Should I send shy anxious son to large local primary school or smaller school further away?

(30 Posts)
aronbeer Mon 15-Jan-18 12:01:06

We have recently moved to a new part of UK. Son has been offered a choice of place of one of two schools to start asap. DS is very shy and anxious and easily loses it at physical or emotional stresses, even ones that are very minor. He has only been to nursery before and went to a small and extremely nurturing nursery where he was happy (though it took a full year for me to be able to drop him off without him being distressed) and made friends.
The local school is large with a large barren playground. I had a chat with the head teacher about DS and she mentioned that a smaller school may suit him better. We have visited the one smaller school near-ish us which has a place and it is nice and I think he would settle better, but it is two villages away. So if he went there he wouldn't have any school friends nearby to play with.
I really don't know what to do. Send him a large school which may completely overwhelm him but where he may be able to make local friends (assuming he is not so overwhelmed that he fails to make friends) or a smaller school where his schoolmates will live near each other but not him?
Any thoughts on what I should do? I am very concerned about his ability to cope with school at all tbh, and am finding this decision paralysing. I have to decide today really..

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BubblesBuddy Mon 15-Jan-18 13:41:19

Will you be able to facilitate friendships at the smaller school? You would need to invite children for tea and possibly ferry friends around? Small schools may mean less friends so you will have to work at it. Most children don’t care where other children live but they will not be calling in on him if he’s not in the village for impromptu play. You will have to organise everything.

I am surprised the head at the larger school is not confident about her settling in arrangements. Most schools are good at this regardless of size. A small school is not necessarily better staffed or indeed better able to cope. Any school that has 10 children starting like your DS will be stretched, small or otherwise. Needy children can make all the difference to the time staff have available.

If the Head feels he would be better in the smaller school, and you like that school, go for it. The child who is clingy at nursery doesn’t always stay like that though.

MinnieMousse Mon 15-Jan-18 13:44:47

I have two shy children and they do go to a smaller school, but it is our closest one. I would be tempted to send him to the smaller one because of the terrible attitude of the head! Head teachers should be reassuring you how their school will support your child. There are plenty of children who are shy at starting school.

AmberTopaz Mon 15-Jan-18 13:47:33

How large is large and how small is small? The problem with a very small school is that there is less choice of friends around his age - in a larger school he may be more likely to find someone on his wavelength.

Knaffedoff Mon 15-Jan-18 13:49:31

I would go big (with hindsight). We selected a small village school so any problems are magnified, we found problems in the class have continued year on year as their have been no changes, larger schools mix up classes every year or so and your child has more opportunities to find their tribe. I also think that a small vil!age school can get stuck in its ways and can struggle to adapt to challengs ie. Sen not dealt with adequately this affecting a whole class. We did small for all the reasons you stated, I regret it 😞

mummyhaschangedhername Mon 15-Jan-18 14:07:30

I think the size is irrelevant really. Go see the schools and which one feels better. We moved my children from a small village school to a larger twin school and it's so much more friendly and personal, the old school was very Cliquey and made issues worse for my children's disabilities. But that's my experience. Each school is different. Visit both, take your son, and write a pro and con lift. Also, nothing is permanent, if you chose a school that's Doesn't work, switch.

aronbeer Mon 15-Jan-18 14:10:26

Thanks everyone! The head of the larger school wasn't being unsupportive, I don't think. I think she was just talking aloud iyswim. She did say that she would arrange a meeting with the council's special needs support person so all three of us could discuss what was possible. She did say they would do what they could to support him but it was a large busy school. I think it is about 500 kids which is more than double the smaller school.
Knaffedoff, the school does have a SEN person, in fact she showed us around. The class DS would be in is very small - it is mixed age and there will only be 6 other reception age kids in the class, though obviously more older kids - I think there were 22 kids altogether. So there may be issues with DS finding friends.
Bubbles, I am worried about us needing to facilitate friendships. I do think inpromptu play dates are easier for making friends and I am worried that DS will just get a bit left out as other kids form stronger friendships - especially as the other kids all come from two small villages so kids and families will always be bumping into each other.

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aronbeer Mon 15-Jan-18 14:12:28

I suppose the issue is I definitely preferred the smaller school and think DS will feel less overwhelmed but the friendship angle, especially long term, really worries me.

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gleegeek Mon 15-Jan-18 15:08:45

What are the class sizes like in the smaller school? Only 6 reception children in a class concerbs me tbh. What if your ds doesn't click with any of them? Would he feel overwhelmed by the rest if the children being older than him?
What distances are we talking about? 2 villages away could be a relatively short distance or miles apart. Will your ds be going with any dc from nursery? All these things make a difference.
As the parent of a relatively introverted dd who ended up going to a larger infants as I preferred the head/layout to the cute small local village, I don't think size is necessarily the problem.

Seeline Mon 15-Jan-18 15:12:40

How do the large school deal with reception kids?
IME they often have a separate playground or different playtimes etc so that they don't get overwhelmed by the bigger children.
I would be concerned at such a small class - I think that could definitely lead to friendship issues as there is a fairly small pool of children to choose from in the first place.

aronbeer Mon 15-Jan-18 15:15:13

It is not a massive distance from us but it is a car drive away. You couldn't really walk as there are very busy roads and roundabouts cutting the villages off from each other.
I don't really know how he would feel about the older children. I personally like mixed age classes, so I would hope that would be a plus. I don't really like this age segregation by each year group. Ds was in a mixed age nursery and it worked brilliantly.
Ds won't be going with any children he knows as we have moved recently from another part of the UK so we know no-one here.

