Our little girl has just finished her first full week of Steiner school! She is enjoying it and we are getting some really interesting snippets of information about what they have been doing this week. I have started writing them all down. We had a lovely picnic at a local ice cream parlour & farm after school today with three other Mums from the school, and between us all were seven children. I am feeling very grateful to be where we are right now. Here is some more information about the school leading on from my last blog post……
The Open Day
At the school open day we liked that the headteacher said ‘this is not a school where you just drop the children off and go’. By this he meant that they actively encourage parents to volunteer, participate and socialise. Once a month there are work days at the weekend, when parents and children come together to work on the gardens. Once we had moved we really saw this sense of community in every aspect.
Before our child started, workshops were organised to make crayon rolls and bean bags for the class. There was also a bring and share picnic in the Summer which was a lovely half hour walk in the woods followed by food and play and chat, everyone getting to know one another. The Summer Fair provided us with another opportunities to make links and meet new friends. There were stalls in the school hall (Barefoot Books, local artists, handmade jewwllery,,cards, hair braiding, handmade/upcycled clothes). On the main field they had several outdoor stalls including a coconut shy, circus skills, hot drinks & cakes, a mud slide, etc. I loved that there was a huge area where clothes were piled, sorted by age/size, and by just making a donation you could help yourselves. In the other field there was wellie wanging. Hubby had to have a go of course! The beautiful gypsy caravan was in use and fortunes could be read for a small fee. Children are encouraged to make / contribute towards school community fund raising (for example making cakes), they learn about how that money then goes back into the running of the school, and specific trips for their class.
There is a coffee morning every Friday for parents, serving mugs of hot drinks and various refreshments, including a huge container of chai tea and fresh food from the kitchen. The school is also used as a venue for meditation courses, yoga and eurythmy. Small Steiner mini buses driven by a rota of volunteers, transport groups of children to and from home were possible. The majority of pupils do not live as close to the school as we do, so there are car sharing arrangements made between parents too.
The food at the open day was made by parents. Lunches at school are either sandwiches or hot dinners (£2.55 each). Hot lunches are served in the canteen but in Class 1 they bring their lunches to their classroom. Our daughter has a hot dinner on the only two days a week that she is in all day (Mondays and Wednesdays) and reports enjoying them very much. Free school meals scheme is in place through the local council for qualifying families. However when I collect her at 12.45 we do have the option of ordering a hot dinner for us both and eating in the canteen together too. Hot healthy meals are available for adults at just an extra 10p per head. Children bring in snacks which are eaten mid morning. A few days a week there is a little wooden caravan near one of the school gates which sells a range of toys, books, wax crayons, other stationary, and branded products such as Weleda.
The make up of the school / teachers & staff
There are four kindergartens. Each has its own long outdoor garden. The eldest children can be seen popping their heads over the fence and chatting. Each kindy has three age groups of children aged 3-6 years. Each September the oldest part of each kindy forms a new class to create Class One. There are about 23 children on average in each year group. Each class has a teacher and a teaching assistant.
Steiner teachers have a wide variety of backgrounds and routes into the field of Steiner/Warldorf education. I believe there are currently five or six state funded Steiner schools in the UK, out of 34 Steiner/Warldorf educational settings, so Steiner teachers are precious resource.
Here is a link to the growing list of Steiner establishments in the UK and Ireland (thankyou K for pointing me in the right direction);
During kindy, children have the same teacher and TA (teaching assistant) for three years. Then from Class 1 they are a newly formed group and have a new teacher and TA for the start of their formal learning. I am learning more about this and the options teachers have for routes to Steiner teacher training.
The Class 1 children first meet their new teacher at an event in one of the kindergarten gardens. She leads the children from kindy into the Class 1 classroom and tells them the first part of a story. This story is continued later on once they have started school. The children are led back to their parents who are waiting for them in the kindy garden. This was wonderful to witness. The teacher did not ask for everyone’s attention. Instead, waited until everyone arrived and the children were playing, and she silently walked to the centre of the garden and stood still. Slowly the children began to gravitate towards her, perhaps out of curiosity, or maybe they had made eye contact with her as she looked around, inviting the children in with her body language.
She said ‘let’s hold hands shall we?’ to a few of the children, and a long line quickly formed which she led out towards the class 1 classroom. Our little girl did have a slight wobble at thus stage as she had only met 3 or 4 of the other children at that stage, but once she was holding the hand of another little girl she recognised, the years stopped and off she went.
A home visit by the teacher then takes place in the summer months. Our daughter’s teacher spoke with us about what school will be like, answered any questions our daughter had, and then got a tour of our daughters bedroom!
As there is no uniform there is a dress code. I will blog about this later as that’s a whole story in itself. Children have wellies, ‘indoor shoes’ (black pumps), and waterproof trousers & jacket, all which are kept in school in their desks. The desks are old fashioned single sturdy wooden desks with kids that open up for storage. They are paired in twos and sit in four rows in the classroom. They move them for ‘circle time’, and other purposes depending on what activities they are doing that day.
The teacher stays with the class as the class progress through the school. So next year our child’s teacher will move up with the class to become Class 2. I love this approach as it means the teacher gets to know the children very well and it increases the chance that the child will have a relationship where they can trust the teacher to confide in should they need extra help or have something on their mind. This does not restrict opportunities to learn from other teachers as the class teacher goes on to deliver the ‘main lesson’ (two hours in the morning) and other subjects are taught by specialist subject teachers. These include handwork, eurythmy, woodwork, Spanish, etc.
Everybody is different of course, and there may be occasions where personalities or the personal application of the method does not fit well with the particular class or school. There is information in the school literature about this, and how they try to ensure ‘good matching’ of teacher & classes. Great thought goes into who is paired with who for desk buddies. Our child was paired with the other child in their group, who can already read & write, having previously attended a non Steiner primary school. Opposites are commonly paired together, for example, our daughter is quite confident and can be ‘bossy’ (no idea where she gets that from), so the lovely little boy she sits next to is more of a thinker, and between them are two sides to the same coin. Children can move places during the school year at the teacher’s discretion.
SATS testing is available at the school but is not compulsory so attendance for these can be low. The school teaches until 16 so there is no need for a change from primary to secondary school at age 11.
All the schools in the UK are private (paid for) with the exception of the state-funded school our daughter attends. Places are allocated on the admission criteria not unlike that we had come to familiarise ourselves with when appealing for a local school place in the town where we used to live. For example, Looked After Children, then children who have older siblings at the school already, and then children on the waiting list ranked by distance from the school.
When we moved our daughter was added to the waiting list, there were nine on the waiting list for her year. Our new address meant she moved to first place on the list. We prepared ourselves for the idea that we may have to home-school for sometime before a place became available. We moved five weeks before the summer holidays started, and homeschooled her during this time. It was about four weeks after we moved that we were told a place might become available that week. The next day we received confirmation that a place had become available and that our daughter could start Class 1 in September. We were overjoyed (and still are!) and things started falling into place.
My father had lived in the are next to a huge orchard for ten years, so many of my weekends during my teen years were spent in the locality. I have good memories of walking by the river before Sunday lunch, and learning about how the farming industry and local community/landscape had changed over the years. I fondly recall sampling the local cider and guest ales in the nearest pub, with its dark wooden beams and well established regulars, only too happy to give their account of the history of the area and all the gossip on the few large families employing almost everyone. Maybe this is why it feels like home already.
Have a lovely Friday everyone!