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Class sizes: How small is too small?

(24 Posts)
cartesiandebt Tue 31-May-16 08:14:54

Bit of a dilemma, would welcome any advice! DD2 is nearing the end of Yr2 at a local independent girls school. The school is lovely - it's a very nurturing, gentle environment, beautiful grounds etc. DD loves her teacher and on the whole has been very happy there. There are two flies in the ointment however, the first of which is the size of her class.

There are currently 8 little girls in her class but this will be reduced to just 7 when she starts Yr3 in Sept. Her two best friends (probably also the brightest two from the class) have left to go to another independent school nearby, mostly because their parents felt they weren't being challenged enough, and dd isn't as close to any of the girls that are left.

DD is fairly bright (being one of the older ones in her year is also a factor) and she has mentioned that the work is very easy. I haven't been too concerned about this to date because I think a nurturing, play-based setting is more important in the early years, at least until the end of Yr 2. The school that her friends have moved to is bigger, more academically rigorous and also co-educational. Going into yr3, there will be 2 classes of 20 children. DD is pretty sociable and I think she finds the small class size quite limiting. Speaking to friends with children at the other school, I gather that the children there make incredible progress, especially in the upper prep. However I think they also seem more sophisticated than at dd's school, where a slightly innocent, old fashioned atmosphere prevails.

Just to add, the second school is much nearer to where we live and we intend to move dd there at secondary anyway. So, the question is, would you move her at the beginning of Year 3? Or should we wait another year and see what happens at her current school?

Emochild Tue 31-May-16 08:22:33

I'd be moving sooner rather than later

7 children in a class is madness -personally I wouldn't want any less than 15 and even that would have me worrying about friendships and academic challenge

WhoKnowsWhereTheTimeG0es Tue 31-May-16 08:33:05

I'd move sooner rather than later. I went to a village school with about 50 pupils for the whole of primary, in the oldest class there were about 15 of us covering three year groups. Academically it was fine, but socially it was a bit of a nightmare, stuck with such a small pool of potential friends, year after year, everyone ended up irritating one another, arguing, little factions forming and it was such a relief to get away to a bigger school for yr 7.

My DCs have been to a single form primary, 35 to a class in KS2 and that is bad enough, they've all been together for years and in both cases by year 5 there has been a lot of friction. At least with two classes to a year group in your proposed school they can be mixed around year to year to try and halt the build up of friction.

cartesiandebt Tue 31-May-16 08:36:32

Thanks both, really helpful responses. I suppose I just feel sentimental about the current school as its such a lovely environment, but the other option is more realistic.

eeyoresgrumpierfriend Tue 31-May-16 09:17:18

We had a similar dilemma. DD's class is dropping to 13 for yr 3 with very few girls so we have decided to move her.

Does the alternative school you mention have a place available? Year 3 places are usually allocated on the basis of 7+ which will have taken place at the beginning of the year.

If you can get a place for your DD then I'd go for it, especially as you'd always planned to move her there at some point anyway.

TeenAndTween Tue 31-May-16 09:22:02

I'd move too. Way too small.

WhoKnowsWhereTheTimeG0es Tue 31-May-16 09:22:45

Just to add, my parents thought my little village school was idyllic, it was indeed small, covered in roses, near fields, integrated into village life and the teachers were great. There was no serious bullying, just bitchiness, cliques, namecalling etc, no need to get parents involved so they never realised. I only plucked up courage to tell my mum it had not been a good choice about 30 years after I left.

Sidge Tue 31-May-16 09:29:28

I'd move now for Y3.

I feel that classes of less than about 15 (especially single sex) is just too limiting, especially as children get older. 10 in a class is lovely when they're 5 or 6, less lovely when they're 9 or 10 and trying to find their own way in terms of friendship groups and playground games.

Very small schools and classes can have a detrimental effect IMO - difficult to make games teams, less choice for friends, potentially lazy teaching as less need for differentiation in learning needs.

bojorojo Tue 31-May-16 10:11:42

I think the national curriculum is a lot more challenging now and play based for all of KS1 is a bit too long for the majority of children. How do you know she is bright if the work is not challenging and she is learning through playing? I would look for a lot more rigour. I am also amazed you did not move with the other children. Being cosy only gets children so far.

Around here, the senior school that is preferred for girls also has a prep department and many of the children in the senior school are recruited from that. Therefore being in the mix already is a bonus and provides a far better education than a school with 7 in a class. To answer your question, it is way too small academically and socially never mind sport, music and drama opportunities!

AnotherNewt Tue 31-May-16 10:26:16

If you want her to go to the senior department of SchoolB, it's a case of when she leaves SchoolA, not whether.

