Very small village primary - help!

(16 Posts)
Oilyskinproblems Wed 25-Sep-19 08:16:15

My ds starts school next year and we’re due to move to a lovely village. Had a look round the primary school yesterday and it’s very small with mixed classes so nursery reception together, year 1 and 2 together etc. There are on average 23 pupils to a class.

The school seemed nice enough but has anyone got any experience of a school that small? What are the pros/cons? It’s literally a 5 minute walk from our new house but we could try to apply for a school nearer town about 12 min drive away if it would be better for him. Offsted reports are good and they have a “sister” school in a nearby village which they sometimes join up with for school trips.

OP’s posts: |
Teachermaths Wed 25-Sep-19 08:20:25

Pros
You'll have village friends close by to socialise with
5 mins walk is preferable to what will become a 30+ minute round trip to the other school
The staff will really know your child
It's really close... Don't underestimate this!

Cons
If children fall out it can be tricky with so few
More likely to have a boy/girl extreme split due to low intake (eg he could be one of 2 boys in the year)

autumncolour Wed 25-Sep-19 08:28:49

Our experience with a very similar size school, was that it was lovely at infants age, but not as great when they were a bit older. It very much depends on the school as well - if you have one poor teacher at a large school, the effects will be minimised. At a smaller school, it can have a bigger impact. Larger schools are likely to be able to offer more clubs and after school activities -they may have access to more resources as well. Friendship groups can be issue in very small classes - and there are obvious difficulties in getting sports teams together etc. That said, a very small school can be the perfect start for your child...just be aware that it’s worth looking at what their experiences will be like in the top of the school as well as the class they are entering currently. The mixed age classes shouldn’t be a problem as long as they are being taught well. Socially, the mixed age classes are generally a really nice learning environment for younger children.

coconuttelegraph Wed 25-Sep-19 08:36:14

For a time my DC went to a small primary and it was great, the HT was fairly new and she worked really hard to make the school successful.

But you can't extrapolate that to draw conclusions about all small schools, they aren't an homogenous group.

The larger school they went to was also good, the DC did equally well a both.

The best thing to do is visit the school and find out what the parents there think, ask on a local Facebook page for example.

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Wed 25-Sep-19 08:47:28

DS went to a similar primary, only 5 physical classrooms so composite classes all the way through.

Pros
Gorgeous setting, forest school, DCs spent loads of time outside
Lovely, safe walk to school
Close-knit community
Very easy for DS to 'find' his way - we moved in P2 (Scotland) and he has autism so transitions particularly difficult
Great relationships up and down school
All teachers very skilled at differentiation of work as they were used to teaching two year groups
Had the same teacher for 2 years more than once (obvs if they were a bad teacher this would be a negative!)

Cons
Small peer group - a few pupils left because of friendship issues, for eg three girls in one year group where one was being left out
Very close knit parental group which I found hard
Things like trips were done differently as there were so few children and so things like coach hire v expensive. So for eg, school camp only happened every two years
Transition to (big, busy) high school v difficult - on balance though, worth it for 7 years of the small school experience.

But like anything else, it's about whether the school on offer is right for your DC and family. Visit both and see what you think. though signing up for having to drive DCs to school for 7 years (assuming there's no transport for an out of catchment place in) would have been a deal breaker for me.

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Wed 25-Sep-19 08:48:14

Also if you're moving to said village and DS doesn't go to school in that village, it can be harder to make friends.

NoSquirrels Wed 25-Sep-19 08:57:11

signing up for having to drive DCs to school for 7 years (assuming there's no transport for an out of catchment place in) would have been a deal breaker for me.

We moved and couldn’t get places in a school within walking distance... an enforced school run in the car (i.e. there’s no other feasible option) gets very old, very quickly!

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zafferana Wed 25-Sep-19 09:04:42

Being at a small, local school is a great way for you all to plug into that community and get to know people. It's also lovely being able to walk to school and horrible having to drive! My eldest has just started secondary and at the moment I'm driving him - three weeks in and I don't like it - for the past seven years we've just walked up the road and it's SO much nicer. My niece and nephew are at a small, village school like the one you describe and although it hasn't been perfect (what school is?), it has been a lovely start to education for them and they're both very bright, engaged DC who haven't suffered for it.

MoltoAgitato Wed 25-Sep-19 09:05:16

We have a small primary with mixed classes. Pros and cons - academically it’s a great school and staff are fabulous, no chance of a child getting lost. There’s a real community feel. That said it can become a bit intense at times, especially if you socialise with the same circle and there are some years where there are only 3 boys/ girls for example, which can make friendships difficult. Our school is quite good at resolving those issues but some schools may not be. The 2 minute walk to school cannot be rated highly enough!

Figgygal Wed 25-Sep-19 09:10:52

WE moved to a village in the summer before ds started reception he already had a place in the second most popular school in the local authority in the town we lived in a time and we were determined he would be going there . Our village school is very similar to what you have described but I think maybe even smaller.

