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Small School vs Big School Dilema

(24 Posts)
goodyear2015 Sun 28-Dec-14 22:51:39

I am sure that this has been done many times before but would be very grateful on any views.

Looking at 2 schools for entry onto Reception 2015 for which my daughter has entrance examinations for in January. (My son would be starting in 2017)

First School has 4 form intake with 70 across the year group.
Second School has 2 form intake with 24 across the year group.

Facilities wise they are both pretty equal, swimming pool, acres of space etc. The First School probably has newer facilities but on the whole there is not much of a difference here.

Both schools do well academically - both in the top 70 for A-Level results.

Where they differ is school 1, from year 6 becomes 2 schools - 1 boys with 70 in the year group and 1 girls with 70 in the year group.
School 2 remains with the same number (sometimes a few more) until 18.

I have been to visit both and really like both. The only factor which differentiates them is the year group sizes.

Any thoughts on year group sizes?

Thanks

inthename Mon 29-Dec-14 11:57:59

24 in a year group is very small for the senior school. I'd be looking at what GCSE and A level subjects they actually offer, as a year group that small would surely affect what is available.
With the other school, do you want single sex senior school?
Bear in mind also that what looks attractive for a 4 yr old may not suit the same child by the time they are 11 and definitely may be 'outgrown' being in the same place by 16-18yrs.

Reindeerballs Mon 29-Dec-14 14:55:50

Is have had experience of small schools and I think 24 is too small. Not only for curriculum diversity but also for choice of friends.

goodyear2015 Mon 29-Dec-14 15:44:55

Reindeerballs I was worried with there being too few children for my daughter in terms of making friends so thanks for saying that.

Inthename I have looked at the subjects offered and they teach even if there is only 1 child wanting to take that subject for GCSE or A-Level. They have also given us the past 20 years of A-Level results and there is very often just one child taking a subject. I don't mind single sex senior as the boys and girls' school's are on the same campus.

Unfortunately there are not that many schools to choose from near us as we live in the middle of nowhere (the only other is a boarding school and I am not so keen). School 1 is a 45min drive and School 2 is a 15min drive so we are choosing a school from 4-18 unless we move.

Thanks for your comments

goshhhhhh Mon 29-Dec-14 15:57:52

I was the only one in my school that did a certain A level. It doesn't make for good teaching or learning. Also friendship issues in small schools are magnified. I would choose larger school.

redskybynight Mon 29-Dec-14 16:53:42

I also think 24 in a year group could be very difficult for friendships.
Presumably there will be other options at age 11? Why not think about what is right for 7-11 and then think again in a couple of years when you know more about the school?

Littlefish Mon 29-Dec-14 17:02:58

Being the only one, or in a very small group doing a levels is miserable. I did it, and would do everything in my power to make sure that it didn't happen to my dd.

I also think that class sizes of 12 are much too small, even when there are 24 in the year group. I've taught classes of that size, and been part of them as a pupil, and can honestly say that I didn't enjoy them as an adult or as a child. Small classes can be very intense and very difficult with regard to friendships.

I agree with others that you should be thinking about education up to 11 only to start with. You have no idea at this stage of what sort of school would be best for your child after that point.

goodyear2015 Mon 29-Dec-14 17:48:10

Thanks for your opinions, good to hear.

I am surprised there isn't anyone in favour of smaller schools but it has definitely helped with making our decision from your experiences.

goshhhhhh Mon 29-Dec-14 17:51:28

The thing is ...in most people's experience both schools are small...or rather one is small & the other is tiny. grin

goodyear2015 Mon 29-Dec-14 18:10:07

Ha, yes gosh, I see your point!

OriginalGreenGiant Mon 29-Dec-14 22:19:26

I'll go against the grain...I'd go for the smaller school.

My ds's are in a small school with 25 in ds1s class and 17 in ds2's and a 1 form intake. There are about 180 in the school from Nursery-Year 6.

It's lovely, with a real community feel. The teachers and head know all the dc and parents. When the dc have their twice yearly report, the Headteacher writes a very personal paragraph on each dc (handwritten, none of the copy andpaste stuff!). I can't imagine that level of...'involvedness' (what word am I looking for?) with each dc in a huge school.

Picturesinthefirelight Mon 29-Dec-14 22:24:22

The smaller one is fine for primary but I'd be concerned at secondary.

Dd is at a senior school with between 18-26 per year group. There are compromises academically for example much more mixed ability teaching, it can be hard on the teachers to really support the strugglers whilst extending the high achievers.

On the othe hand pastoral care us very good & every child is known by every teacher whether they actually teach them or not.

goodyear2015 Mon 29-Dec-14 22:41:54

Thank you OrignialGreenGiant and Picturesinthefirelight. Good to hear some positive views on small schools.

The academics I am not too concerned about as they climbed to 33 in the league tables a few years back it is socially I am more concerned about. What if there is a particularly difficult girl in dd year group, with only 6 girls in her class, dd could end up being pushed and not really have anywhere else to go. Girl's can be incredibly unkind from experience in an all girls school

OriginalGreenGiant Tue 30-Dec-14 19:28:31

I think that is always a risk original.

My ds's have both thrived in their small school, but I do think for some it could cause difficulties with making friends.

We've been lucky - ds1 is quiet but also independent and laid back (I'll stop short of calling him a 'loner' but he does have those tendencies). For him, it wouldn't matter if there were 10 or 500 in his year. He flits between groups, plays with people when he feels like it then wanders away to do something himself. Ds2 is the polar opposite, a social butterfly that loves to entertain and pretty much the pied piper of kids in his class. So we've never had any concerns over small classes iyswim.

I don't think you know until you try - but IMO when it works well, a small school is fantastic.

