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Experiences of small village primaries?

(66 Posts)
CityDweller Tue 02-Jun-15 15:26:09

We are thinking of moving from city to a village with DC who'll start school in a couple of years. Looked round the village primary, which seems lovey but small. As in, small building/ classrooms (although tons of amazing outdoor space).
Year groups are small (11 in reception this year) and they combine year groups in the middle years.
Kids, teachers and other staff all seemed lovey and happy. But I was wondering whether it would end up being a bit claustrophobic/ narrow for the kids. I really have no idea as this is the first primary school I've looked at.
Anyone with experience of a similar sized school? How did you DC like it?

mrz Tue 02-Jun-15 20:31:29

I attended a very small village primary school there were 3 children in my year group and 30 in the whole school. I loved it but grammar school came as a shock!

My own child attended small village primary 10 per year group. My son found reception a struggle but that was down to the teacher who left before my daughter started. My daughter in particular thrived.

malefridgeblindness Tue 02-Jun-15 20:45:06

My dc go to one like this. It's idyllic. Lots of fresh air, the occasional sheep in the playground and everyone knows everyone. There is a limited choice for friends but the kids have to learn to rub along with everyone. It's nurturing and friendly, and the small class sizes are good too - even though we have mixed age teaching.

The mixed age thing has worked quite well for us as the kids work in ability rather than age groups for maths and English so they're all used to being mixed up in different groups.

In the down side the football team would be beaten by most large schools' teams but we only ever play other small schools. And it's not hard to get a place on the team either gringringrin

CityDweller Tue 02-Jun-15 21:38:32

Hmm, thanks, that's all very encouraging.

So no issues with limited scope/ horizons for the kids? I guess my concern, which is a little vague and based on nothing really, is that DCs' world ends up being very small - we'd live walking distance from the village school and life would mostly be this quite small school (100ish pupils all-in) and home.

On the one hand that sounds quite appealing, but on the other hand I worry it might be limiting in terms of developing their curiosity about the world. But my concerns really are quite vague and not based on anything - DCs are still a couple of years off starting school, so this is the first one I've looked round, city, village or otherwise...

MyFirstName Tue 02-Jun-15 21:44:07

My DD was a big fish in a teeny pond during her first 3 years in a class of 6. Similar set up - mixed Y1/Y2 Y3/Y4. Year groups did mix a bit but not completely. She was (is) very bright and confident and friendly - and seemingly thrived there. We moved to a school with 20-25 in the classes and she absolutely blossomed - peers to challenge her more, more people to be friends with, less intensity of such a small year group.

Despite the "small classes are the ideal" spouted everywhere, imvho there is totally "too small". And having seen 6 and 25 - I would always, always recommend to err on the side of bigger.

Also, am now a Governor - and that teeny size is reflects a teennnnnyyy budget.

TheWildRumpyPumpus Tue 02-Jun-15 21:47:25

Our village school is a bit bigger, about 20 per year, but PAN is 30 so it just depends on applications.

We moved from London where it was 90 per year, so completely different. Both DC have settled in well, have loads of friends and are loving the countryside activities. Friends mostly live in the next few streets, we have fields and parks galore to play in and I have no issues letting them wander a few houses down the lane to meet friends.

Haggisfish Tue 02-Jun-15 21:55:53

I like not being in a small village school as, ime, they are much more likely to spring unexpected, and numerous, dressing up days and fund raising events on you. I cba with these so this is a bonus for me!

SocksRock Tue 02-Jun-15 21:57:56

Our village school has a PAN of 15, and combined year groups. It's like a big family, everyone knows each other and we have a 200 yard walk to school. Lots of friends within a 5min walk.

I do worry that they don't have a big circle to choose from if they fall out - but then they do have to get along with everyone.

I don't have any experience of bigger schools, but I do love the cosy atmosphere of ours

Gorja Tue 02-Jun-15 22:00:16

I've recently moved from a city, albeit on the outskirts to a village.

Got four kids in primary who had been at a large infant/junior school with an intake of 75 per year. New school has 95 in the whole school.

Kids love it. Much more spontaneous. More outside space which is made full use of. Mixed age classes but as said above they are streamed according to ability.

Older kids encouraged to run clubs and look out for the little ones.

Close relationships with teachers ( four of them) and head teacher.

They do a lot of joined up things with the other village primaries as well as the local secondary schools. Many more trips out at no cost or very small cost to parents. So lots of chance to meet other children.

The older kids were dead set against the move and didn't want to live in a village or change schools. We've been here four months and they have both said they are really pleased we have moved and wish we had done it earlier.

