Primary school advice(24 Posts)
We have been to two open days so far with DS1.The first school was my favourite,very small (100 on roll) and nurturing,lovely building and although very small outdoor space it was nice.DS1 hated it on the open day and was continually asking to go home,wanting to be picked up,I felt a bit embarrassed as it seemed so nice but I can only think it was very quiet and DS is quite a bouncy happy boy.
We also went to the open day for a school with 371 on roll,much bigger school with lots going on but in a lovely area with lots of fields and space around it.DS was like a different child there!He loved it and was chatting to teachers and racing round the playground.Totally unexpected as I thought he’d be intimidated by a big school.
We have a few more to view but how much should I read into his reactions to the open days?
Could you take him back to both again (on a mess formal visit) and see if his reactions are the same?
What does DS say if you ask him what he liked and didn't like about the schools? Don't assume he can't tell you.
Smaller isn't always better.
We moved our DCs from a single form to a two form entry primary school and it was MUCH better. With more children in their year they have more friendship options.
I asked ds about the small school and he said it reminded him of the preschool he didn’t like (we moved him) and though he hasn’t said this I do think it was very quiet.Its strange as he was so clingy on that open day!He kept saying he didn’t want to go back there.
I didn’t expect him to like the second school,it’s a little further out from us but there’s a good chance we will get in.
I’m a bit concerned about friendship options too,I’m glad your dcs are happy in their new school.Im in love with the idea of a small village school but coming to realise it might not be right for my ds.
Mine are at a small village school. It's too small ! We don't have any other options as the others are even smaller. The funding for small schools is dire, there is no after school club and very limited school clubs. Also friendships can be very limited and in some ways it is easier to be lonely and isolated in a small 'friendly' school than a bigger busier one as it's very hard if you don't 'fit' as there's no other friendship groups. My dd has 6 boys and 6 girls in her class and she is lucky with that. I would very much listen to your son. He has to feel happy there.
Could it be that he didn’t know what to expect when viewing the first school. By the time it came to the second he knew what to expect etc. I would take him round both again. We’re torn between a small school and a big one. Think I might go big for reasons above as well as lessening the blow when it comes to moving to a big secondary school.
I agree small village School isn’t always best.
Is he your only child? If so I would very much let him guide the decision when he has shown such opposite reactions to the places and take his views into account (obviously final decision yours)
I found a small school appealing when dc was preschool age, but as she got older i was really glad i picked a bigger school as it had better facilities, more opportunities and outdoor space. I think it can be useful to have more than once class per year too, just in case you ever want to move them to the other class because of bullying or something
The problem with really small schools (less than 20 children per year) is that your child's experience will be enormously influenced by the other children. E.g. he might be one of only 2 boys in his year, or all the other boys might be obsessed with football while he wants to play superhero games, or there might be a child who takes a random dislike to him who he can't get away from, etc.
It might be worth seeing whether they have Christmas fairs and see what you think of the schools in a less formal basis. I wouldn't just base the decision on one visit but worth considering the pros and cons for your ds.
Go to each Christmas Fayre.Bazaar whatever.
300ish on the roll is still a small school but not too small to be claustrophobic and have limited friendship options. I would definitely go for the second school. Small may seem appealing when your child is small but they soon grow into 11 year olds who are almost as big as you with an attitude to match.
Thanks all,I do feel the bigger school has more to offer.Its interesting to know other people’s experiences as this is our first time with ds starting school next year.We have another ds who is 18months old.
DS1 hated his preschool and I still feel bad because the one we originally went round he absolutely loved.He instantly clicked with the staff and played with the children.I chose a different preschool because there was a better ofsted and thought it would be safer (no steps,etc).On the induction ds seemed distant and withdrawn but I put it down to him being in a new place.He never really settled in there and eventually left because he was hating it.
I don’t want to make the same mistake with his new school!Ive a few more to look around yet but he really loved the bigger school today and I have to go with somewhere that’s right for him.I love the idea of the village school,it’s lovely but it’s not me that will be going!
The larger school has very good facilities,clubs and very organised after school care which we currently don’t need but may do in a few years time.