AngelCauliflower Wed 31-Dec-14 19:20:51

I started ds at a small school but it didn't feel right. He didn't seem very happy and it didn't feel right to me - not sure why exactly. Moved him to big school and he is so much happier and so am I. I think it has made him much more confident socially.

I'm debating this now for a primary school. I am tempted by the smaller school with great pastoral care and a lovely community feel. They are 1st intake and mixed year teaching after reception so 30 overall. I just don't know if the positives outweigh the negatives (of smaller circle for friendships ) Our local school is 35 intake and usually takes more on appeal and that sounds huge to me with associated negatives.

I think I'd go smaller for primary- would you be able to switch to the larger for secondary?

Leeds2 Fri 02-Jan-15 11:00:06

I would be happy with the smaller school for primary, but not secondary. I would be concerned as to whether the smaller school was financially viable, and also things like whether there were enough interested children to form sports teams, orchestra etc.

MilkRunningOutAgain Fri 02-Jan-15 11:26:17

It's actually sports that would worry me, can't really see the possibility of forming teams with such small class sizes, my DS is extremely sporty and socialises mainly through his sports team friends, this was not at all evident up to about age 9/10 and comes from him, I didn't think to encourage it at a young age as I'm not sporty myself. I find it hard to see how he would thrive In such a set up. But perhaps there are opportunities sports wise outside school? And music/ drama? What opportunities are there?

Picturesinthefirelight Fri 02-Jan-15 12:07:01

Yes, sports would be a concern. It's not applicable for dd as she doesn't do sport & very few children do ar her school. The drama & dance provision is outstanding though & that's why she goes there.

goodyear2015 Fri 02-Jan-15 21:19:38

The sports is a really good consideration especially for DS.

They are very into Swimming and swim twice a week at the smaller school whereas the bigger school only have swimming for a term.

The smaller school are very competitive in sports which were certainly not on the curriculum when I was at school - basketball and flux.

The bigger school have A&B teams for Rugby, Football, Netball, Hockey.

However both DD and DS do activities outside of school - currently Rugby, Horse Riding, Tennis, Ballet and Swimming.

We could switch for secondary but I suppose I am taking the risk that they won't want to move.

I worry that for secondary school there won't be enough pupils to bounce ideas off in the small school.

I think I have made a decision and then change my mind again.

I am going to book to go and view both schools again and see if I get any different vibes this time

Goodyear bar the fact mine don't offer up to secondary I am in exactly the same situation; I think I've decided then I waver again.

I hear that often girls have friendship struggles around year 5/6 anyway; regardless of a class of 30 or less.

I agree with my husband I like the feel and ethos of the smaller school (at primary level) but worry about (for us) losing the local friends option. I chose to change school for A levels and so did my sister where only maybe 6 from the school left. I don't think you can know what they'll do for secondary already.

Strawberrybubblegum Fri 09-Jan-15 23:04:53

Just to give you a different perspective, I went to a senior school with 30 girls in the year, and I loved it. As a pp had said, it gives a lovely feel to a school when all the teachers really know every single one of the pupils.

I suppose, for friendship groups, we had more choice than the smaller school you're considering, since it was 30 girls rather than mixed. IIRC, there were about 5 main 'groups', and a certain amount of shifting around between them.

Again, I have a different perspective on being the only one studying a subject: I was the only student in my physics class, and I loved it! I got to do all sorts of interesting experiments which I might not have been able to do in a bigger class (one of my setups took up a large section of the lab for a couple of weeks) and I got to truly explore physics 1-to-1 with an interested and interesting teacher. I still feel really lucky to have had that chance.

You say you've looked at the subjects on offer: that would be my main concern with a small school. My school did have a very traditional (limited) offering: I remember being amazed when I got to Uni and had friends who had studied psychology or economics at school. One of my friends had to go to a linked school to study German (we only had French)! But that was 20 years ago.

We did absolutely fine for sports, music and drama. Thinking about it, I wonder whether being such a small school meant that people got involved with more things. You didn't have to be exceptionally sporty /musical to represent the school - most people could if they wanted to (and did). Sports teams drew from mixed years. I can't remember how we did sports lessons, but I don't remember it being a problem.

I understand your concern about bouncing ideas off people, but I'm actually not sure whether it's a problem at school age. I'm very academic, and certainly in my working life I love technical chat with like-minded, clever people. But when I was at school, we didn't really do that. There were 3 of us who were at a noticeably different level, but we weren't even in the same friendship groups (not deliberately - just that we chose our friends for other reasons) My input was from the teachers, and reading of course. Maybe that's different these days with the increased focus on students working together. And maybe it's down to the individual's character. But I'm happy that I had a lovely mix of friends. My brother, who went to a larger boy's school, did become friends with the other 'clever kids', but I had the impression that was partly self-defence: they were seen as a bit odd, and stuck together. Whereas in my lovely small friendly school, that wasn't necessary (that might also be a difference between girls and boys though)

Strawberrybubblegum Sat 10-Jan-15 11:25:06

Oh, and my school did also have 2 forms, but friendship groups spanned the forms. So your daughter would have 11 other girls to be friends with, not 5.

Opopanax Sat 10-Jan-15 22:29:23

You don't need to have a teeny tiny school for the teachers to know everyone. My school had approx 80 in a year and 120 in the sixth form years and we still all knew everyone. There were no classes smaller than 20 (I think tiny classes are massively overrated) and the school is always in the top five or ten in the country. I would hate a tiny (less than 60 in a year) secondary as much as I'd hate a huge one. Conversely, I wouldn't like more than 60 in a year for primary. Primary children need an entirely different environment from secondary children. They can always move later on (if they don't want to, at least it means they are happy).

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