Convert to the cause of small schools

19th June 2009 at 01:00

As the headteacher of a small urban infant school in the South East under threat of closure, I read your article "What no school?" (TES Magazine, June 12) with interest.

Our roll is currently 86 and is due to rise to 100 in September, having dropped in previous years because of factors outside our control. Our local authority is basing its reason for closure on the need to eradicate surplus places, even though demographics for this area indicate a shortfall in school places within the next three years.

Typically as a busy headteacher, I didn't quite realise the strength of my feelings for small-school education until it was under threat. I have now started to delve into the mass of research into the value of small schools, in urban as well as rural areas.

I have always considered that there is more to a school than test results, important though they are, and that education is also about taking time to create the citizens of the future, making links with families and the local community - something small schools find easier.

Our school has been in this community for more than 100 years, and we still find time to help our 93-year-old neighbour, a former pupil, to read her post now she is almost blind.

Having been in education for more than 20 years, I have watched in horror as we have engendered a sense of failure in generations of children, as we have bashed away at square pegs, trying to push them into round holes. At a small school, it is so much easier to get to know those young people as individuals.

A third of our children come from the most deprived households in our area, and they achieve well. They are happy, secure and confident; their families can be found digging our vegetable plot, cooking with groups of children and engaging in the family programmes that we run.

If small schools such as ours are eradicated from the educational landscape in favour of larger, more "cost-effective" learning environments, they can never be replaced. The true cost in terms of social cohesion and people's wellbeing and self-esteem will be felt for generations to come and will ultimately cost the taxpayer much, much more than keeping us open.

Nicole Caulfield, Headteacher, St Peter's Infants, Medway, Kent.

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