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Which is best? large or small school? & why?

(19 Posts)
firestorm Fri 28-Jan-05 20:43:40

we will be moving soon (hopefully) & i have the choice between 2 schools for my dd`s (who will be in reception & year 2 in september)
im unsure as to which to go for. there are fors & againsts for both schools.
main points being: school 1, the larger of the two (320 pupils) is usually not popular but i liked the headteacher a lot & the children seemed happy & well behaved, though ofsted (from 2 years ago) mentions parents concerns about bullying not being dealt with. this is a bit of a worry for me because my eldest is very quiet & shy & a bit of a target for bullies (though shes been ok so far at her current school) the school gets average to good results. it also has a swimming pool (which they would love)
school 2, very small (only 140 max on roll) has fabulous new computers & whiteboards (quite unexpected in a small school) & has a good ofsted & consistent good results. only drawback being that because it has mixed age group classes both my dd`s would share a playground for the first year. (i have visions of the eldest clinging to her far more confident sister & alienating herself from her peer group)
which type of school do you prefer? given the choice would you go for a small or large school?

twiglett Fri 28-Jan-05 20:47:53

I think it all hangs on the head adn teaching tbh

the bullying not being dealt with is a HUGE issue

can you ask what policies are in place to combat / deal with this and how it has changed in the last 2 years

320 is not a large school BTW

the second school also sounds good although your concerns over receptiopn / year 2 being mixed doesn't sound right (do they mix across 2 years?) that would be surprising

I think you should go with your gut feel, providing that the bullying has been dealt with

marinda Fri 28-Jan-05 20:51:39

I has the same choice for my son firestorm - although the small school was lovbely, cosy and friendly, the DO mix years and the big school do not. Chose big school but a hard choice- if the bullying has been dealt with now - it may be the better option - especially with the pool !

jane313 Fri 28-Jan-05 20:52:19

I worked in a school of about 450 that didn't have mixed ages classes but reception, year one and two shared a playground anyway. Are you sure they would be in separate playgrounds in the larger school?

cazzybabs Fri 28-Jan-05 20:59:45

big school more money better resources (both people and equipment)
small school teachers more likely to know the children better - i'd go for that one I think (just my choice).

pixiefish Fri 28-Jan-05 21:16:14

I'm thinking along these lines at the momnt because of the drug/social problem in the town where we currently live- am contemplating small school in neighbouring village. am interested in pros and ons

Beetroot Fri 28-Jan-05 21:36:35

Message withdrawn

pebbley Fri 28-Jan-05 21:44:16

Having worked in both I think the 'feel' of the school and the impression you get from the Head should be the deciding factor.

In general (although this varies) I would say...

big school
+ tend to have more money, more resources, better spread of expertise, more likely to have specialist teachers for certain subjects, more TAs, single age classes, more of a social/ethnic mix (if that's something you feel could be important), wider choice of children for friendships possibilities...

small school
+ more of a family feel, children generally 'known' better across school community, more mixing/links across age groups, more links with the local community

I have to say that when my ds is school age I would go for a bigger school, if I felt that the personal/emotional aspect of the school community wasn't lost in larger numbers.

I agree that you should question carefully about bullying policies currently in place in the bigger school. Would it be possible to talk to any parents already at the schools to get a feel 'from the horse's mouth' so to speak?

suedonim Fri 28-Jan-05 21:49:46

We had a choice of large (800+) school or small (approx 30) school when we moved here. We went for the small school and are delighted with it. The mixed classes (two of them) work well, the children learn so much from each other and they socialise very well, with everyone playing with everyone else, so the playground issue you mention wouldn't be a problem here. To me, it's more natural than 25 five yo's being together, more like a family unit. We are getting more and more money put into our school and they have a ton of specialist teachers as well as a great pupil/adult ratio, with 2.5 teachers and six other staff. Looking further ahead, former pupils of small schools round here consistently do better at senior level than the larger school. You might find this site about small schools helpful, although they define a small school as one with less than 100 pupils.
But, I think the most important thing is the feel you have for the schools, whether one just felt more right than the other. Good luck.

pixel Fri 28-Jan-05 23:52:50

One thing to consider is that in a small school there may be less flexibility. My friend's son was having real problems settling in and was making himself ill worrying about school. It turned out that he didn't get on with his teacher and everything changed when he went up a year but the only other remedy would have been a change of school as there was no other class for him to go into.

