My granddaughters are present or former pupils at Moorland Waldorf School. Right now, one has just started kindergarten, two are in the main class (class 3) and one has just left to attend a local primary school for her transitional year before moving on to a state secondary school.
When they first went to Moorland Waldorf, I knew little about Waldorf (perhaps more commonly known as Steiner) education. But I’d worked in education for my entire career. A product of state schools myself, I’m a passionate believer in public education and spent my early career as a secondary teacher. I moved into higher education and later found myself in advisory and policy roles. But over the years, while my commitment to the principle of state education didn’t wane, I became increasingly disillusioned by the way that government interference in policy and curriculum seemed to be wringing the richness out of learning.
At first, I admit that I had my doubts about Waldorf education. I worried that children didn’t learn to read until they were six, that mixed age learning would perhaps hinder progress, or that the very firm avoidance of computers and screens in day-to-day teaching was rather old -fashioned.
But Moorland Waldorf School has been a great start for my granddaughters. This is education based on firm beliefs about the simple pleasures of childhood, the joy to be found in all aspects of learning; an education that closely observes and nurtures the individual child, allowing them to explore and learn at their own pace, free from the pressures of testing. The children spend lots of time outside – no lip service to so-called ‘forest school’ for them, almost every day their play and their learning take them into the beautiful natural world which surrounds the school. No subject is left out but – just in the same way that life doesn’t come neatly packaged – subjects and ideas are woven together to allow better understanding of the way the world works. And there’s room for everything – art, craft, music, languages, history, geography, as well as reading, writing, maths and science. It’s a truly rounded education.
And my fear that the girls would somehow be ‘behind’? Well, the oldest has just joined a mainstream primary class in year six and as a confident and capable learner has had no problem at all in keeping up with her peers.
By Linda Parker