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Small schools vs larger schools - your thoughts please!(41 Posts)
We've had this exact dilemma and we have chosen the bigger school. We are atheists and didn't really like the idea of so much faith being taught as fact and all the expectations around church services at Easter / Christmas etc.
The bigger school had a great feel to it and I felt comfortable that he will be well looked after.
My daughter is in year 2 at a large 2 form entry and so far we are loving it, as are we!
The facilities and resources available are incredible.
I also found that with the local infant school, a lot of people were planning to send their kids privately after year 2 and I was concerned about friendship groups
Everything else equal I prefer a bigger school. More possible friendship groups, more resources.
It's a hard choice I always thought a small school would be good but mine did go to a small village school and have done well. However the resources are limited. If staff are not there there is nobody to cover. The head teacher actually has to teach. But the main problem we have found is the friends side. My dd2 only had 3 other girls in the class and dd3 had 2 others which has made it hard and hard settling into secondary school. Saying that everybody knows everyone else in the school.
If I had the choice I would go for two form entry over anything smaller - my two went to the village one form entry primary and it was lovely in the early years but by the juniors they could have done with their classes being mixed up.
It's what is best for your child. Where would he be happy?
I prefer larger schools myself as it gives them more options with friendships. It can be a bit of a nightmare if they're stuck with the same few people for years and one or two of them clash with your dc. With two forms you can have the option to change classes and certainly change friendship groups.
We are not religious and our catchment school is a faith one. I think it's fine if you are not anti religion - it would rile I think if you were. For us I don't mind my dc learning this information and am happy for them to take it or leave it. As it was they made their own decision to leave it but it was taught as "fact" in the early days I'd say. We had I suppose termly church services which the parents attend as well as the dc. But I guess it was more that they're praying daily, singing hymns, hearing bible stories, talking about following the Christian ethos, bringing home Christian pictures. I think you do need to at least have respect for that, even if you're not believers. Most of the staff were Christian. You were able to opt out but it is a big part of it. The church services particularly involve each class doing a presentation/song/dance/play, the choir sings, the orchestra plays their instruments - so a fair bit of time is spent on rehearsals. It's a bit of a shame to be sent off somewhere else every time it happens. I think you'd feel quite left out.
My DD is at a one form entry school (the local one which was the sensible decision). I wish it were bigger. An even smaller year group of 15 children for 7 years sounds very tricky.
I assume this is for a 4-year-old starting Reception? I'm slightly concerned that such a young child "hates the church".
Also, he is a small child and you are his parents. Of course, listen to his comments and take them on board, and think about what would suit him when making a decision, but this is your decision, not his.
Also, in case it bothers you too, my nearly 6 year old attended a cofe Village school for about 4 months of her reception year and is still completely insistent that god created the world and all the animals and quite upset that her father and I don’t believe.
DD goes to a 2 form entry school, total of 180 in Infant and 240 in Juniors.
She is now in Y6 and I find it getting too small.
Resources are fine, lots of staff which are also able to swap and "floating staff" which are covering various classes during teacher's absence but often enough so the children are familiar with them.
Lots of sport opportunities, external clubs in the afternoon and internal lunchtime clubs.
My biggest issue is friendship groups. DD is a floater, in school never really had a "best friend", always included in larger groups of 4-6 girls but if there are problems she is the one who suffers as she was always between girls being closer to each other. I also heard this from other mums, unless there are children who stick together like glue for 7 years, a small group of potential friends make it difficult in the years to come.
I am glad she is moving to a large secondary whose intake comes from 4 primary schools, so a fresh start.
I wouldn't say either of those is a big school. I would say one is small, and the other tiny.
Having (through circumstance, not choice) had kids at a 600+ primary, and now at a 400+ school (on a campus of 3000), I'd say go with the larger school. Bigger friendship choices, the lower exposure to religion which seems to suit you and DS, and the fact that your DS prefers it would all suggest the larger school to me.
I grew up in the sticks - there were 6 of us in my year in primary school, and 30/year in secondary. Moved to 'the big city' for 6th-form-equivalent, where there were about 100 per year group.
I never felt constrained with friendships. Perhaps the small number of children/girls in my year supported a lot more socialising between boys and girls, between different year groups, and establishing friendships outside of school. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't always happy at school and at times downright miserable, socially (bullying related), but I don't think having more children in my year group would have changed that.
I think having a small number of same-age children in your group helps you as a child develop the skills of rubbing along with people even if you don't particularly like them/don't have much in common with them. This doesn't mean that the children will be friendless, they might just look a bit further afield for their friends.
