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Would you choose a primary that had its own reception class or reception and years 1 and 2 combined?

(18 Posts)
Showaddywaddy Mon 15-Nov-10 15:21:12

We've looked round 6 schools for dd and have narrowed the choice down to 2. They're fairly different schools in terms of size but in ethos and feel (and in ofsted terms) they're pretty similar. They're about 2 miles apart and both visit the same local places, offer similar extra-curricular activities etc and they have joint events too and the two schools share some staff.

We like them both. DD liked them both too. The main difference is the classes. One is smaller and therefore reception and years 1 and 2 are taught together. The other has its own reception class. When looking round, the smaller school was doing a phonics activity and it was really very obvious who the younger children were. The older ones were sailing through and finding it 'easy' and the reception ones struggling (not that cut and dry but there were some obvious age differences). Likewise, when they played outside, the similar aged children banded together and played separately. But I did also see the older ones helping the younger ones with coats and shoes and opening doors and things. So positives and negatives.

In the larger school, reception class felt so very different. Three TAs (one outside at all times), free choice of whether to be in or out for the children, lots more noise and activity. It felt really lovely. But a lot more like pre-school.

Does it make a huge difference? If you could choose between the two situations, which would you pick?

This is bloody hard.

AMumInScotland Mon 15-Nov-10 15:36:25

I think combined classes can be fine, but I don't like the idea of the whole mixed class doing a phonics activity together - surely Y2 have already covered those phonics sounds, so they are repeating work, while the younger ones are being set up to fail they are not as good, just because they are doing it for the first time? DS was in composite classes, but things like phonics and maths and spelling were done in groups so that they could all go at their own pace. There were whole-class activities when they did things like projects (volcanoes, the Romans etc) because they can all do that at different depths.

I would be asking the school if the activity you saw was typical, or something set up for the open day, as it doesn't sound to me like good practice.

admission Mon 15-Nov-10 15:46:09

What you saw in the reception class is what they are supposed to be doing, learning by play, with the class being very well resourced with 3 TAs.
Personally I would go for the larger school, because it will give a greater potential for doing other things becasue they will be getting more funding in total (no difference in amount per pupil)

Showaddywaddy Mon 15-Nov-10 15:58:37

I didn't go on open days to either as I wanted to see them on an ordinary day (and they don't really go in for open days as they're fairly small schools anyway).

The smaller school tends to teach the whole class together and the group activities were the norm. They do then separate out and do individual work apparently which isn't hampered by the age mix. But it was clear that the (just) 4yr old was gaining bugger all, neither were a couple of the other reception children. Of course they might and they were clealy new to school completely but they looked so bloody confused by the whole game while a couple of the older ones were bored with how easy it was.

I know reception is all about learning through play and I really like that idea. It felt right too. Children being children and they were all grinning and happy (and rosy cheeked from being outside a lot).

I'm torn because dh was in a school that only had 25 pupils total and thrived on being with children of all ages. It helped a lot I think with patience and empathy and sharing. DH likes that aspect.

But I keep thinking you can't really 'do' reception in a mixed age class. It's fairly disruptive.

I preferred the bigger school tbh. It just felt right. But is 'it felt right' the thing to rely on?

mummytime Mon 15-Nov-10 16:14:45


"it felt right" is the best (maybe only) reason to choose a school.

(And it does sound a much better school.)

AMumInScotland Mon 15-Nov-10 16:16:21

If you have weighed up the practicalities and any differences you can see on paper, and they are both fine, then I reckon "it felt right" is probably the best way to pick between them. It's actually not a bad way of making lots of decisions, as your subconscious is capable of weighing up lots of factors which you couldn't put into words or figures and spotting what is a good match for the important factors.

mrz Mon 15-Nov-10 17:42:04

Separate reception class

honeybeetree Mon 15-Nov-10 17:48:10

I have worked in both larger and smaller school and I must admit that I prefer larger schools with separate age groups. I think it is better for the children.

Runoutofideas Mon 15-Nov-10 17:48:26

I think the separate reception class sounds better in general, however I do think it depends to a certain extent on your child. If you have a young in the year child who is starting school with little phonic knowledge and writing ability then definitely the separate reception class. If you have maybe an older in the year child who can already read and write before starting school and who enjoys being directed to activities rather than free play then maybe the mixed age class might work better....

Hulababy Mon 15-Nov-10 17:53:09

I don't like composite classes particularly. So I would go for separate classes wherever possible.

Hulababy Mon 15-Nov-10 17:54:35

Normally I prefer smaller schools but not to the extend where composite classes, esp those covering three year groups, are concerned.

DD goes to a small school (90 childrne in school) but all years are taught seperately for most subjects, which some mixing for things like PE and drama where larger groups work better.

Polgara2 Mon 15-Nov-10 17:56:59

Separate reception class definitely. Agree that you should go with your 'felt right' feeling iyswim!

magicmummy1 Mon 15-Nov-10 19:27:39

Definitely the separate reception class if I were you! If it feels right, it probably is right!

Showaddywaddy Mon 15-Nov-10 19:34:18

Thank you.

The 'bigger' school only has 100 pupils and that's the biggest one in our area. It is vast in comparison to the majority of the village schools.

DD is May born but she can already read/write a bit/do basic maths. But I want her to be with her emotional/social peers too.

I think you've largely answered the question for me and my gut reaction definitely agrees.

SkyBluePearl Mon 15-Nov-10 20:12:37

My sons school is as follows -

R taught on its own

Year one and year 2 taught together.

Years 3 and 4 taught together

Years 5 and 6 taught together

It is a small family like school with 100 or so kids. There are still lots of after school activities and choice of friends. The differnet school years really get on and parents are a part of the school community.

My friends child attends a school of 60 (only two classes in school) and her daughter has lots of friendship issues - the girls in the class are nasty sadly and there are few alternatives.

sims2fan Tue 16-Nov-10 08:25:07

I was about to say what SkyBluePearl has just said. In very very small schools it can be hard to make friends as there are not many to choose from, and if the small group all like football, for example, and one child can't stand it, it can be very isolating for him/her.
My mum's friend put her daughter in a small village school where her best friend from age 7 was a girl from the year above. Not a problem for 3 years as they were in the same class anyway, but when the older gril went to secondary the younger girl had a whole year of feeling a bit lost and alone.
On my first teaching practice I taught at a little village school with about 15 kids in the Reception, 1 and 2 class. I had 4 Year 2 boys, 3 Reception boys, a Year 1 girl and boy who had special needs and worked with Reception, 2 Year 1 girls, 1 of whom was very bright and 1 who wasn't quite working with Reception but almost was, and 4 Year 1 boys. The 2 Year 1 girls were friends, but I don't think they would have been 'natural' friends, if you see what I mean, had they gone to a school with more children to choose from. It was fine for them at that point, but I wondered how it would pan out as they got older. I found it really, really difficult teaching the class, but then I wasn't an experienced teacher, so might enjoy it more these days. I never felt I was teaching Reeption anything much, or stretching the Year 2 children. The school did have a lovely family atmosphere though.

Showaddywaddy Tue 16-Nov-10 10:57:01

sims2fan, that's the draw. One of the schools we looked at (my actual favourite but had to discount sadly) was a tiny village school. The family atmosphere was just lovely. I fell utterly in love with it but I've let it go.

There is such a vast difference between a reception child and a year 2 child, academically, socially, practically, emotionally etc. I think the fact that it worries me probably answers my question. In a class of 20 children, all of a similar age, she's more likely to find a friend I think than a smaller class with a bigger mix.

veritythebrave Tue 16-Nov-10 11:41:37

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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