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Your experience of one form entry schools?

(42 Posts)
greenicecream Mon 15-Dec-14 22:20:08

We have the choice between a single form entry primary and a three form entry infant school. Both rated outstanding, both seemed lovely, happy, thriving schools when we looked round.

The single form entry is much closer to us - easy walking distance - has an amazing reputation and I really liked it looking round, but my only concern is whether or not single form entry is a bit crazy. What if you don't get on with your class? Do the Y6s all go stir crazy and then get totally overwhelmed when it comes to secondary?

Would be grateful for any experiences you can share!

LookImStuckInTheChimney Mon 15-Dec-14 22:43:06

I taught in a single form entry (with an extra half intake in y3).

I don't think either are a perfect solution! I like single form and as a teacher I would prefer it for my DS. Yes, there may be children he doesn't get along with but that teaches a valuable lesson.

I can see what you mean about y6 going crazy but most secondary schools do transition days and our y6s.

Maybe single form better in ks1 than ks2... Sorry, that doesn't help at all does it!

I've always said that the only thing you can go on is your gut instinct. Where does your child prefer?

LookImStuckInTheChimney Mon 15-Dec-14 22:48:51

Sorry, that was meant to say our y6s always seemed to cope for the most part.

TheRealMaryMillington Mon 15-Dec-14 22:49:31

Our 3 are at a single form entry. I like the sense of a school family it creates there. The HT knows not only all the kids names, but all the parents first names and all the names of siblings too young for school etc. DS Yr5 does not seem to be finding it claustrophobic. Has a bit of a personality clash with one kid from his class but seems to be able to avoid him enough. Year 6s in the last 3 years seem to have spend the last half term weeping at the thought of leaving…. I sometimes think a bigger school could offer more specialism and resources, however.

sleeplessinderbyshire Mon 15-Dec-14 22:57:04

My DD1 is in Y1 at a single form entry school. I much preferred it to the nearby bigger school as they had a PAN of 50 and so had mixed year classes all done by age and I was worried she as a august birthday would never get to be in a Y6 class, only a mixed class with 20 Y5 kids and 10 Y6.

I was also reluctant to send her to the other local school which has a mixed KS1 class and a mixed KS2 class as I thought secondary would be overwhelming.

I'd go with gut instinct and the place where you think you'll make more friends among the parents and where kids might be likely to make friends

JubJubBirds Mon 15-Dec-14 22:59:17

IMO (please note these are VERY generslised opinions)..

Pros:
It really is like a kind family. Your DC will not be overlooked. They'll be known and well cared for.
They'll have more chances to shine at sports or drama etc as there will be less competition.
By the time they reach Y6 they will very much be a big fish in a small pond.

Cons:
Fewer resources and opportunities. Eg sports, music, drama.
If they clash with a fellow pupil or dont find a close friend in their class there is no other class to move into.
By the time they reach Y6 they will very much be a big fish in a small pond. (Yes, this is both a pro and a con.)

All that being said we could easily write a pros and cons list for bigger schools too. If you had a good feeling about the smaller school then go for it! smile

UniS Mon 15-Dec-14 22:59:31

Walking distance is good. That would outweigh the number of forms in a year group any day for me.

DS is in a one form entry school, next nearest school is 3 miles away and 3 form entry. In the smaller school the kids have to rub along with each other. Its not all sweetness and light all the time, but its not a hotbed of bulling and hatred either. They are all known by pretty much all staff , not just their current class teacher. Staff teach in more than 1 year group often, so DS in year 4 has a class teacher, a Monday teacher , who is an art/ music specialist ,& PE on Thursday is taught by a different classes teacher who is more of a PE specialist. While the yr 4 teacher is teaching french to a different year group.

It all seems to work, they go off to secondary just fine, all on the school bus with the previous years leavers who they all know. Secondary have vertical tutor groups so kids ( even from tiny schools, with only 3 kids in yr 6) can be in a tutor group with someone they recognise from primary school.

BackforGood Mon 15-Dec-14 23:06:50

I know a lot of pupils from the 1 form entry school I taught at struggled with the move to secondary (the nearest on is 10 form entry) whereas I've heard from a few sources how they (secondaries) could always tell a dc from my dcs' 3 form entry junior school as they were so much more confident in moving round different classes and different teachers and being with different groups.

I can also think of a couple of year groups where we ended up with a really imbalanced class, and no-one to swap around, help make it better.

However, there will be more opportunities to be 'picked' for things, you would have thought - be that the Nativity or the football team. Although, in truth that wasn't the case at my dcs' school, they had this amazing capacity to include 90 children in a play, and if they had too many people turn up for a Team practice, then they formed 2 teams, but I don't know how common that is.

