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Small p;rimary schools

(19 Posts)
KATC2010 Sun 07-Aug-11 20:50:37

Do any of you have children who go to small primary schools? Our local primary school does reception to yr 2 - about 300 places. They then transfer to junior and that is similar size. However, by time DS starts in 2012 the 2 schools, currently being rebuilt will have merged into one.

We are due to look around some schools once the new academic year starts but aren't sure whether schools with about 80 to 100 total on roll is too small - for eg will it limit access to forming friendships etc? Could it be difficult when moving to significantly larger high schools if you've come from a smaller primary school?

Any experiences very gratefully received!


Bunbaker Sun 07-Aug-11 21:00:23

DD has just left a small primary school - approx 140 pupils. It was an utterly brilliant school with high standards in everything - academic, extra curricular activities, sports and music. It is also by far the best primary school in our LEA and rated among the top 100 primary schools in England last year. She will be starting at a high school ten times the size of her primary school and to say that I am feeling nervous is an understatement.

As far as schools are concerned bigger doen't necessarily mean better.

UnSerpentQuiCourt Sun 07-Aug-11 21:40:10

140 pupils sounds pretty big to me! 80 - 100 is lovely; all the staff know all the children - and care about all the children - all the children know rach other and there is a good 'family' atmosphere.

That being said, there can be problems. One child in my school left in y3 as she was the only girl in her year group. In another year group there were 4 girls, three of whom were close friends and one who was left out.

On the plus side, for a child who is less confident, like my dd, there is an enormous advantage to spending two years with the same teacher and knowing all the teachers in the school. There is also a 'family' culture in the playground, with friendships across the year groups.

From the teacher's point of view, I love small schools where I really know the children over several years and have a real investment in each child, rather than a larger school where I might teach your child as one of 30 or more for 10 months and then not come into contact with her again.

Eglu Sun 07-Aug-11 21:44:07

140 is not small smile Our local primary has 30 children.

Kat I would think that a school of 80-100 will be fine for friendships and not too much of an issue going to high school. Our school is not ideal, for either of those things, but something 3 times the size will be fine.

MadameLupino Sun 07-Aug-11 21:49:10

Our local is 40 odd children, DD will be in a year group of two. It worries me a lot regarding friendships (the other child is a bit of a clash at times) and opportunities for group sports. The year groups above and below are slightly bigger (4 and 5 children in each) but all boys.
Realistically I think I will be seriously considering moving her to the 120 child school in the next village for Year One. I have looked at that and the year group is 12-14, about 50/50 gender split. That seems fine to me, I would consider it if I were you.

teacherwith2kids Sun 07-Aug-11 21:59:24

I would absolutely agree that 80 - 100 should be fine. I teach in a similar sized school (though it is a first school so only covers 5 year groups, not 7) and find that it has a good balance between 'feeling small and familiar' and 'having enough critical mass for sports teams / friendship groups'.

With a parent hat on, though, I would investigate a couple of things:
- Mixed age classes. If a school has less than around 200 children, it is very likely to have mixed age classes. Investigate the type of mixing it has. Does it have 'whole year group' mixed classes e.g. all of Year 3 and all of Year 4 in 1 class? Or does it have 'split year group' mixed classes in which e.g. half of Year 4 is in with Year 3, the other half with Year 5? And if the year group is split, how is it split? Is it purely on age (can be an issue for very bright and mature but young in the year children) or ability (some children feel labelled as 'thick' because they are in the younger age classes, even if there is careful effort not to). As a parent, I have no issue with 'whole year group' mixed age classes but DS suffered very badly in a split age group system so I have an emotional (not wholly rational) bias against them..
- Children at the extremes of ability. One of the reasons that my children now attend a very large 2 form entry (420 pupil) primary school is because DS suffered and became very isolated in his initial 120 pupil school because he was the only child of his ability. With over 3x more children in his year group, there are simply statistically more likely to be more children who are of similar ability even at the extremes, and the school is also therefore better set up to work with these chiuldren as they can do so 'as a group' rather than as an isolated individual

munstersmum Sun 07-Aug-11 22:00:32

I'm not clear whether the new school is again just years R -2 in which case 30 kids per year which seems very average or years R -6 in which case sounds very lovely?

munstersmum Sun 07-Aug-11 22:05:47

Joins teacherwith2 in bias against split year classes. DS in yr1 was streamed with yr2 for maths (along with a few others). Then in yr2 was allocated to a split yr1/yr2 class as he is Aug birthday. Ended up making opposite move from larger to smaller school for better pastoral care. No streaming but achieving as much as so much happier.

Teachermumof3 Sun 07-Aug-11 22:09:02

I'm not clear whether the new school is again just years R -2 in which case 30 kids per year which seems very average or years R -6 in which case sounds very lovely?

I thought the OP said it was a Primary, so would be R-6?

JemimaMuddledUp Sun 07-Aug-11 22:11:46

My DC's school has around 90 pupils. Which actually seems huge to me as my primary school had 24!

IME small schools are great, I would far rather send mine to a small school than a big one.

