Alexandra Park Children's Learning Community

(6 Posts)
thepatchworkcat Sat 30-Sep-17 19:05:00

Does anyone have any experience of Alexandra Park Children's Learning Community? (Fee paying Reggio Emilia style nursery/Kindergarten/primary school). Ta.

mancone Sun 01-Oct-17 15:34:56

I have a child there and overall I think it's great.

The best things imo are:

- The gentle, child-centered approach in combination with highly-qualified and dedicated staff. For instance, they don't move children between rooms as soon as they reach age X, but wait until the individual child is ready and make the ratios work around that. At least one teacher per room usually moves up to the next room with a group of children each Sept to make sure they have a familiar face around. Having a mix of qualified teachers and artists around means the children have a huge amount of freedom to play and explore, so learning happens without them realising it. If a child wants to ask questions about the chickens when everyone else is drawing sea creatures, that's okay and even encouraged. If a child wants to make mud pies outside rather than sing songs in Spanish, that's fine too. I wasn't previously familiar with Reggio Emilia but I now think of it in a similar vein to Montessori, Froebel, and other progressive education philosophies in ideals, even if the methods differ. (And it's thankfully a million miles from Steiner woo).

- The immersive, international feel. More than half the staff are Spanish to support the bilingual environment, and many of the children come from international backgrounds all over Europe and beyond. It gives the place a nice sense of community that I haven't seen in other nurseries, particularly amongst non-British parents like us who find most nurseries in England to be too much about academic achievement and not enough about play. It's also lovely that so many staff know my child's name from everyone eating lunch together.

There are some downsides but I think they're relatively minor. Admin can be a bit chaotic, although it's gotten better recently. I still check my quoted fees very carefully, though! The food sometimes has things my child really doesn't like, such as curry, but since there's no alternative they just have to get by that day on carbs and fruit. It's not that big a deal though - my child doesn't go hungry and can have a substantial dinner at home anyway.

thepatchworkcat Sun 01-Oct-17 16:55:32

Thanks for all that mancone - not in a position to pay for school at the moment but I am curious and like the sound of it grin

bankdale Wed 04-Oct-17 22:48:38

I'm also interested in Alexandra Park CLC as an alternative to mainstream schooling for my 4yo. Their website mentions that they cater for children up to 11 years but I get the impression most children are of nursery age. Are you able to shed any light @mancone? Do many 5+ kids attend? What's your impression of their provision for school-aged children?

mancone Fri 06-Oct-17 18:41:39

They cover the full primary range, yes, although it's at a small scale compared to the younger groups.

There are a lot of reception-age children in kindergarten as it covers from roughly 3.5 - 5 years (though I think some kids are a bit over 5 by the summer). It's not really the same as traditional nursery because it covers an older age and children can spend 2 years there (which makes it especially good for summer-born children who aren't ready to start school at age 4). I think most children are there 2-3 days a week rather than full time.

The over-5s learning community is mostly made up of children moving up from kindergarten. Again, I think most attend 2-3 days a week rather than full-time (though it varies), and there are fewer than 20 children (maybe 15?) enrolled in total. They follow a democratic model of education, where children choose their own lessons, projects, etc. both individually and as a group. To be honest, that sounded a bit too hippy for me. while I was interested in the school for my child, I was initially concerned that learning would be patchy rather than broad, and incomplete rather than well-rounded by the end of primary...

However, I changed my mind when I went and talked to them. The main teacher works incredibly hard to track each child and make sure they're supported in all areas, but does so invisibly (no testing, no SATS, no league tables, etc.) and tailored to each child. They keep learning journals for each child, where every random piece of work a child does is benchmarked against the various areas of the national curriculum. It would be really easy as a parent to see your child's strengths and challenges.

I came away with the impression that, far from having lax academic standards, they were more academically rigorous than most primary schools. So basically, I would recommend asking for a show-around - they do them fairly often and were happy to talk me through what they do.

bankdale Tue 10-Oct-17 20:40:09

Thanks so much for your insights @mancone. I'll be in touch with them to book a visit smile

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