Small school vs 2 form entry?(23 Posts)
There are four schools in the area which I'd consider sending my son to.
Two of them have two classes per year group, each with 30 children in (aprox). The other two schools are samall village schools with 5-10 children per year (so mixed-aged classes).
I will of course view all of the schools later in the year but I was wondering if people could give me their experiences of smaller schools? My main concern is how well my son would adjust to high school compared to a child who had been to a larger primary school.
My preference would be for the bigger school. That's for a number of reasons, not just the adapting to secondary one (which hadn't occurred to me, though my DD is at a small village school). In a single year class you are likely to get teaching that is better adapted to that year group - there is more time for the teacher to differentiate between ability groups. A bigger school will also probably have better resources, and perhaps a more ambitious head.
If you Had asked me years ago I would have said small school, and then fought for it, tooth and nail and I did!
It was all ok until my youngest daughters year had many more boys than girls in a small class of 26
There are so few girls and it's been a real problem. So in hindsight I would choose a bigger school.
There is also a big jump to high school sizes. At one point I was looking at ds going from 180 in a school to 1890. The one he goes to has 900 and that's really small for a high school and feel big to him
Thanks for your reply. That's a very good point about the resources (especially science and PE usually).
One of the schools has a fantastic head at the moment, but that could change soon of course.
One of the larger schools is catholic - do children need to be christened as catholic to go there?
I'd go for the bigger classes. There will be better resources and more choice of friends.
2 FE is a small school!
5 - 10 children per year sounds like a disaster for lots of reasons.
- mixed age teaching is harder for teacher
- likely to be bottom or top of class (neither of which is great)
- not enough people to be friends with
- not able to run as many interventions.
- not able to be separated from another child if needed.
We moved from a village as the school was tiny - between 4-8 a year . Already knew some parents at school - nothing was sacred ! Everyone knew everyone else's child's levels etc and if your child vaguely lively , they stood out like a sore thumb . School did have good SAT results . Some may like but I think mine both benefited from having larger social groups to choose from , a wide range of facilities and the opportunity to be in various teams .
Small schools more likely to close ...
I wouldn't even look at such a small school. Bigger school has so many advantages over a small school in my opinion. My main concern would be the wider social circle of friends.
I think 5-10 is far too small. I also don't like mixed classes - I moved my son from a school that has mixed year groups to a huge primary school (3 x 30 entry per year). The bigger school has far more resources, after school clubs etc and it's not claustrophobic. It also meant that my son moved to his secondary school totally unfazed by the size - he says the children who struggled the most are those were those who came from small prep schools who just aren't used to the class sizes.
My DD is in a school year which is very boy heavy so there are only 10 girls in her class of 30 and it has caused problems with friendship groups...if you ended up in a tiny school where it was a boy or girl heavy year it could be even more difficult.
Also, as KohINoorPencil says - you may consider sending your children to those schools but you need to check their entry criteria - you may not qualify/be out of catchment/not be the right religion etc. They are only preferences at the end of the day.
We moved from a small school to a two form entry and much prefer the larger school!
If you have more than one form - the teachers will plan together - ideas resources outings etc - which will give them more time - trips will be cheaper in bulk - better choice of friends - can move class if there are difficulties - will know lots more kids in the area for after school clubs - more parties (not sure that's a bonus!)
A bigger school is likely to have more staff, better facilities and a wider range of opportunities (after school clubs etc). Your child will also have access to a wider social group and a more diverse range of abilities.
It would be no contest for me, as I can't see smaller schools offering any significant advantages. DD goes to a two-form entry school, and it is still small enough for all of the staff to know all of the kids, and for there to be a lot of mixing between age groups etc.
Teachers planning lessons together is a huge plus in my view.
I'd prefer the bigger school. 60 in a year is not so big that it will be overwhelming but it does allow for good resources and wider friendship options. My DD is in a 2 form year group of 60 children. She is quite a lively tom boy in what appears to be a year group where a large proportion of the girls are very into ballet and other more traditional girl interests. She has about 8 good friends (girls and boys) who have some similar interests to her. In a small school I think her choice of friends may well have been very restricted and she would probably have struggled socially.
Thanks for all your replies. I was leaning more towards the larger schools to begin with but I think it definitely sounds like the better option (although I know there's no guarantee he will get in).
Aside from the lack of resources etc. in a small school, I really don't like the idea of everyone knowing everyone's business (which is quite likely)!
