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From experience would you choose very small or much larger primary?

(54 Posts)
Bumblywumbly Thu 25-Apr-13 07:37:03

Teachers, parents, anyone?

I know there will be a range of opinions on this and it comes down to personal opinions and the DC themselves, but would love to get some input.

We live rurally and it's looking likely that next year, the two most likely choices for DD are going to be a 'larger than average school' pushing 400 pupils or a small village primary of approx 50-60. Will visit both and see how we feel of course but would be interested to get some thoughts- positives, negatives, would you make the same choice again?

PatriciaHolm Thu 25-Apr-13 07:39:20

Where we are 400 kids isn't particularly large, it's normal, and a number of schools are larger! I would have thought 50-60 kids in total made for very small friendship groups? Small classes I guess but taught across years?

Llareggub Thu 25-Apr-13 07:41:15

I have friends in a small school like the one they mention and they love it. There is a real family feel to it, and it is certainly idyllic; I looked around it for DS.

I chose a larger school for the facilities but felt it to be a bit impersonal. We've moved cities now and in a school of 200 but it feels so different. I think there are so many variables it is best to go with your gut instinct. Better to feel safe and secure in a lovely school than lost in a well resourced one.

Bumblywumbly Thu 25-Apr-13 07:44:22

Thank you, I think in our area Ofsted refer to bigger school as larger than average and it is in comparison to others. Yes, in the smaller school its mixed age classes and the other is two class entry.

tumbletumble Thu 25-Apr-13 07:44:52

Personally I'd go for the bigger one. I think it is a disadvantage if there are very few children to choose their friends from, also a big shock when they go to secondary. Probably better facilities too.

I'm assuming we're talking up to age 11. If it is infants only and they move at age 7, I'd go for the small school.

Pozzled Thu 25-Apr-13 07:54:07

I have taught in both, although not for very long in the smaller school. On the whole I think I'd go for the larger one (andas PatriciaHolm says, 400 is fairly small around here!)

Smaller school- generally very friendly, supportive, great atmosphere, all staff know all children, smaller classes (but mixed age). But more room for personality clashes, both with teachers and pupils. More chance for the staff to pigeonhole cdn as being a certain personality/ability. Less variety in teaching style.

Larger school- 'Fresh' start every year (not entirely but more so than when you have the same teacher three years running). More friends to choose from, but perhaps less adult support with social skills- staff less aware of what's going onin the playground. More variety in teaching style. Possibly more provision for specific teaching behaviour interventions if they're needed- a wider range of experience/qualifications in the staff. Perhaps more chance of 'average' children being overlooked, but sen/eal/those with other needs will be well knownto staff.

2cats2many Thu 25-Apr-13 07:55:57

400 is a small primary in London! The biggest one near me has 4.4 forms of entry so is around 900 pupils.

My DD goes to a 2 form entry school and it seems like just the right size.

lljkk Thu 25-Apr-13 07:59:22


redskyatnight Thu 25-Apr-13 08:55:52

Also surprised that a 400 primary is "larger than average" - that's just 2 classes per year surely? DS's junior (i.e. Y3-Y6) has 400 children and I've never thought of it as particularly large.

I think this is a difficult one as early on I would say go for small and friendly but later on I'd rather have larger for more facilities.
I'd worry about friendship groups in a small school. DS's infants had 60 children in his year group (but about 35 girls to 25 boys) and he still really struggled to find anyone he gelled with - most of the boy were football loving and he isn't!

seeker Thu 25-Apr-13 08:57:20

I would always go larger, all other things being equal. This goes against the received mumsnet wisdom, I know.

heronsfly Thu 25-Apr-13 08:59:33

My younger dds went to a primary school that had dropped in numbers enormously since my older children attended, and i would choose a bigger school if I could go back, we ended up with mixed classes, very small friendship groups and of course, less funding.

Blu Thu 25-Apr-13 09:05:06

Of those choices I would go for the 'large' school, all other factors being equal. Bigger schools have more choice of after school activities or lunctime clubs (this might not seem important now but it will by yr 3 or 4), , more capacity to be flexible with budgets and provide a wider range of facilities and extra curricular and enrichment opportunities such as trips, and crucially, a wider pool of friends. This again becomes more important as friendship groups become ever more single sec as they grow.

Timetoask Thu 25-Apr-13 09:05:33

How good are your child's social skills? Would you say they find it easy to make friends?

HairyPotter Thu 25-Apr-13 09:09:40

My dds both went to a small school, 65 pupils in total. On the whole it was lovely. The drawbacks however were very small friendship groups, dd1 was one of two girls in her class for 3 years. There was a lack of after school activities as well. The jump to secondary (800) wasn't a problem however.

If I had to choose (I didn't, we had no real choice) I'm not sure what I would do. There are pros and cons for both. <unhelpful>

OneLittleToddleTerror Thu 25-Apr-13 09:09:50

400 if it's a primary (not infants) would make it only a 2-form entry isn't it? Then it's actually a small school. The smaller village school would only have 8-9 children per year. I'd be wary if there are only 4 girls in my DD year.

crazymum53 Thu 25-Apr-13 09:36:55

I would choose the "larger" school.
As school funding is linked to the number of pupils this would be better funded.
Also with more teachers every area of the curriculum would be well covered and there is less likely to be mixed age classes.

