December 06, 2003
Small is beautiful at Tetherdown Primary School

This sounds like something's being done right.

A small London primary school with a "village-style" atmosphere was celebrating last week after achieving its best ever results. Tetherdown Primary School, in the leafy hill-top suburb of Muswell Hill, was one of only 142 schools - out of more than 20,000 in the country - to be awarded a perfect score in the national tests for 11-year-olds this summer.

Every 11-year-old reached the required standard for their age for the first time, and a proportion of students achieved at a standard expected of older children. Put together, these results meant that the school was ranked as the joint-highest-achieving "community" – or non-faith – school in the country.

Personally I think this is a model for primary education in a lot of other places. And if a lot of schools were this small, then in places like London they could be quite close together, and that means people could, if the system allowed, choose between them in a way that would really count. Choosing between a very local school and a faraway school, is not nearly so real a choice.

As a generalisation, there should be more schools in Britain, and smaller schools in Britain. And small has another advantage besides opening up choices for people. I recall reading a management book many decades ago, which said that six hundred was about the upper limit of how many people you could know. That's how big a Roman legion was, and a modern regiment. In a school of six hundred or less, strangers will immediately be spotted. The place will be an order of magnitude safer than a school with, say twelve hundred pupils.

Oddly, this Independent story doesn't seem to say how many children attend Tetherdown. And I can't find this out anywhere here either. But it's a whole lot less than six hundred, that's for sure.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:21 AM
Category: Primary schools