Its that time of year when job advertisements start appearing, teachers with itchy feet might wonder where their next move should be, so I thought I would offer my opinion about school size and the impact it has as a member of staff.
I feel I can make a balanced judgement of the pros and cons of working in a large and small school. I have spent the majority of my career working in a very large primary school, which at one point had 90 children per year group (nursery to Year 6), so over 500 children in total. In contrast I now work in a relatively small primary school, with only 6 classes in the whole school (Reception to Year 6), with a total of about 160 children.
Pros of a large school
The biggest advantage, and the aspect I miss the most, is sharing the work load. Planning is usually shared and can work to match the strengths of individual members of staff; if you have expertise in English it makes sense to plan that for yourself and other colleagues in the same year group. You also have more people to bounce ideas off. In fact year groups become a real team, like a family supporting each other. More people available to cover classes means you can have the luxury of having PPA at the same time, to allow teachers to work together.
In larger schools teachers can actually share the role of co-ordinating core subjects. I used to be KS2 maths coordinator and worked closely with my KS1 counterpart. However now I juggle several roles as I am science, history and eco team coordinator. You definitely have more hats to wear in a small school!
In larger schools it doesn’t always rely on the same people to do everything. For example at our KS2 school disco this week there are only 3 teachers in the juniors so you feel you should stay and help out. You can’t pass the baton to someone else, because there isn’t anyone else to ask.
You can also spread children around, in terms of mixing/ separating certain characters in a year group, whereas in a small school the same children are together no matter what, even if they are a terrible mix of personalities.
Pros of a small school.
You know everyone. It’s lovely knowing names of nearly all the children in school. I also feel children are more caring in a smaller school, maybe it’s that family atmosphere or because they regularly interact with children of all different ages. The larger schools I have worked in have had to have separate playtime and lunchtimes for different ages, due to the lack of space in the dining room/ play ground. Smaller schools don’t tend to have that problem. Children of all ages can mix together. Some of the best days I have had are where children from each class are mixed up to carry out activities. The older children really look after and nuture the younger ones.
You also tend to have a better relationship with parents as you know them. If a child in your class has a younger sibling they are more likely than not to end up in your class, so you can just build on that relationship.
You also know all the staff. When I worked in a larger school I’m not kidding I have been to a staff briefing, spotted an unfamilar face and would have to whisper to colleague who is that? Turns out it was the new reception teacher- at the time I didn’t even know they had employed a new teacher! This happened on more than one occasion too.
In a small school there are only one or two emails a week as communication is much easier- it’s a simple job of just looking at the staffroom noticeboard for up to date news. No more endless emails! Especially on a Sunday night!
I also feel you have more impact in a smaller school. If you only have 6 teachers at a staff meeting you can definitely get your view across and have an input on decisions. It can suit certain personalities as talking in front of 30+ members of staff can seem daunting, especially with a more diverse range of characters within the staff.
Despite all these comparisons, at the end of the day you need to be happy working at the school you are at- whether it’s large or small. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, both are good to experience in a career. Obviously the SLT have a crucial part to play. Sound leadership, which considers the welfare of staff, is a bigger impact than size everytime. In essence… weigh up all the options when choosing where to work and pick the best place for you!