There are plans afoot for super sized secondary schools to cater for the growing need for places. These are planned for both urban and rural areas and will cater for upwards of two thousand pupils.
This is to address the sudden rise in numbers of primary children who will graduate to secondary in the next few years when funding is such that building new smaller schools is not an option. So building additions to existing schools will create new places, thus extending the size of schools some already well stretched.
There are mixed arguments for and against larger schools and the impact on both educational opportunity and the personal wellbeing of the children.
Some feel that this is a good move, that larger schools provide better resources, a wider range of choices and expertise, and a richer more diverse community. Their funding enables them to offer extensive extra-curricular experiences and more activities for children to become involved in.
Others feel that due to the size, that sense of community is in fact lost, that children can feel overwhelmed and invisible, that interactions between staff and pupils become impersonal and pared down to crowd control, and larger schools are frightening places for young children who feel uncomfortable in crowds.
From the point of view of provision it would seem that larger schools have much to offer. But from the point of view of the individual it appears quite the opposite. (Interesting article here)
Lifeline Projects is a charity who has both communities and individuals at its heart. They provide support for youngsters and parents who are vulnerable or at risk. And they have expressed a concern that larger schools, although obviously providing a valuable service for some, could find it hard to give support to those children who so easily remain invisible in a larger group, but who have important needs.
It is interesting to note that among the reasons cited by home educating parents for removing their children from the system was the lack of attention to the child’s individual needs, resulting in failure either to achieve or thrive in a big group environment. This, for more sensitive children, would be exacerbated by larger schools. And although some argue that children should be made to ‘toughen up’ and get used to a wider community as they’ll have to do so in life after school, forcing them into crowd situations before they are ready doesn’t appear to help them do so. Home educated children who have had a quieter educational climate in which to study still mature into sociable adults perfectly able to cope with the rigours and challenges of big universities, or work, when they are older.
So whatever the nature or development of schooling in this country, perhaps what’s more important is that the opportunity for choice remains. For massive schools, although certainly providing different opportunities, perhaps cannot provide for the feeling of safety and nurture that some children need in order to thrive and achieve. So we perhaps need a variety of places to cater for all.