Why small is great
How much do you like your neighbours, and how well do you know them? What about the people you work with? It may be that you have a good knowledge of lots of people, and you may have many good relationships. Now, how important are those people to you and how important are they compared to say, your family?
Many schools like to claim they have a family feel and these days it is almost essential for schools to insist they have an excellent pastoral system. However, it is small schools and more specifically single form entry schools that can truly behave like a family, rather than claim to be like one.
It is the children, the staff and the parents that will tell you that Brackenfield School has a remarkable family feel. It is in a single form school that every member of staff can know every pupil, and that specialist teachers, like our French teacher and our Music teacher for example, can know every pupil well. The Headmaster not only knows every pupil from Nursery to Year 6 well, but he also knows Mum, Dad, sometimes Grandma and Grandad, and quite often - the family dog.
When you are so well-connected, you build strong reciprocal relationships. This deep knowledge of our pupils and care for them is what makes a small school like ours, special. When you care about someone you want them to succeed, to overcome obstacles, to reach their potential and to be happy. However, it’s not just the class teacher at Brackenfield that cares about your child; it’s every teacher that cares about your child, and will care about them next year and every year after, so long as they are part of the ‘family’.
Being intrinsically motivated to ensure every pupil is well and happy enables us to make the most academic progress possible with each pupil. There is flexibility in our teaching and learning to provide the most appropriate personalised approach. Responsive teaching to support pupil learning does not wait for test outcomes; it’s instantaneous. There are tests and data captures to be analysed, but the most important data is kept in real time in minds of all teaching staff which empowers them to give the best moment by moment support to each pupil. Again, this is what you get in great small schools.
Is there a downside to the small school? Single form schools may not have the facilities to match larger schools and there may be a greater focus on tradition and values rather than new and shiny spaces and resources. However, many small schools have cultivated relationships in their community that allow their pupils to gain even better access to facilities than larger schools, though this can be hard for prospective parents to identify; it is definitely worth asking about where pupils go swimming or where their forest school is located for example.
When it comes to education in the most formative age of a child’s life, a small school setting can be a home from home, a larger family and the best learning environment.
Mr Joe Masterton