We can drive ds to school in 10 minutes and it's definitely the right setting for him. Agreed three years on we know very little people from the village, we do some of the village events like at Christmas Easter we have a very good pub that we frequent but he has no friends in the village however as we both work we have very busy lives with after-school clubs and he does a lot of football so there's never a lot of downtime to be worried about playing with one of the neighbours for example. He's never once said he feels like he's missing out and we do plenty with his friends from school anyway.

Another problem we have in our village is that there is quite a high number of Plymouth Brethren families they send their children to school for key stage one and then withdraw them to their own schools for key stage two which means the juniors classes are even smaller still.

When Ds2 goes to school we want him to go to same school as his brother but if he doesn't get in logistically I am not sure how him going to the village school will work other than his after-school club picks up from both schools

Elodie2019 Wed 25-Sep-19 09:26:10

Pros :
smile Small, safe, manageable environment for infants.
smile Close network of families.
smile Families usually very local.
smileYou get to know staff well, they know families well too.

Cons:
confusedSmall environment/ small peer group can be stifling at junior age.
confusedSame teacher for two years (double/mixed year groups)
confused Small village mentality - there will always be a queen bee/family who has had family pass through the school for generations and think they own the place.
confused Tiny schools don't always have the best facilities/resources . They don't get a large amount of funding so in my experience are left behind.
confused As before, limited peer group.

Pollydocket Wed 25-Sep-19 09:31:51

Cons, because I’ve only found cons..

LImited friendship opportunities.
Split year group, lots of waiting around whilst instruction is given to the other year group. It’s very inefficient.
Stressed teachers...attempting to teach two curriculums.
No stretch work for able children, they just don’t care as they are attempting to help the two sets of children that are behind.
Sports, not enough for teams.
Limited equipment and facilities.
Not enough money, so expect lots of begging for cash.

If I has my time again I would drive to a bigger school.

Pollydocket Wed 25-Sep-19 09:36:23

I forgot, two years with a teacher they don’t like, or they move that teacher and your child gets four years with him/her!

brilliotic Wed 25-Sep-19 11:39:54

I was at a very small village primary school myself, sometime in the middle ages...
Six children in my year group, we were joint with one or two other year groups, depending on how numbers worked out.

I think most things have been mentioned but I would point out that whilst it is true that there is a 'limited friendship pool' and things can be tricky when there are fall-outs between friends, there are also positives to this.
- Rather than ignoring the people who have vastly different interests to you, and just sticking with those that are similar to you, you learn to get along with everybody.
- I think it is sad that people think girls can only play/be friends with girls, boys with boys. In small year groups you sort of automatically mix more.
- In some sense the friendship pool is bigger and more diverse than in larger schools - not smaller! In the 2-form infant school my friend's kids go to, the children don't even know the names of the kids in the other class in their year group, let alone the children in other year groups. Whereas my children in 1-form school pick their friends from the whole school, rather than being limited to a random selection of 30 kids. As a child, my best friend was two years ahead of me (it was nice that the secondary school was on the same site, so we remained friends until I was 14 and she 16).

Also what hasn't been mentioned yet:
- Smaller class sizes. I would prefer a class of 23 mixed age children with a teacher skilled at differentiation, to a class of 30 same-age children where the teacher still ought to differentiate, but might be overwhelmed with work.
- Village setting, small distance, and everyone knowing everyone and looking out for each other, might mean that children get to walk to/from school independently at a younger age, fostering independence and confidence.

The main downside IMO is lack of resources. SENCO only around once a fortnight. Every teacher needing to take on extra roles. Very few clubs as there are simply not the numbers to offer a large choice of clubs.

But at the end of the day, it can be a small school that makes the most of its advantages and finds creative solutions to take the edge of the disadvantages. Or it can be a small school that just doesn't, you get all of the downsides but none of the positives. (Same with big schools!)
So you really cannot make your decision based on size alone. You have to visit the school, with an awareness of what the potential disadvantages are, and look for how they deal with them. And see if they actually make something out of the advantages.

stucknoue Wed 25-Sep-19 11:56:51

Mine went to a small school, not that small though! Biggest issue is that there was really only two friendship groups and if there's friction it's a bigger problem, especially when some of the mums had lived in the village for generations and hated all outsiders, it's worth exploring the village politics for sure. We did move (for work reasons) after a couple of years but the experience has put me off village living for life

Natwild Thu 26-Sep-19 15:02:48

I live in a village called luddenden its just past sowerby bridge, theres 15 places available each year for reception i put this school as first choice well she didnt get any 5 choices as all over subscribed. She finally got offered first choice school its 15 kids per class. My issue is im overcrowded due to have twins already have 2 kids and theres no houses in calderdale so i have to bid on something in another borough. I cant afford to go private im so upset its like the system is trying to say keep your legs closed dont have kids. I do work too but its the housing situation that's getting me down.

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