Like most of these questions there will be advantages and disadvantages but I think the really big thing that would swing it for me, would be the fact that one is in easy walking distance. You won't believe how many times that's a life saver over the next 7 years (or longer if you have more than 1 dc)

BackforGood Mon 15-Dec-14 23:07:24

blush took too long to type and xposted with everyone else

SingingSands Mon 15-Dec-14 23:12:44

I like the certainty of our one form school. I like that the kids really know each other, and respect each other. They're not all best buddies all the time, relationships ebb and flow as normal.
I've seen anxiety from parents and kids (mostly parents) at larger schools as the end of term approaches and kids get shuffled around and separated from current best friends, jealousies spring up etc.

greenicecream Mon 15-Dec-14 23:50:19

Thanks all, really helpful. I have really overthought this so have no idea what my gut instinct is...

I really really like the smaller school (and its proximity!). The potentially imbalanced mix does worry me a bit - two years ago they had 28 boys in their reception class and two girls. It was a bit of a freak event but more likely I guess that you'll be one of a handful of your sex/ one of few who are particularly nerdy or outgoing or sporty or arty or whatever.

Mutteroo Tue 16-Dec-14 01:19:19

I went to a primary school with a single class each year. Loved the school because it felt like one big family & when I picked a school for DC I chose one with a similar feel. They had 2 forms per year, however these were very small classes (20-25). The nearest outstanding school had a 4 form entry & while it was technically the best in the area, I'm sure my DCs benefited socially & academically from the family feel at the chosen school.

SabrinaMulhollandJjones Tue 16-Dec-14 01:26:44

I would go for the single form entry every time.

NynaevesSister Tue 16-Dec-14 08:32:26

If all else is equal I would go for the closest school every time.

sunnyfrostyday Tue 16-Dec-14 08:33:47

my dcs are at a single form entry primary - in fact, all but two of the local schools are single form entry, and the children feed into the local secondaries without any problem.

It really is like a family. Every member of staff knows every child. The Head knows every single parent. It would be unthinkable that a child was overlooked, because there is no where to hide!

I think the staff find it very full on, because there are less people to share out the jobs. Every teacher has to be head of something, and run clubs etc. As a parent, though, it is great.

My eldest is year 6, and the friendships have settled now. I think any friction was really in year 4, but had settled by year 5, so mixing up a class wouldn't have had an impact. The school does spend a lot of time in infants emphasising "kindness" and building class jigsaws to show how important every child is.

It works for ys.

Strictlyison Tue 16-Dec-14 08:38:08

In my experience, single form entry schools have limited resources when it comes to dealing with children with special educational needs, or gifted and talented children. They don't have the 'mass'; specialist teachers/TAs, equipment, and at our school, space. The grounds at our single form entry are very small and the playgrounds are tiny.

Also the children are with the same class throughout obviously, and if they have a class with a few disruptive children, or if there are bullying issues, they are more difficult to solve.

SonorousBip Tue 16-Dec-14 08:51:10

I'm just coming out the other end of having 2 Dc at a single class entry primary. Ours was private, so I think concerns re lack of resources were minimised. The class size was 25-odd and I would personally not be happy with anything much below that.

I agree that walking distance trumps a lot of other things. As well as more convenient just for to-ing and fro-ing, it means your dc get to know children in the nearby roads. this has been great for all of us - someone always walking past your door to scoop up a child if you have another one sick, great for early independence etc. We have made some good friends among parents as wel, which has been nicel.

On the plus side, my dc have participated very fully in everything. They have been in school teams/orchestra/selective choir/fairly chunky parts in school plays without actually being very good at things smile. They both have a very can-do attitude because lurking in the background was never an option. They also know the teachers very well, speak confidently to adults. The teachers also know us well as a family, which I think (on balance) is nice. They were well prepared for secondary, so I don't think the jump has been too bad, but I can see how it could be.

The negatives that we saw have both been mentioned. One is that you can get a gender imbalance and that matters more as they get older. Both of my dc have really benefitted from being in a co-ed school and have genuine friendships across the class but the reality is by the time they are 9/10/11 they only want to hang out with their own gender. We nearly went below critical mass of girls with my dd in her class and we were quite concerned, although it sorted itself out quite quickly. The other is that friendship groups and issues get quite entrenched. There were social issues in one class wuth a group of children who were actually lovely individually but who together seemed to spark a lot of problems. The easiest thing to do would have been to break apart certain friendship groups by mixing classes but where that is not possible there needs to be some quite careful handling by the school.

And yes, Y6 was a total mare, but I get the impression from here that that happens quite a lot!

LittleMissSparklyGreenTinsel Tue 16-Dec-14 11:45:21

Ours is a 'half entry' ie about 15pupils per year group. DS1 has been in secondary school for a couple of years. He didn't find the whole going to a much larger school an issue. He is only just starting to make friends properly there though.
The school has a family feel and everybody knows everybody.
For me however, the being able to walk to school, would be the clincher every time.

Missmidden Tue 16-Dec-14 13:20:32

I was very naive, as I went to a tiny school myself, but the whole idea of multi form entry at primary sounded very daunting to me. My DD goes to our village school (only in reception) which is single form entry but has another infant school feeding in fro year 3 so there will be 1.5 forms per year from then with some age mixing.

