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What are very small schools like?

(33 Posts)
Kathyis6incheshigh Wed 17-Sep-08 10:56:42

Does anyone have any experience?

We have what seems to be a very nice school in our village and we are assuming we will be sending dd there next year. The intake is usually about 11 in each year, and the school just has 4 classes. Both dh and I went to much bigger primaries (2 classes of 30 in each year) and it seems this is a totally different kettle of fish.... just wondering if there is anything I should be aware of.
Thanks smile

emwi Wed 17-Sep-08 11:10:44

Our DD goes to a school like this (only 5 in her year but this is unusually low) She is Y1 and is in a mixed reception/y1/y2 class.

The school is great and the only problem could be the lack of opportunities to make friends if she doesn't get on with the other children in her year. With an intake of 11 I'd have thought it would be fine.

DD knew two of the children before she started reception and seems to have settled well. She also gets invited to parties, etc. by children in her class but not in her year & she is in a higher level reading group with older kids.

emwi Wed 17-Sep-08 11:17:34

She also gets invited to parties by children in her year!

Seasider Wed 17-Sep-08 11:19:27

Watch out for where your school is, very small schools may be in line to be closed/amalgamated as they cost so much to run...

ingles2 Wed 17-Sep-08 11:22:54

I've just moved my dc from a tiny village school to a much larger town primary.
The small school was wonderful at infant level, cosy and comfy. now we've reached junior level it was much more of a problem. DS2 hadn't really made any friends due to the low intake of boys and not being a typical footie playing one. DS1 was desperate to be in a team, but again, not enough children for a football team. And academically is was a problem with mixed years, both ds's were in the same yr2/3 class with an age range of of just 6 to 8.5, and a huge range of abilities including 2 with severe SN and just the one teacher.
As I said, lovely for infants but you might need to reassess later depending on your what sort of child your dd is. HTH's

geekgirl Wed 17-Sep-08 11:25:39

mine are at a small school (90 children, 4 classes).
It's lovely in a lot of ways - there's a real family feel because the children and the staff all know each other well, moving up a class isn't stressful because they'll know the teacher already, the school is a size that is very manageable for small children to navigate through - e.g. dd2 who has SN is perfectly capable of going to the library or the staff room on her own, and the head has a teaching commitment which I personally like as well.

The drawbacks in our case are lack of extra-curricular activities and also lack of expert staffing for some things - music in our case. We have a higher level teaching assistant with an art degree though who does a lot of super art with the children, so it's all swings & roundabouts I guess.

There's also no before or after school provision because it's just not viable.

Dd1 spent 1 term at a tiny primary school with just 20 children on roll, and that didn't work out very well at all for her - it was probably just too small a school.

Overmydeadbody Wed 17-Sep-08 11:28:21

DS goes to a small primary school, only 4 classes of mixed years in each.

The best thing is that everyone knows everyone else, all the children know each other's names, but that can also be a problem or the worst thing! One of the classes only has one boy form his year in it at the moment, all the other boys in his class are the year below, he has said he wishes he was in the class above him with the older boys.

The worst thig is very little after school activities as there wouldn't be enough children, the sports teams are literally made up of everyone in the class, so some sports simply aren't catered for.

Overmydeadbody Wed 17-Sep-08 11:29:27

geekgirl sounds like our DCs go to the same school!

Kathyis6incheshigh Wed 17-Sep-08 11:53:40

Thanks, this is very helpful.

I suppose it's going to come down to luck re friends then - whether or not there is anyone she gets on with.
There is actually an after-school club in the village, so that's not a problem.

DD is already unfeasibly rubbish at anything involving throwing and catching, so missing out on sports teams won't be a problem grin

I think my biggest concern is if she turns out bright, whether the teacher will be able to cater for her in a class with a very big ability range, but it sounds like in emwi's dd's case the mixed age class works in her favour.

Ingles2 - thanks, it hadn't occurred to me that I could move her later but that's a very good point - right now when she's tiny the village school seems like it would be lovely and we don't really know what she'll be like in 4 years.

geekgirl Wed 17-Sep-08 14:26:34

Kathy, IME (which is restricted pretty much to this school I must admit!) teachers in small schools are excellent at differentiating to suit all pupils because there's just no other way of teaching mixed classes.
My girls are at opposite ends of the academic spectrum with dd1 being on various G&T registers and dd2 having a learning disability, and both are happy and suitably stretched.

throckenholt Wed 17-Sep-08 14:45:19

our school is (was) like that - intake of about 10 per year - total of about 70ish kids.

Just recently it has had intakes of 15-16 which has changed things a bit.

It has a nice atmosphere - the kids know each other in all the age groups - not just their own - they look out for each other.

As far as the academic bit - the teachers at our school say they teach a range of ability that maybe covers 4 age years in their 2 year class - so they are already used to catering for mixed ability - they all do the same topic but the brighter ones they go into a bit more depth than the slower ones. With small classes they have more time to be aware of the needs of each child.

Our school also has a lot of teaching assistants which helps this too.

Kathyis6incheshigh Wed 17-Sep-08 16:24:15

Geekgirl/Throckenholt - that sounds good - it is sort of what I was hoping.
We haven't made a big deal out of choosing a school, because if you have a nice one in the village, you would have to have a very good reason to let yourself in for school runs every day. This is quite reassuring - thanks.

HappyMummyOfOne Wed 17-Sep-08 21:23:40

DS is in Y1 and there are 9 children in total IIRC.