DS goes to a 30-intake primary school, which to me is already fairly big! I find it astounding (and saddening) how separate the boys and girls are, and how little interaction there is, socially, with other year groups. In a sense my 'friendship pool' was bigger than DS's is. I had all 60 or so children from my school to choose from, boys, girls, older and younger than me, plus more outside of school. DS basically has those 14 other boys in his class. (Which is illustrated by birthday parties. Lots of whole-class birthday parties in reception, then as they grew older, moving to all boys from the class/all girls from the class parties. Occasionally a small party with just the child's actual friends, perhaps with some relatives e.g. cousins added in; but all friends are from the child's school class. Whereas my birthday parties would include actual friends, but from up to two years above and two years below me, boys and girls, neighbours kids chucked in too.)
So all else being equal, I'm all for small schools Keeps you from artificially limiting your child's friendships to same age, same sex. And teaches the child valuable 'rubbing along' skills.
Class size is key. The quality of teaching will always be higher and the lesson more fun in a class of 7 than a class of 35. I speak from experience of course, the smallest classes, let's say under ten we're always the best!
I have two DS at a small CoE school, one form. As much as I do like the school in hindsight I think if we had had the option I would go for a slightly bigger school
The resources are scarce and hardly any after school clubs and the clubs that run are very ad hoc and can't be relied on for work etc.
My oldest in Y6 is very much ready to go on to secondary school, he loves his football but is the only boy in his class who does so the school football team is dire and the facilities for sports are non existent.
DS is currently in yr3 in a large (3 form entry) school and his year group still seems to be split with regards to friendships. There are boys who are only friends with boys, and the same with some girls. But there is a number of children (including DS) who still have mixed boy/girl friendships groups. Don't know if this is normal and/or will disappear once they get older.
Your individual circumstances sound like that particular (larger) school would be right for your family. You seem to like it better for several reasons.
But this isn't necessarily a small school v bigger school question as there are other factors in play. I feel it's swings and roundabouts when choosing a school based on size alone.
My children go to a 15 entry, mixed year groups, split site primary. It lags behind in facilities but more than makes up for it in being nurturing and getting children to fulfill their potential. Brilliotic described the friendship situation really well; the kids at our school do learn to get along and it's so small issues get noticed quickly and nipped in the bud. I wouldn't change it.
However, the reason we picked this school (which isn't our nearest) was simply because of the good feeling we got when visiting. I'd recommend going for the one you feel most comfortable developing a relationship with. Good luck!
There are absolutely no statistics that say teaching a group of 7 is better. If the teacher is crap, they can mask it more with 7, but they are still not a good teacher. Plenty of excellent teachers teach 30 brilliantly. In fact most teachers like about 20-24 if they had the chance. Good diversity of children, neat division of working groups and plenty of stimulation. Never forget that children are never of the same attainment level and teachers always have to differentiate the work. In a very small class (which is not affordable in the state system anyway) there could be a huge variety of attainment meaning some children effectively work alone. Attainment can be very marked as the children get older and it is desirable for your child to have similar ones to work with. Friendships need to be fluid at a young age and having more opportunities for friendship is good in my view.
A school of 100 for 7 year groups just is not big enough to offer the best the curriculum has to offer and is quite narrow if your child needs a bigger environment. What seems cosy and sweet at 5 is claustrophobic at 10. Children can have friends that leave in any school, but a breadth of friends is key because losing a single close friend can feel like a bereavement. If they make friends in the year above, these children will leave after Y6, so your child still needs friends in their own age group.
Larger schools have orchestras, instrument ensembles, more clubs, better drama, definitely better sport and I think children mature into this wider world that opens up to them. Tiny schools cannot do this and you will have to do more outside school.
C of E schools vary. In general terms the Aided schools are effectively run by the Church (the Dioceses Education Department) and even Controlled schools still have lots of C of E Governors but are less attached to the Church unless they choose to be and are an academy. In Aided and Controlled schools it is highly likely the Head will be strong C of E because they are, effectively, appointed by the Church who have the majority of Governors. They like to appoint images of themselves! The schools often have close links with the Church but attendance is not always a regular thing; possibly Easter, Harvest and Christmas. Usually the Vicar pops into school. It can be a bit Bible bashing at some and you can ask how the C of E ethos of the school is promoted within it.
All schools must have a daily act of worship but community schools tend to major on love, helping other people, kindness, respect: that sort of thing but without referencing the Bible all the time. C of E schools can be a bit too much for me when they start being evangelist in approach.