I am HT of an oversubscribed small school.Interesting to see the general feeling is against schools like ours.
Lots of people think small schools are better than large, but having worked in both, I'd prefer a larger one. One of the problems is that, if there are only 2 or 3 boys or girls in a year group and they don't get on, it can be pretty lonely. Whereas in a bigger school, there will be far more opportunities for friendships.
It's the quality of teaching that's important, not the class sizes. The small school I was in had 3 teachers - one was average, one was quite good and the other was the most useless teacher I have ever come across. At the larger school, all the teachers are good, many excellent.
My boys go to a small school (not as small as 5-10 per year group, we have a PAN of 17). I love it. DS2 started in reception in September. And he knows the name of the new girl who started in the year3-4 class this term after she moved to the area. Everyone knows everyone. This only works if everyone is happy with this of course - so it helps if you have similar backgrounds, eg most mums working etc so you fit in. Yes the resources are less but we tried a two class intake for 6 weeks. Didn't even meet the HT. Current school the HT says good morning to each and every child as they come into school and they all greet her back. It has a good feeling for me.
just checking: Presumably your son is looking to start Sept 2017 or later? You mention going to visit the schools later in the year. But applications for Sept 2016 intake close January 15, that is, tomorrow. (In England at least)
You will have to check the admissions documents for the catholic school to know if unbaptised, non-catholic children get in. That is, which admissions category they fall under. Then check on your LEA webpage for a document that will tell you which categories children were admitted in last year. So if 'your' catholic school admits 1) Looked after children, 2) baptised catholic children who attend church, 3) other baptised catholic children, 4) any other children (just as an example); and last year the last child admitted was in category 2; then chances for you in category 4 are very low.
Some catholic schools don't fill up with catholic children, so non-catholic children have good chances of getting in. In that case you would have to visit the school to find out how strongly 'catholic' they are, and decide if you are happy with that level of catholic ethos.
On the same LEA webpage you can see how good your chances are to get into the other 3 schools you are considering.
Personally, I much prefer smaller schools. I think that of course the kids won't always be best friends, but in a small school they will learn to rub along with people who have different interests and opinions. In larger schools they are more likely to find like-minded friends, which is of course nice; but they may also learn that you 'deal' with conflict by avoiding the person, and playing with someone else.
I personally also like mixed-age classes, especially for children very old or very young in year. A September-born in a regular class will always be the oldest; in a mixed-year class the same child will experience being oldest in some years, and being in the middle, age wise, in other years. August-born children will get the chance to not be the youngest.
Differentiation being more difficult in mixed-age classes, I don't quite buy. A regular class of 30 can have 30 children with hugely varied levels of ability. A mixed-age class of 25 has, of course, only 25 children - and often the schools can organise their mixed-age classes to reduce the spread of abilities. E.g. the very able Y1 kid can be taught at the same level as the averagely able Y2 kids. Unless you have extreme outliers - but you get those in regular classes as well.
My children went to a 60 entry infants school and thrived. All children have to sit next to children they do not especially get along with. They cannot be avoided in any school and, professionally, I heard the biggest squeals from small village schools when a child with emotional or behavioural difficulties started. The parents are ostracised, the child is too and the happy friendly atmosphere is maintained but the SEN child will be shown the door in undue haste! Some small schools just do not cope well with challenging children and will have a teaching Head.
My elder child is an August birthday. At no time would I ever have agreed to her being separated from her correct year group. She did not need to be "the eldest in the class". She was already almost the cleverest in the class! No September born was brighter than her so why would she need to be taught with younger children just to feel the oldest? All the children were valued at her school and no-one thought a summer birthday was a barrier to learning. Small schools can reinforce stereotypes instead of educating all children according to their needs. My children loved being in a recorder orchestra, sports, plays, choirs and all the good things a larger school can do. They were confident and much more able to mix with other children than the ones who joined the junior school from a local village school. Those children seemed very babyish!
Go bigger if you can but check the admission criteria for the Catholic school. They usually administer their own admissions and their admissions policy should be on their web site.
We have an amazing school near us with a 6 form entry for infants. They are able to provide so much as they can draw on combined resources. Yet they are friendly and caring. They can afford to offer languages at Junior level as well as much more which the smaller school can't. Feedback from the secondaries is that children from this school find the transition far less stressful and were far more prepared. Those from the one form entry schools tended to find secondary transition more daunting. All generalisations but something to note.
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