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Pros and cons of small village schools

(19 Posts)
francesrivis Fri 19-Jun-09 20:30:04

Hi, I am currently looking at primary schools for my dd. One of the ones we are considering is a village school with 60 children. It seems ideal in many ways - small class sizes, friendly etc., but I have a couple of misgivings and wondered if anyone with experience of this sort of school could advise.

1. Due to the small number of children in each year the classes are mixed age - reception, yrs 1 and 2 in one class, yrs 3 and 4 in the next and 5 and 6 in the next. Has anyone found this sort of arrangement to be a problem?

2. How do children cope at 11 when they go from a very small primary school to a large secondary school?

3. I'm wondering if the small number of children in each year might actually make it more difficult to make friends - ie. your child is less likely to meet someone like-minded? I haven't put that very well but not sure how else to express it?

Any other thoughts on pros/cons would be very welcome!


ingles2 Fri 19-Jun-09 20:46:16

I was experiencing all the cons you've listed so I moved my dc's to a bigger junior school last September.
The pros for a small school are, you get a lovely cosy environment, everyone knows everybody else and it has a a real sense of community.
The cons are. budget firstly, our school had 70-80 on a falling roll. They really didn't have the funding for enough staff.
There is no problem with being in a mixed class in theory, but it does mean that a teacher is trying to teach, quite a significant age range and abilities that stretch from SEN to G&T. There wasn't even the funding for a TA in each class. DS1 is bright and was largely left to his own devices, ds2 has problems but not severe so he was left as well.
However DS1 is in a mixed class now,and this school does not have this problem, so it really depends on the school.
You can end up with the same teacher for a number of yrs. DS1 had his teacher for 3 years on the trot. Great if you get on with them, awful if you don't.
DS2 had no friends apart from his brother, (who he sat next to in class, another nightmare!) there were only a couple of boys in his year, he was the odd one out.
And yes, I was worried about the secondary transition, the comp here is enormous as we are in a rural community.What a shock to go from a tiny cosy number to 2000 at 11!
By the time my eldest reached yr 3 I realised I'd made a big mistake, that cosy little school was perfect when they were infants but at junior level, ds1 wanted to be in football teams etc and there just wasn't enough children to make up a team. It just wasn't big enough.
As I said I moved them, a real success, they are so much happier.

francesrivis Fri 19-Jun-09 21:29:13

Thanks for this, it's really useful to hear your experience. I had also wondered about the point you mention about it being perfect for little ones but not as they get older - have others found this?

ingles2 Fri 19-Jun-09 22:30:39

no problem frances. If there is anything you want to know I'm happy to tell you my experience.

bronze Fri 19-Jun-09 22:33:50

The school here has that exact set up though about to divide the reception off.

Another plus we've found is that ds1 can work with the children a couple of years above without leaving his class

For us the pluses outweigh the negatives by far but it is generally a very ood school

Clary Fri 19-Jun-09 23:34:42

60 is a very small school indeed.

I would imagine it would have just 3 classes? Maybe FS2/yr1/yr2 and then 2 KS2 classes?

Lots of schools mix classes tho, not just small schools; it seems to work OK tho I have to say the HT of DS2's school is against it and she knows a lot about infant education...

That's a good point ingles about having the same teacher for years.

My worry would always be the small size of the cohort in any year. A friend's DH works in a school of 42 pupils <gasp>; in yr 5 there are 2 children. Both boys luckily. Better hope they both like Lego (or as it might be football)!

Also small schools can bring issues about facilities/sports teams etc tho these are often well surmounted.

mablemurple Sat 20-Jun-09 00:09:59

DD goes to an even smaller school - 40 pupils from reception to yr 4 (we are a three tier county). She is now in the final year and the only one of your concerns that I would say is a problem is the small pool of people from which to choose friends. We have had ongoing issues with a queen bee type and tbh it is difficult for my dd to get away from her. However, she has also learnt how to stand up to girls like these, so not altogether a negative experience. We have also ensured she has activities after school where she can make other friends.
The school is fantastic at creating partnerships with other similarly sized schools nearby for sports activities and is very proactive in ensuring they get their fair share of LEA initiatives, in music for example. I know for a fact that dd would not have been offered the opportunity to play violin from year 1 or french horn from year 3 if she had attended the local, huge, lower school.

asdx2 Sat 20-Jun-09 08:29:05

I have just moved Lucy out of a small (75 pupils) because our difficulty was there was 1 poor teacher and because of the mixed year classes Lucy stood a good chance of being in her class for at least two years and I didn't think two poor years would be helpful.I wasn't the only one others are removing their's too rather than risk it.
In our experience though Lucy thrived in the small classes although there wasn't opportunities to make lots of friendships because of class sizes and I do think when it comes to transfer to secondary school she will fare better by having more classmates ro with her. Our small primary feeds into 4 secondary schools so the 12 year sixes often started secondary knowing only one or two other pupils initially.

lottysmum Sat 20-Jun-09 10:39:22


I'm another mum who moved her daughter from a small school...although the new school isn't massive just 130 children.

