggling a bit to settle into school...but i think that is the way she may have been anywhere.

DD1 is very sporty and i do feel like she is missing out a bit as its hard to do much team sport etc with limited numbers and i also think dc3 will be the same come school age so its tough to know what is best as i personally love the small environment, family feel, walking, the whole community etc but cant help wondering if they will have more oppotunities somewhere slightly larger. And although it has always seems small school may struggle/close it feels like it is more likely now wit budget changes...but maybe that is just me panicking!

Imozarabelle Sat 16-Feb-13 08:45:56

My three daughters all go to a school of about 100 children, it has an outstanding OFSTED and we love it. DD1 & DD2 have been in the same class several times and it never caused any issues, they both carried on as before with their own friends, working at their own levels. DD1 is now in Year 6 and I will be sobbing when she leaves to go to high school, DD2 is in Year 5 and DD3 is in Pre-reception. I have never had a day when they have not wanted to go to school!

My only slight issue is that DD1 has only had 3 class teachers in her whole schooling (whereas larger schools would easily have this in a week) but lots of different classroom assistants. The teachers are all excellant though. High School will be a big shock.

LOOK ROUND BOTH SCHOLS AND PRE-SCHOOLS BEFORE MAKING A JUDGEMENT. Choosing a school is like house-buying, when you are there seeing the place and meeting the teachers you will get a feel whether it is right for your family. Good luck x

MissTriangle Sat 16-Feb-13 12:57:46

Thanks for all the advice. It has definitely given me a lot to consider. I would like to look round the schools - but thought they might think me a bit odd considering DD hasn't even started pre-school yet! Do you think it would still be worth asking to look round them?

Twinklestarstwinklestars Sat 16-Feb-13 14:08:45

My ds' go to a primary with average year groups of 10, there were only 4 in ds1's year to start with. My friend moved her son to the school and couldn't believe the improvement and how much more individual time each pupil got.

The while school mix together so are all friends so they're not just limited to their age group which is nice.

Wishihadabs Sat 16-Feb-13 14:31:26

My dcs go to a school of a similar size.
Has been mostly successful. Agree with what others say about differentiation. However Ds is now year 4 and sports mad. He is in a mixed year 4/5/6 class with only 9 boys. The school cannot put a football team together and does badly in tournaments which Ds feels keenly. Also I am starting to feel like he could do with spreading his wings a bit more.

Dd is in a mixed year1/2 class and loves it. She is also doing well and working with the year 2s.

educator123 Fri 22-Feb-13 14:01:59

Just looking at this again as my Dds are both at a small school and Dd1 is in a class of 13, 6 in her actually year and best friend has just left bit sad for her.

And Ds is due to start in 2014 he will be the only boy of four children starting that year! Although three more boys going in the year before which will be in the same classroom working separately in the morning.

Wish - despite the sports issues with you ds are you still happy he has gone to the school he is at. I'm trying to decide if it matters that ds will be the only boy going in that year, all the years play together to a certain extent not sure if that is enough!?

cumbrialass Fri 22-Feb-13 14:28:37

There are pro's and con's of small schools and sports!
On the one hand, it can be hard to put a competitive team together. I have 12 year 6 children in my class, only 7 are boys and one of these "doesn't do" sports at all! The girls in year 6 are also "girlie-girls" and whilst quite happy taking part in netball/athletics etc, don't like football/rugby. So the football/rugby teams have some year 5's in- and a couple of year 5 girls at that! We rarely win when up against schools that can select from 90 children ( most of whom seem to be twice the size of ours!) and my teams are very good losers!
But on the other hand, anyone who wants to play in a school team can do so! There must be nothing worse than being really keen to play but being the "12th man" who always sits on the sidelines or never gets chosen.

We enter every district competitiion we can ( so far, cross country running, rugby and football) are in a local football league ( which becomes cricket and rounders in the summer ) and have links with both primary and secondary schools to promote as much sport both in school and out as we can ( our Sports Captain plays county level cricket and rugby and half my year 6 boys play rugby for the local district team)

So small isn't necessarily poor

educator123 Fri 22-Feb-13 14:42:07

My children are at a school with 43 in total so with the age range from 4-11 in that 43 sport can be tricky but I can except that and whatever they do do they all get an opportunity to be a part of it.

I'm more concerned about ds starting school in Sept with only 4 in his year and him the only boy. Like a say the year groups mix but is that enough how important is it to have boys in your year!? Will it matter that he will be working mostly with 3 girls in the mornings especially and has three sisters at home
smile

mrz Fri 22-Feb-13 14:49:18

I recall one school putting in an objection when a Y1 child from my children's small school beat all the Y6 children in the county cross country race grin

educator123 Fri 22-Feb-13 14:55:46

smile love it! And what an achievement for said child.
Dd1 LOVES cross country and is always upfront with the year6 children...but then there isn't much competition with 43children smile

Wishihadabs Sun 24-Feb-13 10:43:13

Sorry for delayed response, been at work.
Yes I am pleased with the school. Of the options we had it was definitely the best.

I think now he might be better off in a slightly bigger/more challenging environment. TBH if money was no object Imight consider sending him to a prep school, the combination of competicompetitive sport and academia would suit him down to the ground.

The schools academic record is very good and they get loads of individual attention. Which otherwise I think (maybe wrongly) I would have to pay for.

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