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Debate - Small Village school (50) v Big Town School (370)

(28 Posts)
Countrybumkin Wed 20-Aug-08 21:04:44

What do people think is the best option?

Both relatively good schools

Interested to hear peoples opinions hmm

AMumInScotland Wed 20-Aug-08 21:09:20

At their best, small village schools are lovely - family atmosphere, able to treat each child as an individual, continuity of teachers. But at worst, can be stuck with bad teacher and have fewer friends to choose from.

Bigger school - can lose the personal touch, more likely to change teacher each year, can get lost in the crowd. But more people around so can be easier to find friends.

roisin Wed 20-Aug-08 21:21:41

ds1 has just finished at a large primary - 480 children aged 3-11, and it is fantastic.

It is quite possible for a school of this size to still feel a real community, for staff and pupils to know each other well. I teach in a secondary school and even students 4 or 5 years older know who my boys are from primary.

Advantages of a large primary:
Large group of peers from which to find their friends
Economies of scale - if run well large primary can have many advantages.
Our large primary has loads of special events - theatre groups, workshops with visiting poet, etc.
They also have: specialist French teacher, music teacher, and IT teachers, school librarian. Far more male teachers than usual. Big IT suite. Non-teaching Head Teacher, non-teaching SENCO, and Deputy Head with some teaching but not a regular class teacher. They have a dedicated dining hall which is not used for other activities and excellent school meals are cooked in-house. Excellent resources - two massive libraries and lots of other facilities.

Obviously these things are not guaranteed at a large school, but many of them are impossible in a very small primary.

I could go on!

anonandlikeit Thu 21-Aug-08 12:15:19

The only thing against a small school with only 50 pupils is I assume that they will mix the class age ranges. So you can have reception age children playing with sand & water in the same room as trying to teach a yr 2 or 3 child literacy & numeracy. OK as long as the yr 2 or 3 child isn't easily distracted & the teacher has to eb v good to juggle the variety of needs.

My ds's go to village primary with 100 pupils but it does have 1 class in each year group, just about, but it means the class sizes are small.

dinny Thu 21-Aug-08 12:22:26

larger school

more friends to mix with, less cliquey, prob more facilities (esp sport)

ecoworrier Thu 21-Aug-08 13:26:42

Bigger school every time, for the reasons Roisin has put forward.

In theory, very small schools are lovely. But the reality has been different for many friends of mine (or their children!) and for teacher relatives who have taught in really small schools. In particular, problems with resources (lack of) and problems with the tiny pool of potential friends - any friendship problems are really magnified.

Male teachers seem much more likely to take jobs at, and stay at, larger schools - our school now has 5 men.

Our primary school (over 400) has a real family feel and is very community-based. Children treated as individuals and staff really do know children well.

AMumInScotland Thu 21-Aug-08 16:36:41

For my DS, the mixed classes actually worked well, as it meant he could be in different groups for different subjects. Sometimes they even swapped between classes for some things, they were very flexible. But up here we have the advantage that a "composite class" will only have a maximum of 25 children, which I think makes a difference to how the teacher can deal with the different levels.

haggisaggis Thu 21-Aug-08 17:09:46

Well I love my kids small school (under 40 in the school)
Mixed age classes are not a problem if you have well organised staff.
My dd has been diagnosed as dyslexic - at age 5 - as the class teacher picked up on her difficulties. She is having extra support as they have the time and attention to give it.
THe school atmosphere is fantastic - big ones play with wee ones.
The children are all very confident and interact very well with adults. OK - they do have to get bussed to PE in the village hall, and the dining room is also used as an extra classroom - but it is not a problem.
So IMO small is best!

Hecate Thu 21-Aug-08 17:17:22

Small school is nicer, ime. Or to be more accurate, the small school (80 - 100ish) my kids are at is a million times nicer than the massive school (500ish) they used to attend. All the teachers know all the kids, all the kids know each other, the parents are friendly and it all feels much more personal.

brimfull Thu 21-Aug-08 17:34:35

If your child makes friends easily then either school

If they don't they may have more of a chance finding friends at the bigger school.

