Is small beautiful? A scoping review of 21st-century research on small rural schools in Europe

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Small rural schools in many countries have historically been viewed as less desirable than their larger urban counterparts, being treated less favourably in the policy arena and facing a risk of closure or amalgamation. Within Europe, they have been the focus of a range of research studies and have been defined in different ways, based mostly on the number of pupils enrolled (typically around 100), but also their geographical isolation or small number of staff. However, the last notable attempt to review the literature in this area was carried out over 10 years ago. Since then, there has been a large volume of research conducted in many European countries. This rigorous scoping review has brought together what we know from research (published in English since 2000) on small rural schools in Europe. The most common themes identified were school leadership, the importance of context (including education policy and school closures/amalgamations), and school-community relationships. Case studies and ethnographic qualitative methods were the most popular, with a stronger use made of theoretical frameworks since the previous review. Nonetheless, the current review found still significant gaps in the literature including an under-theorization of certain topics and a lack of research with children.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)822-844
Number of pages23
JournalEuropean Educational Research Journal
Issue number5
Early online date06 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sep 2022


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