Can echo Ingles post ....although my daughters class mix was awful 2 girls and 9 boys!

I just found that the small school were able to cope with the average kid and even able to bring the lower ability child up to average but struggled with engaging the brighter children...lack of schemes...

Community spirit is good at small schools and also probably enrichment activties. Whether a small school works is largely dependent on your child and the school staff.

My dd has been in her new school two terms and she has thrived in every way...just wish I had moved her in reception!

badgermonkey Sat 20-Jun-09 10:44:56

I work in a giant, 2000-pupil rural secondary and we get a fair few children who have been one of a handful of year 6s at their small village school or sometimes even the only one! It is a huge transition for them but as it's something we're familiar with, the school deals, IMO, very well with it. New year 7s are really well looked after and there's a lot of liaison between secondary and primary schools. So while it is a worry, I think secondary schools with very small feeder schools are probably well set up to deal with it. And I've never seen a significant difference between those who came from the huge feeder primary and small ones, except that children from small schools sometimes do better because they have to go and make new friends instead of hanging round with the same old crowd they've known for years and years.

ingles2 Sat 20-Jun-09 11:37:22

got to add, some of the problems at our village school, were just down to it being a poor school, with crap management.
How about making an appointment with the head frances and asking all these questions?

francesrivis Sat 20-Jun-09 13:45:01

Many thanks for all the replies! Ingles - the school has had a recent, fairly glowing, OFSTED report, so I reckon it's a good school and I must say I am leaning towards it. Badger - that's really reassuring about the transition to secondary school. I never realised it would all be such a dilemma!! Any more experiences welcome!

mrz Sat 20-Jun-09 18:28:16

Both my children attended our village school 3 classes
mixed R/Y1 ...Y2/3/4 ... Y4/5/6

neither experienced any difficulties

I attended a very small school 30 pupils 1 teacher and found secondary a very strange place.

My friend's 3 children attended an even smaller school 18 pupils and none had problems

goldrock Sat 20-Jun-09 22:10:08

My DCs attend a small primary with 3 classes and mixed age teaching.
My personal pros and cons are :-
teaching by ability rather than age is available for those at both ends of the scale
fantastic community spirit within the school, all parents know each other and watch out for each others children
children mix well across age groups
small year groups can lead to imbalance in the sexes
competitive sport is difficult (but as DCs do their sport outside school they get to make lots of friends)
possible lack of stimulation in the highest year for very bright children.

That said I think you need to make your decision on the school in question taking into account teaching staff, facilites and the gut feeling you get when you look around.
I haven't experienced the transfer to secondary yet but others who have speak very highly of it and all children seem to settle in well and as most of them come from small primaries they are all in the same boat.

Mummy2Scarlet Sun 21-Jun-09 08:46:20

I attended a small village primary school - 50 kids by the time I left, but it was less than that when I started - and loved every minute of it. I found it supportive all the way through, from the whole school have learnt my name when I arrived, making me feel immediately part of the family, to leaving, and although the secondary school was big (1500), because I already knew pupils from higher years really well, I knew I'd have somebody to look out for me. Plus, I thought going to secondary school without a large group of people was OK - I didn't like the 'bigness' at first, but after a while learnt to love it.
Another of the big 'pros' was being able to walk to school, something which wouldn't have happened if my parents had chosen to send me to a bigger school.
So I would say that, for a more personal primary education, a small school is better!

happywomble Sun 21-Jun-09 09:39:00

The sport thing may be a problem in small schools but there are issues in big schools too. DS goes to a 2 form entry school. He will have to be very good to get in the team for any sport as there will be so many children to choose from when they pick teams. In a small school I would imagine there would be more chance to participate in sport and clubs as there would be enough places for everyone.

trefusis Sun 21-Jun-09 10:31:37

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trefusis Sun 21-Jun-09 10:39:51

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francesrivis Sun 21-Jun-09 16:05:33

Thank you all so much - all this is really helpful. I think we are pretty much decided now that we will go for it - always assuming she gets in and we can find a childminder locally!

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