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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?

Having worked as a teacher and done my final teaching practice at a lovely and charming village school in Devon I'd say look round both but if the smaller village school has a good friendly feel and you meet some good teachers there and like the Head, I'd go for that one. I think our small village schools can be a lovely part of English life - sadly not so many of them around now as there used to be.
I think most schools have adequate facilities, and you can probably make up for what is lacking in a smaller school with a little extra-curricular activity - clubs, swimming and such like.

Viviennemary Thu 25-Apr-13 10:35:16

I think very small schools aren't such a good idea as children will have difficulty adjusting to senior school. That is only my opinion of course.

DeWe Thu 25-Apr-13 10:43:15

I think another question on a small one would be:
What is the risk that it is forcably joined up with other small schools, as happened in our area to three small schools. They're now a large infants and large juniors on split site, with one head between them, and is struggling.

I don't really agree with the idea of a difficult adjustment to secondary from a small school. I think a secure and happy time in a small school can be a good preparation for any secondary even if there is some initial adjustment to make at 11. But it's like secure 1:1 care in babyhood is the best preparation for being as sociable as you like in later life smile. It's about meeting the needs of that particular stage in life as well as possible, and not worrying too much about preparing for the next one !

YoniBottsBumgina Thu 25-Apr-13 10:49:59

I've never heard of primaries with more than 2 forms in each year - I had no idea they were so large now. So I'd be a bit daunted by a huge school. But my primary had 2 from entry and I loved it - it was a great school. I think it really depends on your DC and the feel of the school.

OneLittleToddleTerror Thu 25-Apr-13 10:52:30

They will still get individual attention even in a larger school isn't it? There will just be more teachers, and the classes are restricted to 30 a class anyway. I went to a primary with about 150 intake a year and I didn't find it daunting. If you grew up with it, it's normal.

I think in the end, you will have to judge a school by its own merits. (In addition to the friendship worries). I've heard nightmares about having only one other girl in the class, or evening being the only. I know one colleague who's moved to get her son out of a village school because it's too small, to a 2-form entry school. So I think I'm a bit biased towards the slightly larger one.

AmazingBouncingFerret Thu 25-Apr-13 10:52:42

I transferred DS from a large school (760) which has rep as being best in town to small (120) village school. I think I had a thread on here about it actually..

The best thing I ever did. The difference it made was astounding, his confidence, his reading, his writing, everything has improved.

On his last day at the larger school he went up to the head teacher to give him a box of chocolates and say thank you, the headteacher had no clue who he was, I had to tell him his name.

Within a week of starting the new one, the headteacher would stand at the gates greeting everyone, would say "good morning XXXX"

Floggingmolly Thu 25-Apr-13 10:59:58

400 is a two form entry, isn't it? Not very large at all.
50 pupils, on the other hand, is little over two classes. shock you don't get them in the cities! I'd go for the larger.
BouncingFerret, that's standard for our school of 420 pupils; I think your ds's experience says more about the HT's personality than the size of the school, tbf.

gazzalw Thu 25-Apr-13 11:02:20

I personally feel for primary school aged children a school of 250 maximum is about the right size (for a city).

We purposefully chose a small, single-entry school for DS when he started in Nursery many moons ago. It was lovely because one got to know just about all the parents and the children really all knew each other (at least by sight) too.

Sadly when the baby-boomers started needing educating, the school increased to two-form entry and now it's got a couple of 'bulge classes' so effectively three form entry over a couple of years. It is not the same school at all and so many children and parents seem like 'strangers' and the children cannot hope to know all of their schoolmates.

I stand to be corrected but once primaries grow beyond a certain size they don't seem to have the same cosy, community atmosphere....

HaplessHousewife Thu 25-Apr-13 11:14:36

DD is starting at a school in September with a six class entry so that's 540 pupils just in the infants shock. I was a bit concerned about it at first but the school goes to great lengths to look after the little ones and make them feel included.

I went to a small school with a one class entry and I think there's advantages and disadvantages to both, I think it comes down to the feel and atmosphere of the school itself rather than the size.

BackforGood Thu 25-Apr-13 11:21:38

The biggest decider for me (obviously if I liked them both when looking round) would be choosing the one I could walk to / all the neighbours went to. You won't believe how helpful that is over the coming years.

irisblue Thu 25-Apr-13 13:00:19

It was a LONG time ago, but I went to a tiny school (21 pupils in total, only 3 in my year!) until I was 8 years old. I loved it. It was very eccentric (dogs were running around, if we fell asleep no one would wake us and we learnt Latin from 5), but it was wonderful. If I could find the same for my child I would send him there.

But it was only until I was 8 (we moved away so I left), not sure how I'd have felt at 11?

Ragwort Thu 25-Apr-13 13:04:09


My DS went to a very small, rural school, started off brilliantly but then there were some staffing problems which affected the whole school - in a larger school I am sure this would have been dealt with quietly and confidential but in such a small enviornment everyone knew what was happening and it all got very unpleasant.

Apart from that, I think the range of opportunities - sport/music/after school clubs etc etc will be wider at a larger school - and the range of children to make friends with. Plus the shock of going to a bigger primary school is not to be underestimated.

Ragwort Thu 25-Apr-13 13:06:25

Amazing - but we had the opposite experience at the schools my DS attended - at the smaller one the Head sat in their office but at both larger ones the Head would be out in the playground meeting and greeting. So much depends on the individual Head.

