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Small-school curriculum fear dismissed

Policy-makers' worries that small primary schools will not be able to offer junior pupils the full curriculum do not seem warranted, say researchers from York University.

Graham Vulliamy and Rosemary Webb found that, compared with medium and large schools, "there were relatively more innovative examples of experimentation with specialist teaching within the small schools". This was made easier by their more generous and flexible staffing - for instance, more part-timers could be employed.

Writing in Educational Review about a study funded by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, they say the advantages of small schools include greater opportunities for innovative curriculum work and classroom organisation arising from more flexible staffing strategies; the likelihood of strong and realistic curriculum planning and leadership of teaching heads; and the greater ease of assessing pupils' in situations where all the staff know all the pupils.

They add that those concerned about the curriculum in small schools make unwarranted assumptions about the nature of larger primaries.

"Our research demonstrates that the class-teacher system is still overwhelmingly dominant throughout key stage 2. Thus, whether or not a pupil receives an appropriately broad and in-depth curriculum depends more on the characteristics of individual teachers than on the size of the school."

The national curriculum in small primary schools, Educational Review, Volume 47, number 1.

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