An aside from schools the kids have so much more freedom to go out with friends etc and all the adults look out for all of them. There is actually a village set up that we all cook tea for around five and feed whichever kids are in or near whichever house. This way there is no chasing round after kids and trying to get them home yet they all get fed!

milkysmum Tue 02-Jun-15 22:06:14

My dd is in year 1 in a small village school. 12 in her year group, 7 in reception this time. She loves it. She knows every child in the school by name. In after school clubs the older ones play well along side the younger ones etc... I cannot imagine a year group of 30!

CityDweller Tue 02-Jun-15 22:07:29

Gorja that afternoon tea set up sounds amazing! I'm not sure the village we're thinking of moving to is quite so communal/ joined-up though...

What sort of things do you kids do after school and on weekends with friends locally/ in the village? I'm a bit worried life would be limited to the school, home and the one (slightly crap, although apparently marked for an upgrade) playground in the village.

saintlyjimjams Tue 02-Jun-15 22:12:05

Swings and roundabouts. My younger 2 went to a small primary -15 per class (ish), as small as 12 at times. Ds2 struggled in years 5 & 6 - it was too small & problems with one child became very big (nowhere to hide) but has absolutely blossomed in a secondary with a year group of 170 odd. He's so much happier. Ds3 is currently in year 5 & happy with the small classes & years - he may find secondary overwhelming.

Depends on the child & particular mix of kids in each year - ds3'scyrar group has a very different set of personalities than ds2's had.

roundtable Tue 02-Jun-15 22:12:30

I do some days at a small village primary school with around 60 children.

When I first started there I thought it would be idyllic, however the behaviour is worse than the so called 'challenging' schools. I later found out it was nearly closed.

Do go and check. I'm sure it's lovely, I worked in a village school today that was just brilliant but just because it's small, doesn't mean it's better.

TheRoseAndTheFire Tue 02-Jun-15 22:15:41

We have just moved house so DD has moved from a small village primary - just under in 100 pupils in total - to a much larger primary.

In many ways village school was great
- Real family feel
- Everyone knew everyone else. Head was on first name terms with all the parents and knew exactly who your child was. As did the office staff.
- Small class sizes up to Yr 2 so more individual attention.
- Lots of fresh air, trips to the farm down the road etc.

Cons
- Limited opportunities for mixing with other children. There were 14 kids in DDs class. Only 3 of them were girls so it was lopsided in that respect too. If your child falls out with their friends, there is less opportunity to seek alternative friendships.
- Everyone knew everyone else. While this can be lovely, it can also be a bit claustrophobic.
- I started to worry about what would happen at Secondary. Secondaries here are massive - anything from 1000 - 2000 students. No matter how confident the child, that is going to be a huge shock.
- Small schools also have small budgets generally. There was always a NQT employed and quite a lot of pressure on parents to support the PTA with donations etc.

We moved to a town recently and DD now attends a large primary. There are 90 in her year group. I'm surprised by how well she's adapted. Although I do miss the personal touch of her old school, I think a larger primary is probably the better choice for her.

RaisingSteam Tue 02-Jun-15 22:18:50

Our school has about 100 children. The only issue is that one DS has very few friends as he doesn't get on with 7 of the other 8 boys in his year group. One kid with a strong personality is ringleader of the little gang that's excluded him. A bigger school would have had more choice of friends, well hopefully. He's in year 6 so soon to experience that.

On the other hand the teaching has been good and the personal, family like atmosphere is really nice, the staff always have time for you. The children all know each other. It's been a really safe space where the children have had a personal interest taken in them.

So it's got pro's and con's. If other things about the village suit you - go for it. Kids do well who've been to all kinds and sizes of school.

JustCallMeDory Tue 02-Jun-15 22:23:07

Just because you're in a small village, it doesn't mean you can't do all the usual after school activities.

Mine do after school clubs, piano lessons, ballet, swimming lessons (in the nearest town), cubs, guides, whatever. Your local town will probably become a focus for this kind of thing so - as long as you're not more than 20ish mins away - you'll get the best of both worlds.

fatbottomgirl67 Tue 02-Jun-15 22:27:44

My 3 dc have all attended the local village primary school and have thrived . All classes joined and just 4 teachers and a head. Fab atmosphere, all look out for each other. Great way to grow up. Last one leaving on the summer and will be sad it's come to an end. Plenty if choice of secondary schools to go to next so all head in different directions but have all remained freinds with original school mates . Staff fantastic at stretching the brightest kids and the opportunities for shared learning with other local schools has been good. Really good choice for us and not only a great start to their education but hopefully they have made firm friends for the future .

mappemonde Tue 02-Jun-15 22:38:05

I looked round both v small schools (thinking they would be better) and our (nearer) 2 form PAN of 60 school and was surprised by how much the teeny schools bothered me. In one I looked at there were only 3 girls in reception and I could really see how minor friendship rifts could cause huge issues and how social opportunities and eg birthdays could be affected. Also, dd is athletic and that school could not offer much in the way of sport as teams were made up of such a variety of age and ability they struggled to participate in stuff with other schools.

