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Are there "alternative" schools in London?

(50 Posts)
New2London Mon 30-May-11 05:33:33

My family and I are about to relocate to London from the US. Until now, my partner and I have home-schooled our daughter, who is turning 7 this summer. We have deep reservations about schooling, but we don't feel able any longer to sustain the home educating. Ideally, we seek to put our daughter in a school that somehow resembles our home-schooling approach as much as possible, or at least would not be not driven by a standardized curricular regimen and the mandate to teach for test results, with an emphasis on creativity and exploring questions. Are there any sort of explicitly "alternative" state primary schools in London? If so, please supply details!

Rosebud05 Mon 30-May-11 07:15:11

I'm not sure about explicitly alternative schools but tbh, you'd have to visit each one and speak to local parents to get the vibe of a school and whether it offers the a rounded, child-led curriculum that you're after.

Definitely don't be led by Ofsted reports/league tables; many high-performing schools with Outstanding reports are very SATs driven, with much less focus on creative, spontaneous activities. A friend of mine who is training to be a teacher has just finished a placement in an 'outstanding' primary where the kids do the absolute bare minimum of art because the curriculum is so SATs focused, for example, though this wouldn't be true of other 'outstanding' schools.

IndigoBell Mon 30-May-11 07:25:01

No state school is going to be alternative.

But an hour away from london you have the most alternative school in the world - summer hill. It is the most amazing school ever.

Apart hrom that there are some interesting schools listed here

Also you might be able to find a Montessori school. There's only a couple in London - most Montessori places are only nurseries in the UK.

And finally you might be able to find a 'free' school that is starting up. They are a new govt initiative that allows anyone to open a state funded school....

New2London Mon 30-May-11 18:31:04

Thanks so much to both of you -- this is very helpful.

100lilgreen Mon 30-May-11 23:24:40

If you want independent, try king alfreds. very alternative producing unique kids. no uniform etc.
what about a Steiner school?

tinytalker Tue 31-May-11 14:26:01

Here is a list of Steiner schools in the London area.

nlondondad Wed 01-Jun-11 22:56:31

I do wonder how people who have been socialised through summerhill cope with our society as a adults - for surely after being to that school they must experience life as being downhill all the way!

nlondondad Wed 01-Jun-11 23:00:11

I think you really should look at this link.

The Human Scale Education movement has always struck me as interesting.

Malaleuca Thu 02-Jun-11 01:26:35

It's surprising that there are few alternatives in London, or easy to find ones anyway. It must be the long tradition of extensive public provision for the masses and private for the very few.
Where I live in Western Australia (population < 2million) there are several alternatives in spitting distance covering just about all tastes!

IndigoBell Thu 02-Jun-11 07:22:16

Malaleuca - I'm too from down under, and when I emigrated here to the UK the thing that struck me the most was what a conformist society England is.

There are almost no alternative schools here, because by and large English people want to conform - they don't want alternative schools. (Oh yeah, and govt rules which meant the few that were operating had to close down...)

NLondonDad - glad to find a fellow fan of Summerhill. I'm hoping to send DD there when she is 10..... But being a boarding school makes it a very hard decision.

Elibean Thu 02-Jun-11 09:50:40

Maybe its the island thing?

If you can't afford/don't want independent, its still worth visiting state schools - especially at primary level, I think you can find some that are a lot less conformist than others. dd's school, as primaries go, is very supportive of the individual child and creativity/exploring questions.

That said, the changing demographic puts that in danger, as incoming parents are more anxious about tests/achievements and likely to put pressure on the school to 'aim higher' hmm

iskra Thu 02-Jun-11 09:53:34

There's a small alternative school in Lambeth called The Family School. Think it's Steiner inspired... & isn't there a Waldorf school in Streatham?

IndigoBell Thu 02-Jun-11 10:01:48

Elibean - no maintained state school is anywhere near an alternative school. By defn. For example at Summerhill all classes are optional. You don't have to go to any classes at all if you don't want to. That's alternative. Ie a different model of how to educate children.

Hopefully free schools will make a slight diff in this culture of forcing the same education on everyone........

worldgonecrazy Thu 02-Jun-11 10:07:21

I've just met an adult who went to Summerhill and she is lovely and very grounded. She did say that style of schooling didn't suit everyone, some children took a while to knuckle down, and some never did.

From what I've seen, heard and read, nearly all state schools do focus very heavily on training children to pass exams, rather than educating them. That is because it's the SATS/exam results that parents focus on when choosing schools, rather than looking at them holistically.

New2London Thu 02-Jun-11 19:09:31

The Family School and others on the Human Scale site look great, but we're really looking for a state-funded school. I suppose that sadly I've gotten my answer about whether or not there are alternative schools as such within the state-school spectrum.

