I wouldn't do the first one because a mixed age class of Reception - Year 2 is too small and too 'samey' to be in for 3 years, especially 3 years in which a child grows and develops and changes so much (I have taught such a class - with a 'real' age range of 3 years and a 'typical ability range in terms of age' for 7.5 years, from a child working at 18 month old targets to able Year 2s who should have been working at levels typical of average 9 year olds - and vowed never to send a child of mine to a similar one).
I wouldn't do the second because it isn't built yet and it's easy to promise things but less easy to deliver them...on time, in full and to agreed high quality. If the free school had been running for several years, had a good track record including a full ofsted inspection and good feedback from parents, that would be my preferred option of the two simply because of its (slightly) smaller age range.
my dcs did a small school like your first option. While it was nice, and family feel etc, the opportunities for friendship were so few that it really affected their confidence. We moved after 2 years Wouldn't recommend it.
With option 2, is this a full school, or are they beginning with R/Y1 class and then expanding from there? I wouldn't like that
Forgot to say School 2 will be in temporary buildings for the first couple of years while they sort out permanent buildings (for which the word is that the site has been acquired). So it will just be a matter of dumping some pre-fabs onto the site they're using for a couple of years, and connecting them up to the utilities. I'm fairly confident they can do that over the summer.
School 1 has a not very nice (I hear) y 3+4 teacher, and rather goes downhill academically in ys 5 & 6 although its reputation is good. Y 5 & 6 have been taught by the headteacher but she is retiring and the BofG haven't yet appointed a replacement despite 2 rounds of interviews. There is some uncertainty there. We are in catchment for 2 other schools but both would mean a pretty crappy commute every morning- one would be a 10 mile round trip, the other has abysmal parking which would spin the school run out to 1 hour each way, and furthermore is definitely going to be full.
That sounds like a shitty range of choices, tbh. Sorry, not very helpful! School having problems recruiting a head rings alarm bells - and it is the head who shapes a school, good schools can go downhill if new head not up to scratch. Mixed KS1 class (actually reception is still foundation, I think, so not KS1 at all - at least in our school) would bother me and it's so small - what if your child falls out with someone, or is one of only three boys/girls?
Well, I only have the figure of 4 from another parent. DD has an induction session this afternoon so I'll find out more about numbers then. Also I believe that the children play together across the age groups so not necessarily a problem even if there are only 4 of them. I am slightly alarmed at the lack of a proper head (although they've appointed an interim one) but tbf it seems very difficult to recruit heads generally these days, let alone for tiny village schools.
It sounds like a nightmare! I think very small schools can be tricky.
Our school was without a head for about a year, although we did have the deputy step in as well as an interim head borrowed from another school, but it was not good. A crap teacher was hired during this time and things began to spiral downwards.
TBH the size itself is not really a problem- many schools around here are small and it seems to work on the whole. What is more worrying is the temporary lack of direction. Former head is/was the bee's knees and has already stayed on longer than she needed to.
duchesse the commute will be a nightmare. Leaving aside any views about the nature of the school itself - are you familiar with that road? And what the routes across the river will be like every morning (and evening)?
Have you considered the 'new' (moved) school in Cranbrook? I'm guessing that would be a much easier journey.
duchesse In the morning it's gridlock (and the jamming can trail back beyond the prison). When there;s a train. Or, as sometimes happens, two. Or three. Or when there is a vehicle too big to actually make the turn turning to go over the level crossing in the other direction I honestly would rather put my own eyes out than commit to doing that drive 4 times a day every day for the next 7 years.
Smaller is definitely not always better. Like you, I have a dd with an August birthday who is very confident. I sent her to a seemingly lovely, tiny village primary and ended up moving her - partly because the school was threatened with closure due to low numbers, but also because we weren't happy with it. Mixed year group teaching, limited resources, limited choice of friends, and a general lack of purposefulness. Very friendly, cosy etc but just not actually very good.
in case it helps on the free school thing, we had a really good experience. perfectly good temp accommodation in the first year, lovely new building in the second year. lots of energy and enthusiasm. Thing to test there is what you think of the head as even more than usual they totally shape it