When we were thinking about the type of school we wanted to establish, we decided we wanted to keep it small. We know this is going completely against the grain of Islamic schools that have been popping up and growing into mega-schools.
However, we need to be true to ourselves. It’s not so much about the numbers as it is about the outcomes. We got into this ‘let’s start a school’ mindset because we wanted to achieve certain outcomes for our students and, as we did our research and got down to work, it dawned on us that if we grow too big the task becomes much more difficult.
So here are 5 benefits that we think we will get just by keeping our school small:
1. Individualised Attention: A pretty obvious one to begin with. Fewer students means more time for a teacher to spend with a child. Particularly with subjects like maths where skills are built on earlier skills, we want our students to study for mastery and not merely to get through a curriculum and take a test at the end of it. To do so, we want to be able to give our students the opportunity to develop at their own pace and this becomes much easier with a smaller student-teacher ratio.
2. Teachers! Teachers! Teachers! It’s no secret that the quality of a teacher can make or break a student’s learning experience. We – like all other schools – want to hire the best. We believe that being small will allow us to have more consistency in the standard of teaching throughout the school as we then need to hire fewer teachers.
3. Re-Creating the Extended Family: We believe that primary education is as much about child-raising as it is about imparting knowledge. This was a natural occurrence in the past when families were large and lived close together. Uncles, aunts, grandparents, older cousins etc. would all contribute towards the raising of the child. The children of today have lost this to a large extent as families have become more nuclear. Accordingly, we believe we need to build an environment that allows for strong bonds to be developed amongst those involved; an environment in which all members look out for the wellbeing of other members. This is only possible if you are small.
4. Flexibility in Timetabling: The best learning opportunities do not always fit neatly into a rigid timetable. We want to be a school where if something more interesting or more beneficial should spontaneously arise, we have the flexibility to drop what we are doing and take up the more interesting opportunity. Being small means that such changes in pace will not cause chaos – so we are always able to remain flexible, nimble and open to embracing the best learning opportunities for our students at any given point in time.
5. Opportunity: To develop the whole person, children need a wide range of experiences – whether it be in the arts, sports, public speaking, special projects etc. We believe children will have more of an opportunity to develop skills in a wide range of areas in a smaller school than in a bigger school as they are not competing with larger numbers for limited places.