Marne Sun 07-Aug-11 22:15:23

I have just moved the dd's from a small primary (80 pupils) to a slightly bigger school (130 pupils), i feel sad that we had to move them (due to house move) as the tiny school was great, very friendly (all the children knew each other and oldre ones looked out for the little ones), classes were mixed ( reception, year 1 and 2 in one class, 3 and 4 in another, 5 and 6 in another (so only 3 classes), dd1 was one of 4 reception children and the only girl in reception but the school was great.

nojustificationneeded Sun 07-Aug-11 22:15:50

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

munstersmum Sun 07-Aug-11 22:33:23

teachermum Op says "Our local primary school does reception to yr 2 - about 300 places. They then transfer to junior and that is similar size."

KATC2010 Mon 08-Aug-11 07:14:30

Thanks all for your replies, I do now feel slightly better about the school size of 80 to 100, which is for R-6. For the 2 schools of this size they are mixed by academic year but I'm pretty sure that it is years R & 1, then 2 & 3 etc.

The local primary is the one that of 300 on roll is R-2 and then they move up so I think they have about 3 or 4 classes per academic year. It is not a very good school in so many ways and tbh I would have much preferred to try and get into one of the smaller schools but I was concerned that I could be isolating my DS if I did manage to get him into it.

Really appreciate all your thoughts!

emptyshell Mon 08-Aug-11 09:20:00

I used to work in a primary school (whole age range) of 65 pupils (3 classes - R/1, 2/3, 4/5/6). It was lovely - although they might have been in a year group of 8 or so (think that's what I had for Y3s), they were still in a class of 20 and just mixed friendships across their class rather than chronological year group. The older ones were also so much more caring toward the youngsters because they all knew all their names as well, and all the teaching staff knew every child (sometimes in larger schools the only kids' names you learn outside your own year group can be the ones who, ahem, bring themselves to your attention by their behaviour) as well. Considering I had the Y2/3 class - that age group where girls can drive me insane with bickering and falling out - the social fears people are expressing didn't really cause any issue at all.

Disadvantages - the big one we had was hall space - we didn't have one basically - quite common when I went to PE cluster meetings. While we couldn't really pull in the visiting groups and sports coaches that a larger school individually would - the local cluster of schools were quite good in getting them into one school and busing the other schools across, and we also did things like pool together to get external trainers in for Insets and the like. Had fantastic things like ICT facilities - and because there were only 3 classes - you had a fairly good chance of being able to grab the ICT suite for your class if you needed it for a one-off, rather than being stuck with one slot and one slot only if there were 14 classes or whatever in the school. It also meant SATs results yo-yoed up and down like crazy - one child with SEN doing really well to get their level 3 in a class of 30 is a much smaller percentage of your results than the same one child in a cohort of 6 kids.

Meant that casting decisions for Mary in the nativity were a non-issue - the one girl in Y6 got the role (would keep AIBU happy)!

Also had the added advantage that if you were trying to track anything down there were only ever three places it was going to be! Really linked well with the community, very very very much the village school.

I'm a big fan of small schools though as long as the LEA is set up to appreciate their needs and strengths.

teacherwith2kids Mon 08-Aug-11 09:29:10

The other thing I would add is that year group sizes in small schools can be very 'lumpy', so as well as considering the overall number in the school you should find out the number in the specific year group.

So for example an overall number of 100 should mean an average of 14 in each year group, but you might find that some groups are very much below this and others above (not so much in an oversubscribed small school, full to PAN each year, but many village schools simply take 'all the children in that village that year' and that number can vary). It can mean that a mixed age class, particularly in KS2 where there is no limit of 30 by law, can get very big - or that mixing arrangements vary every yar - or that the particular year group your child is entering may be unusually small.

IndigoBell Mon 08-Aug-11 09:29:18

I would just again add about being careful if your child has any kind of extra needs. (which you won't know at this stage) What teacher2kids said about 3x as many pupils meaning that it is less likely that your child is the only child with that need.

Moving from a 1 form entry to a 3 form entry has been brilliant for my kids, because the bigger school has so much more experience of everything. My kids weren't isolated as the only one with their particular issues.

They have more TAs and so can run more interventions. They have more sports teams. More after school clubs.

So, basically, I highly recommend a 3 form entry - if the school has a good HT.

KATC2010 Mon 08-Aug-11 16:38:13

Thanks so much for all your advice, I note particularly what you say re the mixed years where they move some up etc. One of the schools that we looked at did this, and I can see what you say regarding abilities and how that may make them feel. I'm not sure how the others that we are considering split their groups so i'll be sure to check that out when we look around them. I note also what is said regarding the level of clubs/activities etc in smaller v larger primaries.

The problem I have is that the larger primary is not a very good school at all. Bad on OFSTED, bad with other parents reviews. Bad when my eldest DS went there many years ago. Unfortunately we have lots of deprived areas in our town and specifically high levels of drug abuse and unfortunately I think some of the children come from these backgrounds and are probably not fortunate enough to get good care at home, and it is probably reflected in their behaviour etc?

Another possibility is a school of approx 200 pupils, 1 class per academic year but 20 mins drive - I fear this in itself could be a problem for socialising (driving there wouldn't be an issue for us, just thinking of DS and in future when she goes, DD). Excellent clubs and after school activities. In everything but the location it would be my ideal confused

zorgmoid Tue 09-Aug-11 22:00:46

ours is a small school. About 70 kids. Very much human scale education. Very nurturing. Everyone knows everyone: lots of friendships across age groups. Wouldn't swap it for the world.

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