Small Schools, Big Impact: How Kapow Primary can help you overcome common challenges

Teachers in small primary schools know all too well the challenges of providing a quality education for each and every pupil, with mixed-age classes, limited resources, and leaders in charge of multiple subjects, to name a few. You often wear many hats and use your creativity to ensure that each child receives the attention and resources they need to succeed. 

We know that smaller schools have relatively fewer staff and pupils, so mixed-age classes are a common feature. On the one hand, teaching multiple-year groups can be difficult, but, on the other hand, it can also be a rewarding experience for both pupils and teachers. 


Top tips for teaching mixed-age classes:


  • Teach the whole class: Don’t divide the class into separate year groups, unless you absolutely have to. By teaching everyone at once, skills and knowledge can be modelled, and any misconceptions quickly addressed.


  • Foster peer-to-peer learning: Encourage older pupils to help their younger classmates, and allow pupils of different ages to work together on projects and activities. This type of learning helps to build confidence and leadership skills in the older pupils and allows younger pupils to learn from their peers. Top Tip: Keep groupings flexible; you can move pupils between activities over the course of the day.


  • Embrace technology: Technology can be a valuable resource for providing different types of instruction and engaging pupils of different ages: interactive games and online resources can provide valuable learning experiences for all your pupils.


  • Encourage independent learning: Teach pupils how to work independently, allowing them to progress at their own pace and build confidence in their abilities. Plan a variety of activities that can run concurrently, to cater for children who are developing their ability to concentrate.


Top Tip: Use open-ended and exploratory questions so that children can learn and explore at their own level.


  • Create a supportive learning environment: Foster a positive and supportive learning environment where all pupils feel valued and encouraged. Celebrate the pupils’ successes and work with them to overcome difficulties.


Top Tip: Circulate around the room during group tasks to give immediate feedback and encouragement. Take the opportunity to add extension tasks for those who need them.


  • Planning ahead: A clear structure for each unit/term can help ensure that all pupils are engaged and challenged, regardless of their year group. Kapow Primary Mixed-Age Planning Documents can help you with this.


Kapow Primary has published a collection of blog posts that focus on teaching specific subjects to mixed-age classes. These include:


Teaching in small schools often means managing with limited resources which can be tricky, and you will need to be creative and resourceful in your approach. By focusing on hands-on activities and encouraging creativity and critical thinking, you can provide your pupils with a well-rounded education.


Here are some tips for teaching with limited resources:


  • Utilise online resources: There are many free or low-cost educational resources available online that can supplement your teaching materials. The internet can be a valuable resource for teachers – from educational games to video resources. Some of the online resources that the Kapow Primary schemes use are: 


  • Be creative with everyday materials: Everyday items such as cardboard boxes, paper and string can be turned into fun and engaging educational activities.


  • Use the community as a resource: Partner with local organisations and businesses to provide educational experiences and resources for your pupils.


  • Plan hands-on activities: Practical activities and projects can be an effective way to engage pupils and teach critical thinking skills, even with limited materials.


  • Encourage creativity and critical thinking: Rather than relying on specific resources and materials, try encouraging pupils to think critically and creatively. This fosters problem-solving skills that can be used throughout education and life.


  • Collaborate: Sharing resources and ideas with other teachers can be a great way to overcome resource limitations.


Often, limited time and a lack of specialist knowledge can lead to difficulty for you as a subject leader – especially in a small school with fewer resources and staff as well as the need to manage more than one subject. At Kapow Primary, we understand how difficult this can be, and our schemes help you adapt the curriculum for different subjects and situations. Effectively we’ve done the heavy lifting so you don’t have to with our Kapow Primary Subject Planning – plus, we make sure to keep our guidance up to date so these changes will always be reflected in the latest versions. 


Tips to help you succeed:


  • Prioritising: Which subjects need attention right now? Which are highlighted in your School Improvement Plan (SIP)? Check out our complimentary download Subject Audits for Ofsted to help you with this process.


  • Dedicated staff meeting time: Holding subject-focused working groups a few times a year can be beneficial, as many of a subject leader’s tasks can be completed as a team.


  • Conducting knowledge audits: Asking staff to complete an audit at the beginning of the school year can be an excellent way of identifying gaps and training needs for staff. Find teacher knowledge audits in each of our Subject Leader Toolkits


  • Have a vision for your subjects: Creating an intent, implementation and impact statement for each subject is a useful tool to share your teaching aims and to ensure they are delivered consistently across the school. Adapting our provided versions will make this an easier task.


There is no need to reinvent the wheel; our handy and free Subject Leader Toolkits offer useful resources to help you lead successfully.


​​Despite the challenges that you face, teaching in a small primary school can be very rewarding. Close relationships with pupils and a strong sense of community mean that smaller schools offer a supportive and nurturing environment for pupils and teachers alike.

Written by:
Sarah Johnson

Kapow Primary will be undergoing scheduled maintenance between 4pm 31st March and 8pm 31st March.