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Is a prep year group of 15 too small?

(32 Posts)
Mumtogremlins Fri 08-Mar-13 23:45:53


I'm thinking of sending my DS to a small prep school - it only has 12-15 children per year group. I'm worried he might not make many friends due to the lack of children but are there any other disadvantages or advantages to a small school?
As far as I'm aware the school is stable and has been around for a long time so not too worried about it closing due to low numbers. Each year group is full or nearly full

Mumtogremlins Mon 18-Mar-13 12:10:10

Would it be such a problem if he was only moving to the school for 2 years (starting in year 5) and then leaving at 11? Trying to decide on the small school which goes up to 11 or the larger one which goes up to 13. I get the feeling that it may easier to get a secondary private place at 11 but like the idea of keeping him in a less scary school until 13

stealthsquiggle Tue 12-Mar-13 11:21:22

As a class size, it works well IME. As a year size - fine in early years, but by about Y4 I think they need a larger peer group to allow different interests to develop and still have critical mass.

DC's school starts at this sort of size in YR, but most year groups are closer to 40 by Y4.

grimsleeper Tue 12-Mar-13 11:08:57

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SanityClause Sun 10-Mar-13 21:17:16

Laura Check the balance sheet. Do they own the buildings? If so, are there loans on them? By how much do their assets exceed their liabilities?

If they have a few bad years, and need to borrow money, a bank is only likely to do so based on the security provided by mortgaging the buildings. A commercial mortgage may only be 60% loan to value.

Agree, do check that the school has at least covered its expenses with income in recent years.

What happens to surpluses? Are they reinvested into school equipment, such as IT equipment?

Two private schools local to us have closed down within the last ten years; old schools, which you would not expect to be financially precarious. It is an affluent area, in the SE.

SanityClause Sun 10-Mar-13 21:02:06

I think it's too small.

A friend sent her two DDs to a school with similar class sizes. Her older DD was in a class with three other girls, two of whom were twins.

People say that smaller class sizes are better for learning, but I think slightly larger class sizes allow more for more ideas in discussions. A class of 20 with a teacher and TA will allow plenty of support for each child.

Inclusionist Sun 10-Mar-13 20:50:46

I'm no accountant. I just look at the 'Financial History' section and see whether their income usually covers their expenditure. You'd be surprised how often it doesn't!!

Laura4041 Sun 10-Mar-13 18:42:23

Mutteroo & Inclusionist (or anyone else who knows!)...

What are the key things to look for having found the school on the charities commission website. What would demonstrate something to worry about or something that gives confidence? I have this in front of me but not sure how to interpret it!

Mumtogremlins Sun 10-Mar-13 13:55:48

That kind of makes me more keen on the Woking school then - 2 classes of about 18 I think (mixed). The small school is also mixed which probably won't leave as many friend opportunities. The small one also only goes up to 11, the other to 13. Not sure whether its best to move to secondary at 11 or 13 - but that's a whole new problem!

teacherwith2kids Sun 10-Mar-13 12:09:53

I'd be with Inclusionist - a big school but with small classes. So plenty of children for a football / rugby / hockey team but a smaller number within the classroom. Enough money for really good facilities, but a small number of children in the class using the facilities at any one time.

15 of 1 gender not so bad, but if mixed, definitely too small.

Inclusionist Sun 10-Mar-13 11:41:11

I think if I lived down there (I am a bit further north) I would go for Hall Grove. Good things seem to be said about Hoe Bridge on here too.

I wouldn't trust the finances at the little school. I've just read about another prep school in the area closing this year (Langley Manor). I've gone for a really big prep (Lambrook) and two of the factors in my choice were that, with so many kids, it must be a) possible for DS to find peers and b) a finacially secure set up.

DS's class will still have <18 kids in it, there will just be several classes.

seeker Sun 10-Mar-13 10:40:02

Too small. Especially if it's mixed.. Honestly.

I think 20 is about the right number.

chocoluvva Sun 10-Mar-13 10:35:15

It's so tricky isn't it? Closer is obviously better isn't it? Is the other school far?