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aronbeer Mon 15-Jan-18 15:17:14

Only six his age does worry me a bit though.

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user789653241 Mon 15-Jan-18 15:57:27

I would definitely choose bigger school nearer. There's more chance to find like minded friend in bigger circle of children, and more chance of after school meet up at the park etc.

aronbeer Mon 15-Jan-18 17:43:26

No after school park meet ups as there is, incredibly, no park here!

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aronbeer Mon 15-Jan-18 20:06:11

Seeline., from what I remember of the larger school, the reception kids are in the large playground. I was concerned about that. I can't imagine DS1 coping with that at all. The smaller school had a separate smaller playground for the under 7 year olds. I thought that would suit him better. But then the pool of potential friends is so much smaller, especially when the other kids will get more chance to form friendships out of school.

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Hiddeninplainsight Mon 15-Jan-18 20:50:51

My DD started in a bigger school (3 form) and we ended up moving her to a smaller (1 form) school a drive away. It was the right decision for our DD, but I would go with what you think is best. There isn’t a hard and fast rule.

BubblesBuddy Mon 15-Jan-18 23:38:14

I can see he is nervous about change and school right now, but children do adapt to situations. He will mature and then will the smaller school meet his needs?

I think you can make friends in other villages and you can attend school events. If you choose a school further away, you need to make yourself visible so people get to know you. You will have to be proactive regarding friendships.

Nursery can be mixed age because they are not following the national curriculum. Mixed age classes in school can be good but a teacher may have to cope with an 8 year old child who has a reading age 5 years above and a 6 year old child with a reading age 2 years below chronological age. Differentiation is key but its hard work.

As there only 6 YR in the class, where are the other YR children if the schol is half the size of the larger one? Why are YR split up and how are they segregated? On what basis? Age? Attainment? I would assume 7 years x 30 children = 210. So why only 6 in YR in his class?

Have you made a decision?

Kokeshi123 Tue 16-Jan-18 00:09:54

Bigger closer school. If he is shy, it will help him if he can make local friends easily. Would you consider getting involved with PTA etc. to improve the playground? That is the sort of thing where parents do potentially have the power to make a difference.

RedSkyAtNight Tue 16-Jan-18 08:49:02

500 is not really a big school (though you were going to say at least 3 form entry).

I personally think social/anxiety issues get magnified in smaller schools and there is much more chance of finding your niche in a bigger one.

So I would definitely go for the larger close by school.

aronbeer Tue 16-Jan-18 09:03:32

Bubbles, the school is dual language so there are other reception children in the other language classroom. I don't know how many though. Only six in the English language reception class.
Yes, I would have to be proactive regarding friendships but then if I get a job it would be harder to be there at school gates. I am also quite shy myself and though I have always had friends I am not that good at just striking up conversations with new people. I have tended to make friends through groups where we have similar interests.

Kokeshi, I would like to get involved in the PTA re the playground but if anything were done that would be a long term project.

I think I may go for the larger school. The smaller said that they have more than one space and are likely to have spare place for the rest of the year as people don't tend to join at this stage. That way we can try to larger school and if it really isn't working can swap over.

Thanks everyone!

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BubblesBuddy Tue 16-Jan-18 10:43:26

A dual language village school? I think that would persuade me to go to the bigger school in that he would have less in common with large numbers of the YR children who could speak to each other in another language. I am amazed they segregate on language though. Sounds exclusive rather than inclusive. I completely see what you are saying about making friends. I never found it easy.

NightCzar Tue 16-Jan-18 11:20:36

My anxious, shy daughter goes to our big, local school (900 odd kids) and it's been great. She's in year 5 now but back when she started, it meant a larger pool of potential friends and many more opportunities.

She didn't take up many at first but over time and with continuous exposure to chances to join choir, band, maths club or whatever, she has got used to the idea of new experiences and has taken up some of them.

Also the chance meetings of school friends and parents at local shops or parks helped us both form friendships.

Knaffedoff Tue 16-Jan-18 12:34:10

As attendees of the small school, pick up and integration has been difficult. You will always find the local kids and families may have history and known each other either been at school together or did toddler groups together.

I did make friends and would say I was part of a clique, although I always included others. But I found that a complaint to the school about my child being strangled sadresulted in a parent snubbing me and others were reluctant to get involved, it made pick up uncomfortable. School ground politics shock now I am polite say hello but no longer make any effort !

alotalotalot Tue 16-Jan-18 12:45:32

I would be more concerned about the mixed age classes. This I would avoid at all costs. The difference between the youngest, shyest child and the oldest, boisterous child is more than the chronological 2 years difference in terms of being able to cope. A shy child will really struggle with boisterous children upto 2 years older and will not have the confidence to push themselves forwards, both educationally and socially. Plus there is the smaller pool of friends to choose from.

i would avoid mixed age classes over everything else.

aronbeer Sat 20-Jan-18 11:03:38

Thanks again everyone!

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