We went with the bigger school, with some trepidation due to class size of 30, and it has been brilliant. Masses of social stuff, parties etc and loads of learning and mixing opportunities.

A large factor for me was ease though, and I'm also v glad we went with our nearest school.

mappemonde Tue 02-Jun-15 22:39:17

And a bit of me still still thinks small = better!

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Tue 02-Jun-15 22:45:13

Our village school was lovely but dd ended up the only girl in a class of 15 boys. At first there were 3 but the others left. There was plenty going on, no fewer opportunities to do sport, music etc than at the new school which is 3 times as big. I think if you happen to find friends like you it's great, if not it can be miserable.

PotatoesNotProzac Tue 02-Jun-15 23:11:17

Small schools don't have the resources or experience of large schools. Very small schools worry me.

For example large schools will have lots of experience of all the common SENs and children arriving not speaking English and will have TAs trained to deal with these things.

Smaller schools won't have all of this expertise.

Also in a very small school it's easy to be the best or the worst at something which at a bigger school you'd be avg at. So you could think you're dreadful at reading or running or speaking, when really you're totally average.

Mopmay Tue 02-Jun-15 23:36:49

I used to think small primaries must be idyllic. That was pre DC.
I have a very boisterous non girly FD who plays football and several other sports a week she 5. She hates pink and princesses. She is not a stereotypical girl, I have a DS who hates footy and loves drama. Not stereotypical either.
Think about what life skills you want them to learn at primary.
Tolerance, diversity and resilience were important for me.
Mine are at a big diverse city primary, no issue with friends as there is 90 per year. Tons of extra curricular stuff of every type, They leave very confident and ready for high school with huge range of friends sync interests.

teacherwith2kids Tue 02-Jun-15 23:40:36

Very bref because it's late - very small village primaries are fine for a 'middle of the road' child.

If your child is 'towards one end of the bell curve' in anything - particularly but not wholly ability - it can be much less good, because of the lack of peer group. DS in particular moved from local village school PAN of 20 to town school with PAN of 60 and absolutely took off socially and academically because he had near-peers at last.

Also an issue for sports teams, again a big deal for DS in particular.

PAN of 30 as a minimum, would be my 'generalisation', BUT for children who fall into the middle range of the school's intake a small number is less of a problem than it is for outliers.

Walkingbkwrm Tue 02-Jun-15 23:43:08

I would be reluctant to move somewhere where a really small school is your only viable choice. My first school was a primary school with about 50 pupils (total) and I hated it. Clash of personalities with the teacher didn't help but really it was claustrophobic and they didn't have a lot of experience with quirky or different from (their) norm kids. My parents managed to move me in Yr3 to a "big" (actually 1 form intake but with 25+ kids per class) school some distance away and despite the commute I loved it and hit the ground running. Several of my classmates eventually had problems adapting when they got to secondary. Otoh I know people from the village who went to the village school and have very fond memories of it and did fine at secondary - I think you have to be the right kind of child though.

What are your other potential options OP, are there other, slightly further away schools that you could feasibly get into from the village?

lavenderhoney Tue 02-Jun-15 23:51:24

My DC went from a huge international school with huge year groups to a teeny tiny primary with max 50 DC. They love it. There are mixed year groups, lots of attention in teaching and pastoral care, teachers are excellent, brilliant breakfast club and after school childcare and clubs run by parents and/ or children, and yes, you're always on the teamsmile

Older children look after younger ones, and at first I worried about the mix of year groups but it's fine. There is no where to hide in a small school, if you can't do something or struggle it gets noticed really quickly, you aren't left at the back to mess about whilst the teachers move through the work, overworked and admin commitments etc. there is a great PTA and everyone makes an effort. If you can't it's ok as well, it's a nice place. And, interestingly in a small school, a huge diversity of language and nationalities.

My DC do plenty of after school activities in the local town and really enjoy seeing friends out and about, making new ones, and being part of the small community.

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