It only occurred to me when doing DD's Xmas cards how few potential good friends she has, particularly as there are only 12 girls in her class. However I have already noticed that, due to fewer numers overall, there seems to be a fair bit of contact with other years, at lunchtime clubs etc, so that may widen the pool. And the short walk to the school each day is enough to override any doubts!

In terms of moving on to secondary school, clearly it will be a big deal, but in my own experience going from a whole junior class (mixed ages ) of about 20 to an 8 form entry comprehensive school, it was just something everyone did and seemed to cope with.

AmberTheCat Tue 16-Dec-14 15:23:43

My two are/were at a single form entry school (eldest is now in Y7). I think it's a really good experience. I love the fact all the kids know each other, and there's lots of playing across years at break times. The teachers all get to know the children really well. There are some downsides - fewer clubs & activities than bigger schools, and the potential for some odd demographics (my younger dd's year consists of 17 boys and only 6 girls). My elder dd did start to outgrow the school by Y6, but she also enjoyed (perhaps too much...) being top of the tree, and doesn't seem to have had any problems moving to a huge (10 form entry) secondary school, in which Year 7 alone is nearly twice the size of her whole primary school!

I think there are pros and cons to big and small schools - I'd go on proximity and feel.

ConcreteElephant Tue 16-Dec-14 19:47:47

I'm wondering if you're in the same area as me? Both schools very recent Ofsteds?

We had the same choice as you face. I liked both schools a lot and would have been happy really for DD to go to either.

That said, I was hopeful she'd get our first choice which was the one form entry - she's always been a bit overwhelmed by large groups and I felt she might get lost in the larger school. She takes time to warm to a situation and I had visions of her standing at the edge of games and activities, unless a teacher noticed and encouraged her along.

She's at the smaller school and just bounces in every day. She has settled beautifully and loves her class. The HT knows all the children by name and it is like a big family. Her class is slightly girl-heavy but not too much, and they seem a delightful cohort of children. She's making friends and any unwelcome behaviour seems to be stamped on.

They'll never have the same clubs and opportunities as the larger school but there's a good mix of sports, crafts, and other interests catered for.

I understand that they work very hard to prepare the children for transition to secondary, which, yes, could be a concern from a small school. In our case the larger school shares a site with the secondary so their children do have a real advantage as most are likely to follow on there.

The smaller school was right for DD and I don't regret that decision. She's flourishing. The catchment is very small so it also means a nice short walk to school each day and also that all her friends live very nearby - this makes after school play and teas really easy, it's great.

Smartiepants79 Tue 16-Dec-14 20:03:02

I work in a small school and my DD has just started in reception at another small school. 16 in a year group. She loves it and I would choose a small school every time.
We do occasionally have inbalanced year groups but that should be very rare in a 30 intake. They are never going to be in more than 30 as a class anyway.
Our children rarely struggle with the transion. They leave us well prepared and confident. The children in our school have friends in every year group so when they move schools there are already kids there who know them.
I love the atmosphere of my daughters school. They all know each other and care about them. My DD has had Christmas cards from 11yr olds!
I think the 'less opportunities' thing is a bit of a red herring. It's not my experience. In fact I think our kids get more opportunities because they are part of a small group. We don't have to pick and choose, they can all have a go!
Please choose the place where you think your child will be happy and confident and valued as an individual. The rest will come naturally.

ChocolateWombat Tue 16-Dec-14 21:01:51

Personally I like 1 form entry for infants (KS1) but not juniors (ks2).
The reasons I don't like it for KS2 are;
- not enough teachers to split things like maths and literacy into proper ability groups rather than just tables.
- limited extra curricular due to limited no.s of staff.

Small seemed cosy for infants but limiting by the age of 11. Fine if you have separate infants and juniors.

Remember that what might be good for your little 4 year old might not be best for them as a huge 11 year old. Look at Year 6 as well as reception and see what the one form school is like for those big ones.
Having said all this, many are very happy and do well in such schools....obviously! It's just worth considering these things if you do have a choice.

H3adt3acher Tue 16-Dec-14 21:02:33

If it's outstanding then you'll have nothing to worry about.

Go and visit - get a feel.

JuniperTisane Tue 16-Dec-14 21:22:14

I also have a decision to make between a 1.5 form entry (pan 45) community village school and a 1 form entry small village school, both on paper are similar in terms of various results and scores, both are Good ofsted (no outstandings round here). We have to drive to wherever we go though so no 5 minute walks here.

If I were to choose on paper I would probably choose the larger community school which seems to have slightly more space, slightly bigger facilities, a great preschool attached (which DS1 goes to now)

But on the day we arranged to see both schools, the smaller village school won the day simply because they were interested in us, the headmaster has an attitude and a flair for wringing the best out of every last piece of space, every tiny bit of funding, every single little opportunity has been turned into a success.

In contrast, the larger supposedly better-on-paper school were lazy about talking to us after we had been whizzed round, we were shovelled out of the door after about 15 minutes.

You have to see the schools. Its such a revelation.

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