Small schools, big issue? Exploring the future for small schools in England

BERA SIG for School Effectiveness and Improvement, in partnership with Plymouth Marjon University, the National Association of Small Schools and the Diocese of Truro, invites school leaders, educational researchers and interested stakeholders to a one day conference on ‘Small schools, big issue? Exploring the future for small schools in England.’

Small schools have been championed for the value they bring to their typically rural communities. The future of small schools in England is in question due to policy changes and austerity for public services funding (the National Funding Formula not offering the significant increases in funding needed by small schools). Some Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs) tried to set a minimum pupil number for schools to remain viable and run at an ‘acceptable cost’.

In 2016, the White Paper ‘Educational Excellence Everywhere’ was clear that small schools must come together in formal collaborations, preferably MATs, in order to survive. However, the financial challenges of small rural schools can make them unattractive for academy chains or multi-academy trusts (MATs).

There is no nationally agreed definition of what constitutes a small school, with categories ranging from fewer than 210 pupils on roll to fewer than 101. Research on small schools has also been limited since 2000, with a need evident for more large scale, peer reviewed and funded investigations. This conference will explore the future for small schools and attempt to establish a manifesto to influence thinking about the difference small schools make to education in England.


10.00 Registration and refreshments
10.10 Welcome and introduction
Neil Short, Chair of the National Association of Small Schools and Prof Tanya Ovenden-Hope, SIG Convenor
10.30 The impact of the new Ofsted framework on small schools
Professor Daniel Muijs, Head or Research, Ofsted
11.25 Parallel workshops:
  Small school effectiveness – challenges and successes, led by Prof Tanya Ovenden-Hope
  Creating a Small Schools Manifesto, led by Neil Short
12.40 Lunch
13.30 Small schools’ big issues in England and Europe: Cautionary tales and strategic moves
Dr Linda Hargreaves, University of Cambridge
14.25 Parallel workshops:
  Small school effectiveness – challenges and successes
  Creating a Small Schools Manifesto
15.10 Refreshments break
15.20 Plenary Panel – A Small Schools Manifesto
Rev Simon Cade (Director of Diocese Education, Cornwall), Professor Carl Bagley (Queens University, Belfast), Dr Cath Gristy (University of Plymouth), Dr Ian Luke (Plymouth Marjon University)
15.55 Completion of evaluation forms
16.00 End of conference


The BERA Early Career Researcher Network offers a limited amount of bursaries to the value of £75 towards travel for BERA Student Members only.

To apply for one of these bursaries, please email with a 250 word statement on why you want to attend this event and why you need the financial assistance. Bursaries are offered on a first come, first served basis. Travel expenses will be reimbursed after the event in accordance with our travel policies. You must not have previously received bursary funding from BERA.

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