Experience of very small primary schools(49 Posts)
Wondering if anyone here has experience of having their DCs at a very small primary school. For background, my DC is currently at a small village school - around 200 children in years R to 6. Class sizes are small (25ish), some mixed classes but Years 1 - 3 and year 6 are generally in single year group classes. It is also a church school but the intake is very local rather than faith based - so we have jewish, muslim and (I am sure) atheist parents. We are looking to relocate and one option would have us looking at even smaller village schools - say 100 pupils or less, so mixed year groups (1/2, 3/4, 5/6) in classes as small as 20. Very little specific info in Ofsted reports as the low numbers mean that publishing results compromises confidentiality. I can see pros and cons but would be interested to hear others' experiences.
I thought you were going to say much smaller! 30 years ago I went to a village first school (nursery to Y4) with 30 kids in two classes. It was great, and is still a brilliant school now, although they also have a preschool now so presumably the two classes are just made up of Reception to Y4.
Like anything education-related, it very much depends on the individual school, and that basically means (more and more) the Head. Other factors to consider are the intake (so how involved/enthusiastic will the parents be - v important in a tiny school as if the same parents end up doing everything, they soon get sick of it), the competition (so how hard they'll work to attract new pupils) and assuming a rural location, things like snow days and the ease of attracting and retaining good staff. Also more rural schools sometimes struggle to get more specialist peripatetic staff in, so there may be less opportunity for things like specialist music tuition etc.
DD's primary school had about 140 pupils, with mixed classes - YR/Y1, Y1/Y2, Y3/4, Y4/5, Y5Y6.
It is ofsted outstanding, was in the top 20 primary schools when DD was there and offers a rounded curriculum with loads of after school activities. It also has an award winning orchestra who have played at the Albert Hall.
It also achieves excellent SATS results with 100% achieving level 4 and 77% of pupils getting level 5 in English and maths KS2 SATS. To be fair the school is in an area where nearly all the children come from homes with supportive parents.
Thanks Nickname and Laquila - that's very helpful. I guess it's a bit like where I am now and has a lot to do with the Head, parent involvement and community! One concern I have at the moment is the transition to Secondary from that type of environment.
We moved when I was 8 and were sent to a 50 pupil village primary, three classes for infants, intermediate and junior. I was in the junior class, 18 pupils over three years. I think educationally it was very good but socially it was dire, all the other pupils families had been friends for generations and it was really hard breaking into existing friendships also if you did fall out with anyone it was hard to get away from that, some of the girls were nasty. Also very limited facilities, no hall, dinners cooked off site and bussed in etc.
The school closed and we did our final primary year at a 4 form town school which was a huge relief and I transferred very easily and happily to a 1200 pupil secondary.
That would be my concern too. My friends son has just moved from a very nurturing school of less than 100 children in a very middle England village to a secondary school with 1800.( pretty normal for secondary) He is shell shocked. In fact they both are as not only is the school absolutely dauntingly huge but the mix of children is absolutely frightening for him. He hasn't really experienced the "real world". My friend called up on his first day complaining about the swearing g he had heard that he was not usually exposed too........😮😂
Limiting and claustrophobic (that was my experience). Chose big primary school (500) for my children and it's been great.
Small primaries usually have very robust transfer/ adjustment processes to prepare pupils for the move up to large secondaries. At least, that's what all my local small primaries have told me on recent open mornings.
They do round here Closet. The local high school has 1500 students, but all of them come from small village schools, so all the year 7s are in the same boat.
There may not be a choice, if you live in one of the villages in my part of Hampshire all the village schools are mixed age classes and around the 100 pupil size. Schools in nearest towns are filled by people living nearer and some are still only 1 form entry.
We have a three tier system so kids change when they're going into year 5, to a middle school. DS found first school quite limiting at the end, not enough people in the small first school to find his little niche of Lego- mad oddballs.... Has done much better at bigger middle school. DD is now having the same problem but we are waiting to hear if she'll get into the same very good middle school and I hope it will be as good for her as it has been for DS. Sometimes they need a bigger pool to choose friends from.
