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Pros and cons of small schools.(48 Posts)
Starting to look at schools for my DD who will be starting in reception next September. We live in a village which doesn't have its own school but there are several neighbouring villages where the schools range from very small (<100 pupils) to large (>800 pupils).
I've been to look at a small one today. It was lovely but reception, Y1 and Y2 were all in the same class! The 3/4 together and 5/6 together.
Could anyone give me any experience of this? What are the pros and cons? I suppose I'm mainly worried that academic attainment may be affected. Also general pros and cons of a very small school?
We moved from a three form infant school to one where there were less than 100 children in the whole school (Nursery, YR, Y1, Y2, Y3).
My DS totally loved the new school from the very first day. All the staff inc. lunchtime supervisors etc. knew the children's names. Just much more friendly and personal all round.
Yeah I'm definitely keen on it from that point of view. My daughter is quite shy and not fond of crowds plus she really takes a while to get to know people. I think she would thrive in a smaller school.
It just worries me how they teach to such a broad age range.
I don’t think mixed year groups are ideal, especially if they cross key stages. Other factors are things like are there sufficient children to make up a sports team. I find some children from small schools find the transition to a large secondary school more challenging.
As regards to sports, small schools can be an advantage if your child likes sport but isn't brilliant at it! In a large school, there might be 90-180 children fighting it out for 10 places in the yr 5/6 football team, great if you are one of the 10, not so good if you are number 11! In a small school you are pretty much guaranteed to be chosen if you can run in the right direction ( and that's not always essential!)
We live in a county where small schools are the norm. Almost all of our primary schools are good or better and the teachers are skilled at teaching across the age ranges. There doesn’t seem to be much of an issue moving on to bigger secondary schools. I find that small schools give all children a chance to shine.
Just be mindful though that what can seem nurturing when going into Reception can feel stifling by Yr 6, and there are limited options for friendship groups so any problems in this score as you go up the school can get magnified as there is no escape!
We live rurally where there is little choice for schools. Our school is tiny, under 100 for yr r-6. I mean a lot under 100 pupils.
It’s like a family really. They all know each other and the staff all know the children and families well. It’s a lovely atmosphere. There is little chance of a student getting forgotten and lagging behind as they have so few children to teach. yes the classes are mixed, but I spoke to a teacher from a massive school and she moved to our little school, she said she was very used to teaching different abilities in the same year group so different years was fine.
We are lucky that’s in beautiful setting and the site is big, so the children have lots of space to play. There are always advantages and disadvantages to all schools. But so far we are happy.
I’m in exactly the same position for September. I cannot make up my mind and am hoping someone will do it for me!
I actually started my teaching career in a half form entry village school and I loved it and the children were brilliant. That was 20 years ago and I certainly wasn’t thinking like the mum of a child who doesn’t really seem to be thriving at nursery. I’m now worried about cliques and other mums etc.
Every school is different of course, so I can’t really advise you as you know your child best. But the village school I worked in was really nurturing.
On the down side - Definitely consider transition to secondary school (speak from personal experience here), limited friendship choices and options especially if a problem develops, check balance of the sexes as some years there can be a real imbalance if either Boys or girls which can limit friendships even further, lack of resources (currrent funding arrangements make things very difficult indeed for small schools), wrap around care - many of the small schools round here don’t have breakfast club or after school club which can be a factor if you’re working - or they’ve tried them and didn’t have enough children to make it viable. Round here also the County music service does not go into the small village schools so no subsidised instrumental music lessons, also the very fact that tiny school are seen as ‘nurturing’ can sometimes mean there is a high proportion of children with SEN or those who are a bit quirky.
My personal preference for my own children has been for a medium sized school for those reasons (by small i’m Meaning max 15 per year, medium would be 1 or 2 whole classes per year.
As an alternative!
O taught previously in a small school, less than 100 children in total. We had an intake of 15, so 22/23 in EYFS and KS1 and 30 per class in KS2. Both breakfast and after school clubs were run by the pre-school which shared the premises so wrap round care was no problem, free music tuition throughout KS2. the children learnt a different instrrument each year for free and then could have additional private lessons if they wanted, definitely some quirky children, but also some extremely bright ones, high SATS results, high proportion passing the 11+, lots of facilities, ( football pitch, own swimming pool, wildlife pond, orchard) etc. Each school will be very different in terms of ethos, facilities and funding, you need to check out your local schools-big and small!
The disadvantage of a small school is that thenfriendship group,options are limited. Ie. If Tarquin falls out of favour with little Johnny, then there’s fewer children around he can form new friends with.
Also, with a smaller number of pupils, there may be fewer school clubs. Ie. Not enough kids to form a,football,team etc, or fewer teachers to offer such clubs.