By contrast, my dd's school had 4 reception classes so children could be moved if they were not happy or if there were clashes with other children. The school still has a very friendly atmosphere despite the size and dd is still friends with most of the children she met in reception although she is now in year 4.

I went to a small primary school, there were only 4 classes altogether (infants and juniors) and I remember we all had a huge shock when we moved up to secondary and everything was on a much larger scale. I'm quite glad that my dd will be much better prepared.

tigermoth Sat 29-Jan-05 09:22:33

go with your gut feelings, of course, but from what you've said I'd vote for the small school.

The swimming pool and extracurricular stuff at the large school is not IMO a main priority. These activities can usually be duplicated outside school (I don't know where you live, but I assume so anyway).

consistently good results of smaller school. I know ofsted reports and league table results may not be gospel, but if the school is doing well every year, it sounds very promising to me.

IME mixed age classes are ok - my son goes to a smaller school now and had this. It did not hold him back.

The possiblity of bullying at the bigger school. May or may not be the case, but if you have a choice, as you do, avoid the risk if possible.

MY son has been to three primary schools, two very big ones and one small one (160 pupils). He joined the small one in year 3. Now he is in year 6. He has thrived in every way at the smaller school, loves it and tells me he is so glad he moved there.

I admit, I am biased, but anyway that's my 2ps worth.

foxinsocks Sat 29-Jan-05 09:37:36

well first of all I would check with the headmaster whether the large school now has policies in place to deal with bullying (because if it doesn't or you don't feel happy with them then I guess your choice is made).

We send our dd (also shy and a bit under confident) to a large primary school (3 class entry with a nursery so probably nearer 600-700 pupils) but the one thing ofsted said was that for a large school they were incredibly good at treating the child as an individual and I think this is very important for a big school (that the children don't get lost in a crowd).

I also think (for our dd) that with 90 in each year, she's bound to find someone that she wants to play with and some other similarly shy children! I would check about the playground though - we also have reception, yr1 and yr2 together at play times.

firestorm Sat 29-Jan-05 12:11:01

thanks everyone for your advice & thanks suedonim for your link, im afraid it didnt work for me.
heres a bit more background on the two schools & our current circumstances.
dd`s current school is huge (over 650 pupils) she is certainly just another face in the crowd there, & i always vowed that if i had to move her that it would be to a small & friendly school. the larger of the two schools im considering is still a small school compared with what she is used to.
the smaller school is a voluntary aided church school so has better funding & facilities than the larger one (except for the pool, but this is only used in summer anyway) it has interactive whiteboards in every classroom & being much smaller we (as outsiders) would find it easier to get to know the other children, their parents, the teachers etc. i fully intend to help out in both girls classes & to get involved with the school as much as i can to make the transition as smooth as possible for them. (whatever school they go to) i have actually spoken to two parents who have children at the smaller school (one who moved there from a different area) & both are very pleased with it. however, the small school is soon to have a new head (who i havent met) & he/she is currently working at one of the worst schools in the town i currently live in. im not sure if that will be good or bad for the school.
the only feedback i have about the larger school is from somebody who said that their friends child moved schools because of bullying there. i did ask the head about the bullying policy, & she said that it had been reviewed since the ofsted (but she would say that wouldnt she?) having said that though, i did like her a lot & think that she is a good head.
a main plus for the larger school is that we could probably walk there (depending on exactly where we move) & thats something i would of liked for the children after the move because we currently have to drive. the smaller school, although closer to where we hope to be, isnt possible to walk to because to get there you would have to walk down small country lanes which during school time would be dangerous with all the traffic.
im not sure. anymore ideas?

roisin Sat 29-Jan-05 13:20:57

Firestorm - I agree with the opinions here that 'your gut feeling' is more important than the size of the school. But IMO the most important thing about a primary school is the Head.