My friend moved her son from a small school as he didn't get on with anyone in his class and the prospect of spending every day with them for yrs was too depressing.He is much happier in big school and has made loads of friends.

PoorOldEnid Thu 21-Aug-08 17:42:24

mine go to a small village school

it is lovely and very good teaching (mixed age classes)

sometimes I envy larger town primary their after school clubs etc but only momentarily

Elkat Thu 21-Aug-08 23:46:56

I had wanted mine to go to a small village school, and we were going to move, but then my large town school was given an outstanding ofsted, and for that (and other reasons) we decided to stay. One thing that is good about the larger school is that the children can be mixed up a bit. So my daughter is in a three form entry, and once initial assessments have been done, I am told she will be taught English and Maths in a class with 30 other children of a similar ability. I think is quite a good advantage, because it means children won't have to held back or left behind, because they will mostly be taught with children on a similar level to them. At the end of the day though, just go with the school you feel happiest with.

suedonim Fri 22-Aug-08 00:39:14

I think visiting both schools may give you a gut feeling for which would suit you best. My dds have been to a tiny school (about 30-40 pupils) which was fantastic. Children didn't have to be taught in age groups, they were taught to ability, the school had specialist teachers coming out of its ears and the staffing ratio was excellent, with 2.5 teachers, a Support Teacher and three classroom helpers. For info on the advantages of small schools look at the NASS website.

SchoolGuru Fri 22-Aug-08 19:32:33

Go with your instincts. If you're not sure, why not find a third option? You must be happy with your decision. My website, www.SchoolGuruHertfordshire.co.uk could be helpful if you live in Hertfordshire. My two boys go to a small C of E primary (c 110 pupils) - and the intimacy suits them. From a mum's point of view, it's very friendly, as you get to know all the other parents, and it really feels like you're part of a tiny and caring community. I think, possibly, that bigger schools could feel more anonymous - but then that would suit some people. Bigger schools generally have better facilities, and your child will have more friends to choose from. Decisions, decisions!
Good luck!
grin

Clary Mon 25-Aug-08 00:03:05

50 is a very small school. That's about 7 kids in a year group, so maybe 3 other girls (or boys) to be pals with.

I would not be mad about that tbh, I know friendships can span year groups but that can cause probs when kids move on.

I think you need to look at the smaller school but IME smaller schools can suffer from limited range of teaching experience (a 50-pupil school may have just 2 or 3 teachers) and limite dfacilities eg playing fields etc.

Also very limited for PTA purposes - could be as few as 20 families aaargh!

suedonim Mon 25-Aug-08 00:53:55

In my dds small school they had the entire school roll to be friends with, not just the children in their year. Dd was one of two children in her year, the other being a boy. She'd been in and out of the school sincr she was 9mths old and knew almost all the children there anyway. I think the way a small school works is so very different to larger schools that people don't understand it until they experience it.

Facilities may or may not be as good as larger schools (ours is pretty good) but there's not a shred of evidence to show that surroundings make any difference to outcome. The pupils from our school school go on to achieve better results at senior school than the town children, and this is at a school which is consistently in the top three for Scotland. Other research shows that small-school pupils go on to better careers and earn more money than others. Lots of similar info on my link lower down.

suedonim Mon 25-Aug-08 00:58:49

Oh, and our PTA got far more done than at any of the larger schools my dc attended. With limited numbers, there's less tendency to flannel and obfuscate resulting in less talk and more action! grin

purpleduck Mon 25-Aug-08 01:22:50

My dcs go to a small school (one class per year), and there are alot of benefits: I like that there is a sense of community, the older ones are really encouraged to look out for the smaller ones, etc.

One downside is that there can only be an after school club for the things the teachers can do well, or are interested in. So far we have been lucky, but its a bit of a potluck.
Also, our school is very small physically, so limited space for some things.
I am not sure whether is is a pro or a con that they are with the same people for years. On one hand, they are stuck with kids that they may have issues with, but then IME, they need to learn to work things out.

For my kids it has been good, but I do worry about about the transition to secondary school...

Clary Mon 25-Aug-08 16:08:20

suedonim it's good to hear the other side of the coin.