Inclusionist Sun 10-Mar-13 08:35:43

You have the choice of an awful lot of prep schools in that area. Have you considered them all?

Mumtogremlins Sat 09-Mar-13 23:17:03

I would be moving him in year 4 so friendships will already be established which could make it harder for him
One school is in Woking and the other in Camberley. The Woking one is closer and larger but more expensive.

bangwhizz Sat 09-Mar-13 22:00:03

My DD2 is in a year group of 7 including only 2 other girls.Luckily they got on well but it's a bit claustrophobic

Knowsabitabouteducation Sat 09-Mar-13 20:46:19

One of the really good things about a small school is that all the children have to get involved in everything. They are on the sports teams, in the choir, in the play, on the quiz team. They can't hide.

We recently moved our DD from a small school to a much larger one. She is the kind of girl who likes to be invisible. She used to do everything at her small school (she fell in with the expectation rather than being forced). At her current school, they have auditions and try-outs for everything, so she does nothing.

A large school can have lots of fancy facilities and opportunities, but they mean nothing if your child doesn't use them or get involved. But you are still paying for them.

dixiechick1975 Sat 09-Mar-13 18:21:59

DD's school is one class entry - there are 17 in her yr 2 class.

Agree that children seem to play with older and younger aswell as their class - very much a family type atmosphere. I personally like this for DD - just like different age siblings would play together.

She also seems to play with boys more than her friends at bigger schools.

Team wise a positive spin on it is year 3/4 get to take part in competitive sports that other bigger schools only enter year 5/6 for. They seem to do very well despite the younger ones taking part.

Inclusionist Sat 09-Mar-13 18:11:21

Ooh, I love a school hunt. Is it too outing to name them?

chocoluvva Sat 09-Mar-13 18:08:02

There's a limit to how many close friends you can have though. I really don't think a smaller pool of potential friends is likely to be a problem.

Hope he has a lovely start to his formal education smile

Mumtogremlins Sat 09-Mar-13 17:12:42

Thanks for your responses. It is privately owned so I will try and find out a bit more about its finances.
My DS is quite shy and takes time to make close friends, although most children like him and want to be friends. He's a bit geeky so it worries me he will struggle to find like minded friends. He does like to play with children from other years so it may not be a problem
There are teaching assistants in the classroom but not sure if full time. The school does seem lovely and family orientated but opportunities to do activities are limited and the curriculum isn't as wide as larger prep schools
He has a place at a larger prep school, which is more expensive so I'm trying to decide if more opportunities and friends are worth the extra. They are both nice schools

chocoluvva Sat 09-Mar-13 15:15:20

IME of doing supply teaching in lots of different primary schools the small schools usually have a very good sense of community and the older children look out for the younger ones.
The teachers are able to get to know the children very well, which facilitates good teaching and the children often have more input in deciding what they will study/practise.

While there's an element of the children themselves being a resource for ideas, team members, parts in the annual school 'production'etc there are so many ways of linking with other schools now eg, video conferencing, glow etc.

Inclusionist Sat 09-Mar-13 14:54:03

Second Mutteroo's advice to look up the school's finances. I decided against a school that otherwise seemed great because of the financial info I found on it. My sister has had the experience of her children's school closing at short notice and it was horrible.

difficultpickle Sat 09-Mar-13 10:31:41

Depends on the boy/girl split. We live near a school like that but if ds had gone there he would have been the only boy in his year. Makes it impossible to play team sports.

PopMusic Sat 09-Mar-13 10:17:41

There are only 10 children in my DS's reception class and it's one form entry. There are three adults in the classroom (teacher/TA/1-2-1 TA for one child). The school spends a lot of effort nurturing their friendships and teaching them to look after one another. It suits DS really well precisely because the numbers are small and it's all very calm. His progress has also been remarkable.

The small pool of friends is something that concerned me but actually it has turned out quite nicely. I think if if he was a DD instead of a DS I would be more worried because of the dynamics of girls' friendships. At the end of the day, would the school suit your DS?

Knowsabitabouteducation Sat 09-Mar-13 06:01:03

12 - 15 is fine. They will have children in other year groups to play with as well.

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