ONE of the smallest schools in Hampshire is promoting the benefits of a tight-knit group as student numbers decrease nationwide.

West Meon Church of England Primary School has rallied together to tell prospective pupils’ parents why they should consider a small school.

The school in Petersfield has just under 70 pupils compared to the average primary school of around 500 students. Despite single-stream schools being able to lead more tailored learning, the number of small schools and students attending those schools is decreasing.

According to Professor Tanya-Ovenden Hope from Plymouth Marjon University, the number of small schools has declined in England from 11,464 in 1980 to 5,406 in 2018 while the number of large primary schools has increased from 49 to 780. The university professor recognised dwindling numbers as primarily being in rural areas.

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In response to the nationwide trend, parent governors from West Meon listed benefits such as relationships and connection, closer monitoring of learning development, flexibility in learning, and the partnership between parents and staff as reasons to pick a small school.

Parent Stacey Goodman said: “The small class sizes mean teachers can spend more time one on one which has built confidence in classroom subjects as well as a nurturing relationship between my girls and the teachers.

"The smaller community allows for extra reward and recognition for a child’s progress which is celebrated school-wide. As a parent, we feel more connected to the teachers and head teachers. It’s a wonderful community."

West Meon headteacher, Mrs Julie Kelly, is the headteacher liaison officer for the National Association of Small Schools and the national executive of the National Association of Headteachers, where her focus is on the protection of small schools. She said: “Our children enjoy strong rapport with not only their teacher but all the staff at the school. There is a shared concern for their learning and welfare.

“A small school allows the headteacher to hand-pick staff whose talents and skills specifically meet the needs of the children in the school.”

Hampshire Chronicle:

Year four pupil, Hermione Holgate aged nine, said: “At West Meon you get to know everyone in the school. You make friends with people who are older and younger than you as you are in classes with them. The teachers have more time so they know you better as a person and have more time to explain things to you. I love being at West Meon because it feels like having another family.” 

A lower student-to-staff ratio facilitates hands-on learning. At West Meon, children are taken on trips at least once a term. Mrs Kelly added: “It is easy to put the kids in our bus and share meaningful, real-life learning with them. It doesn’t have to be the logistical nightmare it can be in big schools.”

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Reflecting on former students and how being educated in small school set them up for the future, the Hampshire headteacher said: “They enter secondary school academically prepared, equipped with leadership skills and self-assured. The fact they return to visit us often shows the sense of belonging they experienced here. It’s affirming for us as a small school. We’re getting things right.”

West Meon CofE Primary School is looking ahead to next year with spaces available for September 2023 and an open morning on November 19, 10am until midday. For more go to