My boys go to a large school (500 children). Within a week of them going there the Head knew them personally, and not just their name. Every year she reads every child's report, and write's a sentence or two's comment on it. The school has a real community feel to it: Just because a school is larger, doesn't mean it has to be impersonal.

suedonim Sat 29-Jan-05 20:41:00

I did a rubbish link, Firestorm - sorry! I hope this one works Nat Assoc Small Schools. The information page has lots about the benefits of small schools. Hth.

starlover Sun 30-Jan-05 09:28:59

I went to a small primary school (60 pupils)... it was fab while i was there however I never really got used to mixing with a lot of people and only had a couple of friends.
When we moved up to secondary school i went to one with around 1500 pupils, and was completely out of my depth... there were only 7 other people in my year at primary school.
Everyone else already had big circles of friends, having come from bigger primary schools... and I found it incredibly difficult to mix with them.

obviously, this may say more about my interpersonal skills than it does about the school I went to, but i did have a terrible time at secondary school

Gobbledigook Sun 30-Jan-05 11:18:46

I agree it has to be gut feeling - only you know really what will suit your children better.

DS1 is starting school in September and his school is not small - the intake is 70 so they have 2 classes of 30 and another that is mixed with the eldest of that intake and the youngest of the previous intake.

Personally I prefer this option as it's more hustle and bustle, there are a wider range of kids to connect with. For me, a very small school would just feel claustrophobic - can't really explain why but it's just a personal thing. I'm quite an extrovert though and like lots of things going on around me and ds1 is very similar - he's not shy and gets on with everyone (mothers of the kids at nursery, all different ages, come up to me and say 'my ds/dd loves Thomas').

Apart from this though, of course there were all the other things to consider and despite having classes of 30 they have excellent results year on year, have a huge plot so brilliant playing fields/playground, school meals freshly prepared every day on-site, a great IT suite, links with similar primaries in Italy, France and Spain, links with the local hockey/lacrosse club.....

There are other schools locally that are much smaller that also have consistently great results but have tiny plots of land so no playing fields, less sports and extracurricular activities and I'm very keen that the boys have lots of opportunities to do different things and have lots of fun - it's not about getting straight A's for me.

So, it depends on your kids personalities and where you place your priorities I guess but again, it is very much down to a gut feel about a school when you visit it.

Good luck! Hope I've not rambled too much

suedonim Sun 30-Jan-05 18:31:06

Starlover, I think that can be a problem with small schools, but it can be overcome. Our small school is clustered with other ones round here and they have an ongoing programme of doing things with the other schools, from about 8yo. By the time they get to senior school they know many children there. Also, there's a great sense of loyalty between the children. I know of a bully who found out the hard way that when you take on one child from a closely knit school you take on the whole lot!

firestorm Sun 30-Jan-05 19:36:31

thanks suedonim, i managed to view the site, & it was very interesting.
im leaning more towards the smaller school (as i was before i realised the girls would share a playground) i should of known that this would be likely at a small school. the school actually has 5 classes & the girls would be in classes 1 & 2. this is another thing that appealed to me about the place, the fact that my eldest would be in a mixed class with years 1 & 2 (making her one of the elder ones) i feel that because she is so shy that it would suit her better than a year 2 class where she would be one of the youngest. my younger dd would probably rule the school wherever she went & i have no worries about her settling in.
i will continue to investigate the possibilities because it will be a few months before we have to make a choice. that will give me time to see what parents think of the new head at the small school & hopefully speak to some people whose children go to the larger one.
any more advice gratefully received. thanks

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