Tiggles Thu 25-Apr-13 13:22:36

Wow can't believe how big some of your schools are!
The DSs go to a primary with about 100 pupils. All classes are therefore mixed age group. They get on really well. Had no problems with making friends. The head knows all pupils and parents well. Had much greater issues when DS1 used to go to a primary with about 250pupils. He was often missed and passed over (he has Aspergers and it was easier to leave him hidden under a table than spend time helping him)

DS1 is about to start secondary school, being a rural area, the secondary is also small - about 600 pupils. so not a big step up really, and smaller than a lot of primaries by the sounds of it.

thegreylady Thu 25-Apr-13 13:57:56

I have always recommended small country primary schools to my dc.I have taught and done supply in a wide range of town and country schools and without exception the small schools were happy,friendly places with involved Head and a real family feeling.Some of the big ones were also excellent [especially a couple of big RC schools in Bradford].
My grandchildren go to a country school of about 80.They have Forest School, after school sports and choir as well as arts and crafts clubs and music/orchestra.The standard seems high and I love the way the age groups mix. They do struggle with things like forming football teams but on the whole I'd go small.

Netguru Thu 25-Apr-13 14:01:33


My kids moved to a lege school when we moved house. My daughter did ok but my son was badly bullied.

He moved to a school with 32 children total. Such a freindly atmosphere, all know each other and look out for each other. He's a changed character.

FreckledLeopard Thu 25-Apr-13 14:04:05

I'd vote for larger. DD's primary was three form entry, so around 700 children. Excellent facilities, teaching, great opportunities to make lots of friends, really great mix of children.

OneLittleToddleTerror Thu 25-Apr-13 14:24:00

netguru why would bullying have anything to do with school size? FWIW, DH went to a proper rural school. It's very small with mixed year groups. I'm not sure how large it is, but it's a town where you blink and you'll miss the 3-4 shops. (It's in NZ where we call anything town, and a place with 30k a city). He was badly bullied and he remembered hiding underneath his desk during many classes. His parents was told he was gifted when he was in a primary in Auckland, and was supported. The rural school couldn't offer anything. His view on it now is that they specialised in teaching kids who will be either 1) farmers or 2) work on minimum wage jobs, or 3) live on the dole. (It his words, and it's probably a bit cruel).

You can have a rubbish small or large school.

Bumblywumbly Thu 25-Apr-13 14:52:43

Wow lots of different experiences in both small and larger schools smile

I went to a small primary and have fond memories. DH went to a small school also and was bullied and really struggled with the lack of like-minded friends.. I do think though that there seems to be a greater emphasis on preventing/dealing with bullying in most schools nowadays- though not always as much as there should be in some cases I'm sure.

Viewing both is a must but it is so interesting to hear these different points of view.

AmazingBouncingFerret Thu 25-Apr-13 15:49:01

Oh the headteacher at the larger school was always out and about, would regularly say hello to him in the morning, like I said it is known as one of the best schools in town, people fight to get their children in there! It just wasn't personal enough for me.

My experience of first and middle school was a small community, I knew all the teachers and they knew me. I'm chuffed I've managed to find that for my DS and DD.

I'm not saying that all smaller schools are better than bigger ones, just to not write them off because of their size.

DewDr0p Thu 25-Apr-13 15:50:38

As pps have said there are pros and cons to all sizes of school. I think so much depends on the Head so I would def go and look round both and get your own feel for them.

There are lots of small village schools around here. When you get as small as 50-60 then realistically you are looking at 2 or 3 classes which means you reach secondary school possibly only having been taught by 2 or 3 different teachers (at my friend's son's school there is one Junior class so he has the same teacher for 4 YEARS - great if you hit it off with the teacher, total nightmare if your dc and the teacher don't gel)

The upside is they tend to have a lovely family feel and the children mix much more with older and younger kids and have to learn to accommodate this. You always get a decent part in the school play lol. Downsides are mixed classes and possible lack of friendship opportunities. As pp said hard to field a sports team too!

I also think that whatever you choose will just be your dc's "normal" - they won't know any different. My kids are at single form entry schools (sep infants and juniors) and this feels like a happy medium to me.

AmandaPayneAteTooMuchChocolate Thu 25-Apr-13 16:08:35

400 is pretty standard isn't it - 60 intake each year?

Just to add one comment my mother makes, as a primary teacher. She always prefers a larger school where there are a couple of teachers per year. She feels that being able to bounce ideas off someone running the same topics, being inspired by what others do, moving year group perhaps more frequently all helped to keep her fresh as a teacher and be better. She also thinks that it helps newer and less experienced teachers to have that closer working relationship with someone teaching the same year.

It is also worth bearing in mind that, in a two form entry, there is scope for re-jigging the classes. For example, my mum's school (normally two form, but three at one stage some years ago, with porta cabins) make sure that, if there are groups of disruptive children, or two children with a consistent history of issues between them, etc they can be split up when they shuffle the classes.

Personally I would prefer a larger school. I was unsure even about a 30 year entry. The ones we put on our list were all 60 entry (actually, one was three form entry, but was only an infant school, so whole school not as huge as that implies).

quip Thu 25-Apr-13 16:08:55

Mine go to a small school. Every child knows every other child. The teaching staff know every family. We have first rate academic results but the really good thing is the nurturing environment which has really helped shy ds2. I would opt for the school which feels most friendly and welcoming when you visit, though.

Vickibee Thu 25-Apr-13 16:13:41

my ds goes to a rural village school, only 106 pupils. It is lovely - I am so pleased he has settled and made friends. I has a close Knit fell about it. There is also an allotment where they grow there own food and chickens that lay eggs. Snows a lot though lost 4 days due to weather

When he finally goes to the local 2ndry it has over 1500 pupils so he may feel lost

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