DeWe Thu 25-Apr-13 09:44:52

My dc's juniors is over 600.

The advantages are:
Specialist music, ICT, SENCO and sports teachers.
Lots of clubs, both free and outside providers
Lots of sports teams
Wrap around care
They get a lot of good people in to talk and people come to the school when they're looking for children to take part in things.
Your child can be split from someone that causes them problems
Lots of equipment and play stuff
Makes going up to (very large, 13 form+ ) secondaries less daunting
Lots of people (other than form teacher) to talk over problems
Year 6 get quite a lot of responsibility, and lots of chances to use it.

Some children find it very daunting
Easy for a child to, for example miss lunch, because lots of places and people to hide behind.
Friendships still tend to be in forms, so friendship groups for the shy ones don't tend to be expanded.
School trips are limited to where can take so many children
Can be hard to know which person to go to for advice (want to go higher than form teacher, don't know head of year too well and not sure they know my dc very well not having taught them, head seems overkill)
Even though there are lots of sports' teams, there's lots of competition (although they have a very good record of winning)*
One thing that sometimes irritates is that they don't coordinate some things things across year groups. (eg. One child says "I'm not allowed to do this competition because I go to XX club. Child who wins goes to XX club because their teacher didn't use the same rules)

*Actually the games teacher does reward effort in picking teams. My dd1 was chosen several times despite not being very sporty because he said that he knew how much effort she put in.

mamapants Thu 25-Apr-13 10:01:54

400 seems massive for a primary school to me!!
I have a similar scenario to you in choosing between a school of about 50, a school of 150 and what to me is a large school of 250.
400 seems very daunting for a primary to me. I would be worried about how much individual attention children are getting and how easy it would be to make friends in such a large group.

Beehatch Thu 25-Apr-13 10:11:28

I went to a tiny village primary and loved every moment of it. There wasn't much in the way of after curricular stuff, but everyone knew each other, we made our own entertainment and kids were allowed to be pretty free range.

My kids on the other hand go to a 3 form intake infants (soon to be 4 forms) and they are also thriving. Loads of clubs and activities always something happening. However the school still feels welcoming and villagey.

So have two good experiences at each end if scale. I think what has made the difference is not just the schools attitude, but also the two lovely communities they were located in. Sorry that doesn't help much does it?

Bumblywumbly Thu 25-Apr-13 10:12:36

Thanks for all the replies so far- very useful! I realise it may seem odd to call it 'a larger than average school' ( ofsted's words) but in the area we are in it definitely is.

Friendship groups and socialising is among my main worries with a very small school but would like the personal, more family feel.

With a much larger school, I am thinking that for it to get a good ofsted report then it means they have seen consistently 'good' things going on across a number of classes and with lots of different teachers which means there must be some effective systems in place (doesn't mean there's not in the small school). I also like the idea of more facilities.

DD is an only, and is likely to remain so, so we really have to consider friendships/socialising very carefully.

Periwinkle007 Thu 25-Apr-13 10:16:56

it really does depend on the child's personality which would suit them better but you have to bear in mind where they will go at 11. If they have been in a tiny school but then have to go to a big comprehensive then the change could be too much for them.

I agree that 400 isn't big. where we are there are schools with intakes of 150 in reception and those which only take 60 are now in the minority.

Personally I would LIKE a school which is 1 form entry myself, so 30 in a year and a total of just over 200 in the school purely because I was lucky to go to one that size and I like the fact they can get the whole school together to do things but I do think 50-60 children would probably seem too small and it will limit friendships.

HeadFairy Thu 25-Apr-13 10:17:28

I went to a tiny school, I was the first year of entry as it was a new school and it was lovely. Tiny classes (about 10-15 per class, but not mixed age groups) and everyone knew each other.

As mentioned by others though going to secondary was a big shock. My primary school was basically like extended nursery school (back in the 70s so no sats, no Key Stages etc) and while I learned to read and write very well, that was about it. I was utterly freaked out by people who arrived at secondary school actually knowing stuff!

DS goes to a small primary. One form entry, but each class is full. It is lovely though, there's really good interraction between the years, they have whole school assemblies and ds has lots of friends in other years. But I didn't specifically choose that school based on the size of it. Our other alternatives locally were pretty grim. I'm glad he's there though... we'll just have to manage his transition to secondary. He'll cope. I did grin

lljkk Thu 25-Apr-13 10:18:16

I don't see why they wouldn't get as much individual attention.
Small schools the HT is often actually a teaching Head, they are spread just as thin as in a big school but not actually paid for it.
In a small school, what you get in terms of more staff & peers knowing your child better you lose in insularity & limited friendship circles.
Successful schools are under orders to expand, too, it's not like any excellent small school will usually get to stay so small.
Bigger schools have more money to get specialist staff in, more clubs on offer. What's not to like...

Takver Thu 25-Apr-13 10:18:42

I only have experience of smaller (around 80 pupils reception - yr 6). Its been OK for dd, but if I'd had the choice I'd go for a larger school without hesitation.

Not only more choice of friends as people have said. But also the teachers are inevitably going to come into contact with a wider variety of issues on a day to day basis, so if your dc have any problems there is more likely to be recent experience in the school.

As it happens, dd's school was the larger of the two on offer!

Takver Thu 25-Apr-13 10:19:08

"Small schools the HT is often actually a teaching Head"

or in fact in dd's school, the head is shared with another school

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