STRIKING evidence of the educational advantages of small schools has emerged with the release of the Southern Education and Library Board’s area profile for the Dungannon District.
Local children attending primary schools regarded as too small to be viable are outperforming in English and Maths their peers who attend larger schools.
The area profiles reveal that a total of 13 Dungannon schools recorded 100 percent attainment levels in either key Stage 2 English or Maths. According to the Bain report into minimum school enrollments, all 13 would have been recommended for closure.
Seven of these schools had less than 70 pupils, while the other six had less than 100 pupils. The Bain guidelines stipulate that rural schools of less than 105 pupils are unviable.
The smallest of the high-achieving schools was St Malachy’s Glencull with just 40 pupils. According to SELB figures the Ballygawley school achieved 100 percent attainment levels for English and Maths in 2010 and 2011.
The figures have brought into sharp focus the debate over the viability of small schools in the local district.
The public spending squeeze has pushed the education department towards closing small schools on the grounds that larger schools attract more resources. However, the results suggest that as school size goes up, the educational attainment levels dramatically go down.
Ofsted has argued that the quality of teaching in small schools is generally better than in larger schools.