Mixed classes aren’t a problem, and can benefit children.
My dc went to two,different primaries, on had a one form entry and the other a two form entry. I would always go for a two form entry school.
Our dc moved from a 2 form entry to a teeny school with mixed year and mixed ks classes. It's been brilliant and I much prefer the small school. In a larger school, they felt very 'one of a crowd' and although always well behaved they were never remarked upon or praised as they weren't noticed at all. They have positively thrived in a setting where they feel noticed and valued.
I was worried about the mixed year classes but as their teacher pointed out, you can have huge variation in needs and abilities in a chronological class. It has worked well for my DC to be able to work with others who are are the same level as them (older) and they've come on leaps and bounds.
We have v small class sizes and the extra attention has been noticeable. On nice days they can relocate to the outdoor classroom or field as it's quick and easy to do so when you're only moving a small group. They do lots of non-core subjects as less children means core stuff can be covered in less time, so lots of art, drama, music and sport.
In terms of extra curricular stuff, mine have been offered a lot more at the small school. I feel the teachers are aware of possible limitations and work hard to mitigate those. Plus they get a place in everything they want to do due to low numbers.
Neither of mine have met their friends for life, but everyone is kind and because all ages play together there's always someone to play with. The older children are very kind towards younger ones and take their responsibilities seriously. Friendship Issues and worries are resolved quickly as it's obvious quickly when something goes wrong.
I'd go for a small school every time.
Head knows all children by first name
You get the same teachers get to know them
It's like an extension of your family when done right.
Unable to switch classes if their are friendship issues
Lack of funding
PTA very small and overworked
You know everyones business
Love our local small school though.
Yes, so many pros and cons.
The extra attention they get in a small class is massive. Huge. And the sense of closeness and community is massive.
But it also depends on what their secondary options are.
Ds1 went from a 2 class catholic primary, that his school plus 6 others are feeders, into the huge secondary.
Most find it a shock.
But ds1 is very bright, geeky, football mad and now has found like minded secondary school friends, a group of 20 close friends. He never had that choice of friends at primary.
I’d take the smaller school.
My two,youngest went to a completely tiny school and it was just fab.
I feel really torn!! I think my children would thrive in a small school but then I do worry about limited friendship groups, sports and wrap around care.
Everyone whose kids have been to small school seem to love it though! I think that says a lot.
We have wraparound care as 99% of parents are working so need the childcare provision before and after school. Ditto rural location means you have to travel for work.
Sports has been ok so far, they do go to regional school events. Maybe at a small school they work harder to provide a wider selection of sport.
I agree that smaller friendship groups can be problematic. My friend's son only had 6 other boys in his class and 5 were football mad unlike him which left him a bit stuck.
My DD goes to v small school (~30 from nursery to Y4).
Pros: lots of one to one attention from teachers, feels like a family, personalised learning, they get to do things that might be difficult in a bigger group, cross school activities so they mix with older kids a lot, everyone knows everyone really well, school feels like heart of the community
The only downside I would say is that from time to time when there is an inevitable falling out, there is a limited pool of other friends to go and play with. The kids who go off to middle school apparently adapt well and are ready for a new challenge
I went to a small primary, less than 20 children in my class and very boy heavy. I believe there were just 6 girls. This really limits friendships and if there is a negative friendship there is no other class to swap to.
The secondary school I went to was 180 pupils in my year group. So separated from all friends from primary and I felt lost and swallowed up.
In contrast my children went to a 3 form entry primary. Lots of friendship groups and every year the classes are moved around for many reasons, moves in and out of the area can create boy/girl heavy classes, ability, friendship groups. Due to setting there was always the possibility of having all 3 teachers.
Having seen negative friendships where parents want their child separated from X this is easily accommodated.
For mixed classes I would be concerned about differentiated work and pushing the higher ability whilst juggling both middle and lower ability workers.
Although the primary school was big dinner ladies/support staff/SLT made it a point to learn as many children's names as possible.
We’re in the same position - an “outstanding” but small village school (combined classes), a “good” slightly larger village school (one form of entry only), or the large (3 entry forms) “good” market town primary, which is the only one we’re in catchment for. The smallest school has no breakfast club or local child,indexes which is ruling it out at the moment - I love the medium sized school but I’m not sure we’ll get in, and DP likes the biggest (local) school.
i'd be a bit nervous about funding in a small school
Heads know the names of all their primary school pupils in my experience. The head of our local primary gets 90 reception children a year and he sits down with sheets of photos to get them off pat in the first few weeks precisely so he can get to know the names and then get to know them properly around school.
I would want to be very clear on the long-term financial viability of such a small school. What is the school's capacity vs pupils on roll?