I don't think it's a case of small or large schools being better or worse.It's a personality thing,good luck!
I personally would go with your gut feeling and not his. It could have been he was having an off day or was overwhelmed by the experience of visiting a school. We didn't even bring ours to the open days as I think she would have been a bit intimidated by it all. Our choice was also between a small village school and a bigger primary and the small village school was definitely the best choice for us. We didn't need loads of clubs and activities. We liked the atmosphere there better and how the children seemed to treat each other and their philosophy. The big school was just that, big, and there wasn't much coherence and it wasn't very welcoming. I don't think that is a universal thing though and you have to trust your own intuition about it, but I wouldn't necessarily just go off of his reaction.
Smaller isn’t always better, we swapped from a small village primary to a school also it double its size, and the school is so so much better and supportive. I think you should consider the one your child likes unless there are other reasons other than size that put you off.
Small isn't necessarily better. DD goes to a huge primary, but they manage it so well it never feels large or intimidating.
Lots of space to play is important to DC as is lots of opportunities.
Small is good if you think they'll thrive in that environment - but he's made it clear he's absolutely not intimidated by the larger school.
From what you've said I'd go for the bigger one.
Look, big/small have their pros and cons, and some people favour big whereas others favour small. I personally prefer small (the thing about smaller pool for friendship options to me means that children learn to respect and rub along with each other even if they are quite different, whereas in a bigger school they'd just stick to their own separate little friendship groups). With big schools the 'option' to mix up the classes can become a problem instead, if your child finally established some friendships and then is separated from those children in the following year.
But the big/small thing here really is a red herring. Some small schools are brilliant, some aren't; same for big schools. You need to ask yourself how the school suits you as a family, your DS as a child.
Your question really is, should your child's reaction to the school on the open morning sway your opinion?
Well if you were deciding on where to send him for a few play sessions, then yes. Otherwise no. Unless you can determine something about the schools (other than one of them reminding your DS of an unpleasant experience) that aided him feel happy and confident in one, but stopped him feeling the same in the other? Perhaps the big school has a very welcoming atmosphere, the small school a forbidding HT?
Even if you think your DS' intuition is a strong indicator for which school would suit him best right now, how on earth is HE meant to know/understand what will suit him best when he is 10? That's hard for you to judge, let alone him.
Don't put this choice on him. It's you who needs to decide what matters to you and make the decision based on that.
FWIW IMO distance is a more important factor than size, all else being equal. Size may change, or at least how well the school deals with it's size; the big school may cancel clubs, the small school may introduce new ones. Distance won't change (unless you move)!
I disagree with the PP. How well a school suits your child is much more important than distance.
Luckily our primary is close, but we travelled a long way for the right nursery and will do the same for secondary if we can get in from where we are.
The two schools sound very different and I'd chose the one that fit my child regardless of distance.
Also IME school clubs don't tend to change much year to year.
When we went with DD to look at two schools, she preferred the first one which was bigger and a little further away. I think the reason was that when we were shown round the second one, the headteacher (who showed us round) got each class to say good morning to us all, which DD found daunting.
We went with our preferred choice (which was not DD's). By the time she started school (10 months later) she had forgotten her preference, because we had carefully not mentioned that school again, and had 'bigged up' the local school in the meantime. She was therefore more than happy to go to the school we had chosen.
While of course you should listen to your child's concerns, ultimately I would advise you to go with your choice, not your child's choice. A school which a 4-year-old child prefers, based on a single visit, is not necessarily the best place for them to spend the next seven years.
A 4 year old may not be wise enough to choose but neither is a blinkered adult. The village schools around me had poor sport, poor music (no school orchestra, recorder ensembles etc) and they were chosen by parents who wanted to keep their children as babies for longer than was good for them. The confident children were at the larger school and the opportunities to flourish were significantly better.
I would say though that quality of teaching should trump everything. A bright, enquiring and lively child needs a bigger stage to try out lots of activities and small schools cannot always provide this, especially after the age of 7. Lovely and small at 5 can be claustrophobic at 10.
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