The school has a really cosy feeling to it and I loved it instantly.

We have various after school activities and a before and afterschool childcare provision. There is a music teacher who comes in and can provide private lessons as well if required.

We did fret about closure early in the year but have been given the all clear from the council so our school will not change or close.

Kathyis6incheshigh Thu 18-Sep-08 10:50:29

That sounds nice Happymum.
Fortunately our village is growing so it's probably safe from closure.

sunnydelight Thu 18-Sep-08 11:50:19

My boys were both in a primary school of 55 kids for a couple of years, DS1 at the upper end of the school, DS2 at the lower. There were lots of lovely things about it but the friendship thing was a nightmare on lots of different levels. The introduction/removal of even one person had a huge impact on friendship groups. DS1 was incredibly happy there until a kid appeared who seemed to think that the only way to be accepted into the group was to have DS1 totally sidelined. All but two of the girls in the 5/6 class left due to some falling out, leaving a totally unbalanced class gender wise, etc. etc. Once DS1 moved on to secondary I moved DS2 to a much bigger school sharpish. He much preferred it there.

ChasingSquirrels Thu 18-Sep-08 14:44:38

Ours is 4 classes, last year was 108 children and an average intake of around 12-15, current yr2 = 14, yr1 = 21 (exceptionally high), rec = 12.
ds1 is in yr1 in a mixed yr1/yr2 class having spent rec in a pure rec class due to numbers.
The school is lovely, everyone knows everyone - so ds1 knows and is known by the older years.
We have a number of after school activities (nature club, gym club, multi-skills club, MFL, and others). We also have a newly set up after school club (though not actually part of the school).
TBH a year in I haven't come across any disadvantages for our family.

haggisaggis Thu 18-Sep-08 15:06:22

My 2 dc go to a school with 35 kids in 2 classes. ds in a class of 19 p5-p7s, and ddina class of 16 p2-p4s (we had no P1s this year!)
I think it's fantastic. The kids think it's great. THe atmosphere is good and the teaching / care great too. They picked up that dd is dyslexic dring her first year of school and provide support for her.
Yes - having no gym hall or after school clubs is ashame - but I think the small school atmosphere makes up for it.
Only thing is we may have to move house next year and both children have stated they don't want a school with more than 50 kids! They think 80 - 90 is huge!

OrmIrian Thu 18-Sep-08 15:08:45



FluffyMummy123 Thu 18-Sep-08 15:09:34

Message withdrawn

haggisaggis Thu 18-Sep-08 15:24:39

I would imagine though that ina a class of 30 ish in a "normal" sized primary school that you will get a wide range of abilities anyway - all requiring different things?
Our teachers state that it is not a major issue dealing with the spread of ages - you would group teach as normal, or for topic work have a whole class intro then split into different activities. If you have good, organised teachers it is not a problem. Agree that can have building issues, and thta there may be a closure risk (although round us the policy is still NOT to close rural schools)

FluffyMummy123 Thu 18-Sep-08 15:32:37

Message withdrawn

haggisaggis Thu 18-Sep-08 15:36:58

I suppose I'm looking at it as a parent - the school seem to do a great job managing teh different abilities. The teachers also state that it is not a problem. The younger class also do group work where the ages are mixed too - so older ones get used to helping the wee ones. The children's relationship with staff is very good - I do not think alarge school would be able to accomodate the relaxed atmosphere that exists in our school.
We do have a very good HT though who is generally laid back and I think that helps a lot.

swedishmum Thu 18-Sep-08 16:54:44

I moved mine to a larger school because mixed classes don't work. At one point dd1 (Y6 and v bright) was in a group for lit and maths with dd2 (then Y4 and also pretty bright) - no stretching at the top for the most able. Dd1 also missed out socially - all her friends were in the year above her because they were in her groups for work. She was the only one to go to her selective sec school.
Moved the others to a school without mixed classes and it was the best thing we ever did, academically and socially.

fryalot Thu 18-Sep-08 16:59:24

oh kathy, small schools are fab! Especially ones round here.

The kids all play together inside school, then they play together out of school too. There is a real big mix of age groups of the children playing out, and the big ones learn to look out for the little ones.

The friendships they make at a small village primary will stay with them throughout high school as well. They may not hang around with their pals too much (new friends and all that) but their original friends are always just a little bit special.

The teachers know every child, not only by name, but they also know all their siblings' names, their parents' jobs and who all their cousins are (although not in my case, my kids' cousins live in Essex wink)

I really think that they miss out so much if they go to a different school from their local one.

Can you have a wander round the school in advance so you know what you're letting yourself in for?

If you want any specifics, cat me and we can talk more. Or you can come over for an afternoon and bring your littlies to the toddler group at our local school and see how they do things here.

Mumwhensdinnerready Thu 18-Sep-08 17:32:05

I agree with all the positive things said about small schools. After much deliberation and looking at all the schools for miles around I sent both my boys to the village primary with around 60 children .
My major concern was the mixed age classes and consequent wide range of abilities. However my worries were unfounded because the very small class sizes ( normally about 15 per class)more than compensate for this.
It's worth knowing also that much larger schools mix year groups as well in order to get around the infant class size legislation.
I'd rather a mixed class of 15 than one of 30 any day.
Socially it's true that the choice of friends is limited, but I find that they play with children of all ages.DS2's best friend is in the year below him, but in alternate years he is in the same class.
Outside school it helps that they go to the same school as the other local children.

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