First thing - can you afford to lose a term's fees in lieu of notice? If so, see if you can move for the start of year 3.

If not, then either see if you can arrange a move for January (but do remember to give notice to SchoolA before the September term starts).

Or wait until say the start of year 5, but no later than that (or you'll just be steered to competitive 11+)

Also, year 5 is when sports fixtures become more frequent, and SchoolA doesn't have enough girls to be able to count on putting out a squad (without mixing year groups or borrowing an opposing player)

WhoKnowsWhereTheTimeG0es Tue 31-May-16 11:16:13

Oh yes, sports fixtures. I was permanently in the netball team at my small school despite hating and being no good at it just because there were only seven girls.

SisterViktorine Tue 31-May-16 11:28:56

I would be looking to move to the other school, however, as Newt says, you will now be liable for a term's fees to be able to move for September.

The problem for me would be that the numbers are going the wrong way- preps usually expand as you go up the school. Many preps add a class or more at Y3. My DS started in a class of 8- which actually suited him really well in Reception- but it is now 20 at the end of Y1 as people have joined from the state sector or other independent schools. An extra class will be added at Y3.

I would be worried about the viability of your current school if people are leaving rather than arriving as you go up the school.

bojorojo Tue 31-May-16 18:47:27

Around here the small preps do not get bigger but the two serious ones (lots of CE entries) do at y3. Depends on the prep and what market they are in: 11 plus or CE and desirability. I would think a small independent school with lots leaving would be in a seriously risky financial position. How can it pay for class teachers and specialist teachers with such low fee income? I would worry about that too.

eurotrash Tue 31-May-16 20:27:17

Ds is in reception in a class of 9. It's a lovely small nurturing school and he's had a lovely time but as the year has progressed he's become more and more aware of how few friends he has and he's constantly moaning about the older boys ruling the school on the shared playground. I think next year it would be fine but not after that, it's just too small. We are moving him to the local state primary which has 2 form entry where he knows a lot of children and he's really excited. I think it'll be good for him.

caroldecker Tue 31-May-16 20:56:18

I would agree about the school being too small financially - I would leave before they close.

smellyboot Tue 31-May-16 22:49:20

Move now

bojorojo Wed 01-Jun-16 14:20:02

Early Years must have a separate play area! This is absolutely not appropriate, eurotrash. Just shows how independent "nurturing" schools get away with it. How nurturing is it to have older boys bossing the playtime? Not at all in my view. Their needs are very diffierent.

mrz Wed 01-Jun-16 17:27:29

While it might be desirable to have a separate play area for early years there isn't any legal requirement to. Many small schools will have a single playground.

My concern would be the financial viability of the school.

Hulababy Wed 01-Jun-16 17:32:40

bojorojo - EYFS don't have to be kept separate. In our state (infant) primary they are not kept separated from the Y1 and Y2. After the first term they have morning and lunch breaks in the yard at the same time as Key Stage 1. They have afternoon play on their own at a different time. They do have access to other outdoor areas, but they are for during class time.

bojorojo Wed 01-Jun-16 18:21:38

Where I used to be a Governor, we built a separate play area for EYFS. It was attached to the classroom. I honestly believed we had to. Having said that, it really is a good idea. Where my children went to school, YR was separate too.

eurotrash Wed 01-Jun-16 19:13:36

Reception has a small outdoor area adjacent to the classroom but this is for during class time. Breaks and lunch it is a free for all for 4-11 yr olds on the playground. Generally the kids are all lovely but the older ones understandably hog the toys / balls and it becomes fractious.

The state school he's moving to has a year 1 and 2 only playground with obstacle course, race track and cars, pirate ship climbing frame and loads of space - his jaw dropped to the floor. They have more iPads, a bigger library, more choice for lunches, and lots more friends.....it's a no brainer. Private school is not always better just because you pay for it!

bojorojo Wed 01-Jun-16 20:50:08

I totally agree eurotrash. However, you must have thought your private school offered something extra or, presumably, you would not have gone there in the first place. I think some private schools are very average. My DD2 started at an excellent nursery at a private school but like you, from Y1 it was pretty useless. It served special needs children, parents who thought their children could not manage in a bigger class and ones who were snobs. The "people like us" factor. Most nearby state schools were a lot better. Lots more bright children, better results and better everything really.

eurotrash Wed 01-Jun-16 22:29:19

We moved cross country and missed the school application. All the schools were full and we had no idea where we wanted to live so we settled on the private school in the middle of the potential area. We've now bought and the local primary has a space thank god. The private school seemed like a good idea at the time! It has good results and a good reputation and it's 'nice' but it's not nice enough for 9k a year and the daily worry about poor social skills and it shutting down!!

MoonDoll Sun 12-Jun-16 08:11:01

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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