I do know a child at a very small school who is teased because of his surname and not very confident; his mum told me once "he had one friend but then they moved away" which I thought sad. Still, I guess that could happen at a bigger school too.

Interesting about the PTA - I really would imagine it could be a problem as in you are going to the same 20 families for all yr donations/helpers/cake bakers and then you want them all to come and buy at the christmas fair - just would think you woudl run out of bodies! Good to hear you do so well grin

MrsBergerac Mon 25-Aug-08 22:22:05

Another vote for the smaller school here. My daughter goes to the school in our village. It has 5 classes and about 140 puils, so there are always a mixture of two year groups in each class. Our school offers lots of extra curricular activities, all the pupils mix well across the year groups, the older ones look after the younger ones, the school has a happy and relaxed atmosphere, the teachers look like they enjoy their work, we are the best primary school in Barnsley and in the top 5% in the UK. I am dreading the day my daughter goes to the high school.

The only disadvantage we have is that the school is a bit short on space and doesn't have its own kitchen, so school dinners are cooked elsewhere and brought in.

MrsBergerac Mon 25-Aug-08 22:23:31

I forgot to say that as the school is so local we can walk to school and my daughter has local friends.

LittlePushka Mon 25-Aug-08 22:32:26

I like the idea of a village school because my children are very close together in age, meaning that hey will be taught together for muchof the time they are in Primary school.

THe schools have been looking at are 35 pupils and 47 pupils. But thy do combine with other teeny schools for PE and extra curricular things.

ingles2 Mon 25-Aug-08 22:40:36

we moved to a village with a tiny school. I thought it would be fantastic for my ds's confidence...and it has been ....
BUT. ...
my ds's with 17months between them, have been in the same mixed year class, together for the last 2 years, ds1 has been there for 3 years!...and would have moved into the next class together next week. They have relied on each other too much imo... the choice of friends is too small, and there are not enough facilities,
They start at the bigger school in town next week, going into year 3 and year 4. They are both petrified but I keep reminding myself that if they are worried now leaving a school of 70 to go to a school of 250..what would it have been like leaving that school in yr 6 to go to a school with 1000!

suedonim Mon 25-Aug-08 22:52:35

Home baking is a very sore point at school. The local council has banned any foods from parents/others being given to the children due to Health and Safety 'concerns' in our LEA. Only commercial food is permitted, on account of the fact Mr Kipling's efforts are so much better for children than handmade produce. angry Our neighbour used to make the most fantastically decorated Christmas cakes for the school parties. Now they've been banned and the children have to have an additive-laden, tooth-rotting, stomach-churning bought alternative instead. You even need an H&S certificate to be able to butter bread for sandwiches in the kitchen. hmm

The secret to the fund-raising is to throw it wide open to the local community! Everyone gets involved, not just parents, so you get the whole spectrum attending events, from newborn babies to crumbly old retired headteachers from the year dot, not to mention grannies, grandads etc. Some of the fund-raising was getting tiresome in that actually making a profit from events was getting harder so it was agreed to instigate an annual voluntary £30 donation for each family. It's made a huge difference as the school can put on more social events without financial concerns.

As well as that, each year they do the Macmillan Coffee Morning, wbhich raises lots of money for the charity and the school has supported a school in Ghana with money and school equipment. Everyone, pupil and adult, gets the chance to participate, which creates a lovely atmosphere of inclusiveness.

Wrt to the little boy you mention; that's obviously been badly dealt with but as you say, could happen anywhere. It would have been jumped on from a great height at our little school. On the one occasion I had to complain about my dd being bullied, it had been sorted out by the end of that day and never recurred. smile

suedonim Mon 25-Aug-08 23:03:34

Ingles2, there are/have been several sets of 3-4 siblings at our school, inc four children from one family, spread across two classes. But it hasn't thrown up any problems that I'm aware of.

Our children are very well prepared for senior school, which has about 900 pupils. The small feeder schools are 'clustered' together and over their primary schooling the children get together for various activities. By the time they go to senior school they know each other quite well. Another phenomenon is that the children from the village schools do better socially at senior school because they will already know some of the older children there. The older children tend to be very protective of the youngers ones from 'their' village and you pick on a village kid at your peril!

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