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Looking at private schools - what's the minimum you would want in a year group??

(37 Posts)
spongeyspoon Mon 30-Jan-17 23:35:09

This will help us decide.

There's a school that have 17 to a year group and a school that has 35.

Thank you.

AlexanderHamilton Mon 30-Jan-17 23:49:35

Primary or secondary?

ErrolTheDragon Mon 30-Jan-17 23:52:13

Is 17 one class and 35 two classes? I'd go with the latter. Flexibility if some of the kids really can't get on, better number for team games within the same year group, will probably have more resources. Do the schools both have teachers with specialisms (pe, music, maths, science....) - I would think more likely in a larger school.

I'm assuming primary as neither is large enough for secondary.

Brokenbiscuit Mon 30-Jan-17 23:53:45

Personally, I would find 17 much too small. Too narrow socially.

PancakesAndMapleSyrup Tue 31-Jan-17 00:00:17

Op we need clarification on the number in the class. Is that 17 year group or class? If its 35 to an actual class size what on earth are you paying for!

spongeyspoon Tue 31-Jan-17 00:02:38


We are looking at 2 schools.

1 has a 1 class entry and there are 17 children.

The other has a 2 class entry and there are 35 children (so around 17 in each class)

spongeyspoon Tue 31-Jan-17 00:02:53


spongeyspoon Tue 31-Jan-17 00:04:14

Yes, both schools have specialist teachers and classrooms for PE/ICT/French/Art/Music and Science.

ScarletSienna Tue 31-Jan-17 00:06:15

It's the same per class so I don't think I could make a decision based on that so it'd depend on what size school you prefer. Two classes allows for more flexibility perhaps but that still wouldn't be a swing it point for me.

spongeyspoon Tue 31-Jan-17 00:08:21

If one had a 9 acre bit of land and was more rural and the other was in a town, would that swing it for you? See, I feel like that doesn't really matter but DH thinks it does...

ErrolTheDragon Tue 31-Jan-17 00:09:50

It would depend what use they made of the land. Does the town one have a playing field?

ErrolTheDragon Tue 31-Jan-17 00:12:23

One thing I'd definitely want to consider is how a downturn in the economy might affect the schools. A small one is (other things being equal) liable to be more vulnerable.

ScarletSienna Tue 31-Jan-17 00:29:37

Spongey-yes! I'd expect to like the more rural one - without knowing much about them, I'd be biased already. What age does it go up to? A 3-18 with smaller pre prep numbers would be attractive to me whereas a small 4-11 where they'd then go on to a larger senior would be less so I think. Ethos wise are they similar?

Enidblyton1 Tue 31-Jan-17 00:31:01

So the class size would be the same - I think you need to focus on other differences between the schools. I thought you were going to say less than 10 or more than 25 in a single class. 17 is a pretty average size.

I'd be keen to check the girl/boy split. If it's a co-ed school ideally there would be a fairly even split.

The land could be a major advantage to the more rural school. It depends how it is used.

Do the schools take the same age range? All else being equal, I would probably chose a school which went from age 3-18 rather than a stand alone prep or Pre prep. This is because a school which goes all the way to 18 will probably have facilities which the younger pupils can use

What reputation do they each have? Academic/sporty/all round? What are the teachers, pupils and parents like? We have two local prep schools which appear similar at first glance. On a open day we realised that one school attracts more professional/ordinary families and the other is extremely glitzy. Not something we would have noticed if we had just gone for a private tour of the school.

Good luck with your choice

ChocolateWombat Tue 31-Jan-17 07:55:46

Would definitely want the bigger one.

Do t just think about a 4 year old being cosy, but the 11 or 13 year old at the top of the school. Both will have the small class of 17, but the bigger school will have more scope for setting according to ability in maths and languages higher up the school, to get a hockey team out etc. More teachers mean more extra curricular activities and probably more specialists rather than standard primary teachers. The social thing is also important.
A year group of 17 will be skewed towards boys or girls - very rarely a totally even split, so you may only have 5 or 6 of one gender - it's not enough.
Ideally I'd want 3 classes, but a minimum of 2.

BertrandRussell Tue 31-Jan-17 08:00:57

Are they allowed to use the land? Are the numbers the same for all years? What is the journey like for both schools?

Ideally, I would go for larger year group, easy journey and more space- if they are allowed to play in it. But the larger year group would be the clincher.

LIZS Tue 31-Jan-17 08:06:21

Are you looking at coed or single sex. 17 coed gives fewer opportunities for friendship groups and for sports teams etc than 35.

TawnyPippit Tue 31-Jan-17 08:38:17

My DC went to a co-ed prep with a single class entry (c22) and I think really my only criticism of the school was that it was too small. Or put another way, any criticism we had of the school - and even a school you love you will usually have a few - could really be traced back to the size and probably would have been pretty much negated by a two class intake.