It's definitely something to consider, the limited friendship pool! From my school of 30 I went to a middle school of 400 and a high school of 650, so the transferral didn't feel like that much of a big deal. Come to think of it, I went to a smallish collegiate uni too - perhaps I'd been indoctrinated 😳
My dc are in a small village first school with 35 children between reception and y4, spread over 2 classes. It has good points and bad points - the teachers know the children very well and the school has a lovely family feel, the bigger kids are lovely to the littler ones. They get to do lots of things you wouldn't in a bigger school, like pop into the local farm to see a lamb being born, go to sing carols at the supported accommodation and so on. Everyone gets a part in the nativity play every year. There's a lot of parental involvement so possibly more reading volunteers and sports volunteers and after school club volunteers than other schools.
I was worried able the lack of options for friendships, but that hasn't been a problem. There's an expectation of everyone rubbing along that seems to work. The kid's aren't limited to playing in their own year group like they would be in a larger school.
The main downsides has been a big problem with retaining teachers who are reluctant to travel to the school, dd1 had a succession of supply teachers last year which was not ideal. Communication hasn't been brilliant either as there's an expectation that everyone in the valley knows how school events work already. It is fairly easy to talk to the staff if there's a problem, though.
On the whole I think the small school is a good thing, but not without some issues.
45 children in our school, lovely nurturing place, prior to that 96 children, lovely experience again, years R-6.
In my experience small schools are good if you are a confident/outgoing child but for shy children they are not ideal as it's very difficult to find a friend.
I have friends whose children attend one in a village not far from us. My sports-mad DSs both declare they would loathe the lack of opportunity for sports at 'X's school. Our primary is 1 class entry but it does seem to provide enough interested children for a couple of football teams, chances to play rounders, cricket, playground hockey etc.
Not our experience Camp, I have very shy child but with 12 in her class and a lovely teacher/head, nice children she has done very well. No special friend but lots of friends which is fine.
Dd1 in small school 80 children in 4 classes. As others have said there are pro's and cons. Reception year intake of 15 with teacher and ta, opportunity for good relationships to build with all staff, and after the circuit of birthday parties we know pretty much all the children and parents in her year quite well.
Cons are no breakfast club/few afterschool options, and I think if there was a clash with a friend or teacher there's no escape to another class. Not the smallest school locally, another nearby with reception intake of 4! Nearest bigger school has intake of 90/year, which feels a lot to me in comparison.
Compared to my DD's school that isn't small at all. There are 52 children in her school and they have two classes 1-3 and 4-7. All the children get on well and I don't have any complaints on the standard of education she's receiving. We have a breakfast club and after school club plus various after school activities. We know all the staff fairly well which is nice as it's easier to approach them with any issues.
I found that with smaller village schools there tended to be a much higher proportion of SAHMs. Consequently I felt like there wasn't much consideration for working parents, for example mid afternoon events, bake offs, child going up for a special award the next day, with very little notice. I missed a lot of events and ended up feeling like a shit parent, a lot.
There was also no wrap around care and it was a nightmare finding a childminder who'd collect from the school as they preferred to frequent the bigger schools where they could collect multiple children (more clients = more money!), rather than just one or two from the small school.
Much will be personal to the child, so the following is just my experience.
I felt like my son was friends with children because he had to be (lack of choice!) rather than because he had a lot in common with them.
For my son, who is very outgoing and quite loud, I started to notice at around age 7/8 that he was so used to being the Alpha male at school with no questions, that he was struggling to interact with other boys outside of school.
I changed him to a much bigger school (from 96 in the whole small school, to 120 just in his year in the new school!) in year 4 and it was the best thing I've done. His alpha male status is regularly challenged, there's lots of after school clubs and activities, and I know he's friends with certain children because they have lots in common, rather than because they're the only 3 boys in the year group!
I went to a tiny village school (about 45 children in total, 3 in my year group, just 2 classes in the school). It's hard to compare as schools generally are very different to how they were 30 years ago. For me though it was claustrophobic, you got known to be a certain way early on, and as the teachers didn't change there was no change of dynamic to allow for a new start.
Both my two went to small village primary . It was brilliant. Every teacher & member of staff knew every child. They knew what made them tick, their likes & dislikes. It was a great family atmosphere. No making appointments to see the head or the teachers, always available. They have transferred to large secondary school with no problems. I really can't think of a disadvantage.
I think it is probably easier if you go to one of these tiny schools from the start, but joining in part way through was really hard for me as there were only about 6 girls in my year with established friendships that I inadvertently disrupted. One of the girls became my friend, this caused huge resentment with one of the others and a couple of others use to tease me about all sorts of stuff.
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