I agree with someone who said that there is rarely an equal split - one of my DC was in a class where their gender levels were really low, and we were worried it might fall below critical mass, although it did get better. (London, so fair degree of movement). We had some friends with a dc in the year above who, with great reluctance, did move their child for that reason, when it got to a 17/4 split.

In one of my DCs year there were some quite feisty class dynamics, which the school had to spend quite a lot of time trying to contain. But if there were two classes it would have been pretty easy just to reshuffle the classes every year. I also think if there was the constant shifting the dynamics would not have arisen in the first place - it seemed to be a function of being on top of each other all the time.

There is quite an intensity of being in the same class from 3-11, which is not necessarily a good thing. Also, as a parent you are lumped in with the same parents for a 6-8 year stretch and that can be a bit... interesting. The school was billed as very "friendly" - which means lots of parental involvement/drinks/meet ups/everyone invited to the party etc. We actually made some v good friends who we are still in touch with 5 years later, but there are other people I could cheerfully have stabbed by about Y3 and you knew you were stuck with them for several more years.

As well as differing class dynamics in a small year, we noticed quite a difference in the ability levels of both years, which I think is magnified with a small pool. One DC was in a "clever" year, the other DC was in a much less stellar one and coasted spectacularly. Interestingly that DC has found the move to an academic secondary more of a jolt.

I'm not sure it is great for developing your interest, although that may not matter in primary. Both of my DCs were in absolutely everything - football team, netball team, choir, play, largely because with such a small year group you have to be. Its actually v good for confidence and interest levels but also a bit odd not to be able to have your own interests. Neither have shown the remotest interest in drama now they are not forced to do it!

Bobochic Tue 31-Jan-17 08:47:18

I would have found a small prep school claustrophobic. But these things are extremely personal.

PancakesAndMapleSyrup Tue 31-Jan-17 08:54:29

I think 17 in a class is a lovley number. I wouldnt want more than 20. Whats the boy girl split too? My DS class has 13 and DD has 10 inc her but they all mix in at playtime with the other years. Tbh for DD the class is too small BUT for DS it has been great for his confidence. What do both schools offer and where do they differ? They sound similar numbers wise so you need to base it around other things you want. Is wrap around care offered if you need? What are the extra curricular things they offer? Sport? Etc.

ChocolateWombat Tue 31-Jan-17 09:17:36

The issue isn't the Class size, but the year group size. It's possibl even on have a big year group and have several small individual classes,noffering the benefits of the small class with the benefits which are gained from more children and more teachers.
If you look at the really successful (and often expensive) Prep schools, very few I'll be one form entry - they often have quite large intakes, but still run classes of around 16-20.
Just think about all the things and permutations you make with 60 kids and 3 teachersrather than 20 - the different ability groups, the different art options and DT option rotations, the A and B teams, the high, middle and low sets for maths......all much harder to achieve if there are only 20 kids with 1 teacher,me specially if there is a 12-8 (or worse) split of girls and boys. And you can never be sure what the split will be in your particular class.
If a critical mass of children in a class is say 15, in a year group of 17, it's not going to take much for that year group to fall below it if a couple move away. Check the size of all year groups carefully and avoid if any year groups have sunk below that number, because all of the problems of a small single form so hook will be compounded.

GetAHaircutCarl Tue 31-Jan-17 09:17:47

DC's prep had 60 pupils per year.
Four classes of 15.

Plenty of mixing between classes and sufficient numbers to make up good sets, sports teams, music groups etc.

But it did make for a big school, which wouldn't be to everyone tastes ( though the really tiny ones were housed a little bit separately so more protected I guess).

AppleMagic Tue 31-Jan-17 09:28:42

My dd is in reception at a 4 form entry international primary school with about 17 in each class. Before she started I was worried it would be too big but actually that's what I really like about it now. The reception classes have their own wing and seperate play area and dd has made friends across the whole cohort. I think it can take the pressure off class dynamics and give a large enough number of students that they can do big EYFS activities rather than having to mix EY and KS1 (although they are also split into houses so do mix with the older students too when doing house activities).

fleurdelacourt Tue 31-Jan-17 09:37:08

I'd want the bigger school.

In a class of 17 - you could end up with a very small potential friendship pool? My dd has suffered from being in a class with only 6 girls - especially as she has got older and there has been some nastiness. But at least she is part of a larger year group and has friends in the other class.

She has also benefitted massively from being able to play a range of sports fixtures - something that would be impossible if it was a one class entry and only 6 girls in the year.

Also - small prep schools are struggling in this economic climate. I know of a few that have gone under. I wouldn't take that risk.

fleurdelacourt Tue 31-Jan-17 09:38:11

should add dd is in a co ed school - there are also 17 boys in her class. I'd never choose a school with only 6 kids in a class!!

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