But does anyone know of a state-funded primary "free school" with an interesting child-centered approach that might be within a reasonable commute to New Cross?

Otherwise, we're looking at trying to get into a regular state primary in East Dulwich, for instance, or perhaps Greenwich, or other neighborhoods where schools have a good reputation. Any specific recommendations or warnings?

fetchapailofwater Thu 02-Jun-11 20:16:42

It will be very difficult to get into a primary with a good reputation in Dulwich or Greenwich if you don't live very close by (same or surrounding streets). They are always oversubscribed and there is a dire shortage of places in London at the moment.

I'm surprised by the comments that Australia has so many alternative schools. I found that there was very poor provision for my son with high functioning autism over there and made the decision to return to the UK so he could access appropriate education here. He goes to a private special school now, which could be considered alternative - very caring with a focus on outdoor skills and they definitely embrace differences, but with a good standard of academics too. It is only for those on the autism spectrum, but I think a lot of children who don't fit into round holes would thrive there really.

londonkids Sat 04-Jun-11 20:08:46

King Alfreds school in Hampstead London is supposed to be very creative (music and arts) and forward thinking and progressive with lots of outdoor activities, but also gets academic results. There is a Montessori school in Hampstead, and Steiner in North London -all are private schools so you'll have to pay. Quite a few state schools boycotted the most recent sat tests so maybe go for one of those state schools.

Malaleuca Sat 04-Jun-11 23:58:56

Within 10kms I can think of a state-subsidised Steiner, Montessori, 2 child-centred/progressives, several Catholic primary schools, a Christian one, a fully state-funded 'alternative' . Within the same distance there is a fully-funded 'alternative' secondary, two subsidised private Christian secondary schools, a Catholic secondary.
There are no schools that I am aware of in WA that cater exclusively for children with autism. There is an inclusion model mostly aand a couple of schools for some severe disabilities, and some educational support centres attached to schools.
It sounds quite good provision! States vary of course, and rural providion might be a lot worse.

princesss Wed 25-Jan-12 20:58:06

sunrise neo humanist school.......

sanserif Thu 26-Jan-12 11:41:16

No direct experience, just through school tours, but I've also been looking for a school that place a strong emphasis on developing creativity and enquiry skills rather than just teaching a body of facts. I really liked Prior Weston in the Barbican which seems genuinely 'whole child' focused and feels quite alternative, especially for a state school. Really impressed by the kids who did the tour. Also liked Lauriston in Victoria Park which seems very focused on creativity (as a whole approach not just in art/music) and has a great new building that seems to really support collaborative project work. They're one of very few 'Schools of Creativity'. Neither option is 'alternative' but they did seem focused on what you care about.

letsblowthistacostand Thu 26-Jan-12 12:58:00

Just wanted to say that I'm also an American and had deep reservations about the state school system in the US (having experienced it first hand!) But we can't afford private so my DDs are in a state school in SW London and I'm really happy with it. They encourage creativity & independent thinking, they seem to appreciate each child's individuality and my DDs are thriving. I'm sure there are plenty of state schools in and around London that are similar.

They do wear uniform (just makes mornings easier if you ask me) and they will have to do tests when the time comes. But they also have plenty of outdoor time in all weathers, lots of small group instruction, students get to pick some of the subjects, great field trips...

I hope you find a school you like!

abitdoolally Mon 30-Apr-12 11:25:17

I'm a year too late, but just in case you haven't found the right school for your child or indeed if there are other parents out there looking for the same, Sunrise School in North London sounds like the type of caring, creative environments you are looking for.

It's very popular with parents who home school as you have the option to send your child on a part time basis. I could go on forever but it's probably best to have a look at their site or even better - arrange a visit. It's a truly magical school and a wonderful start to a child's education. Their holistic approach really nurtures the all round development of the child...Both of my children go there and I see how Sunrise has helped them grow to be happy and confident with respect for themselves, others and the planet we share.

Blu Mon 30-Apr-12 11:46:44

There are some very popular and successful state primaries around E Dulwich - many have very tight catchments - try the East Dulwich Forum.

Unfortunately it can be difficult finding a place after the admissions rounds for Reception, and you will be in a horrible catch 22 - you can't apply for places until you have an adderss, and then your address might be close to a school with no places. Places in areas such as e Dulwich or any close-to-central-London will be hard to get. But if you are on the doorstep of the school you will be top of the waiting list if a place becomes free. But it takes someone else to leave.

KnitterNotTwitter Mon 30-Apr-12 11:53:00

Also you might like to look at Forest Schools

where much of learning is based outside - however these tend to be for younger children and only for part of the week as I understand it...

Obviously if you're very motivated you could set up your own 'alternative free-school' and the state would fund it for you....

scummymummy Tue 01-May-12 19:52:48

Nice state primary near New Cross. Not sure it's alternative exactly but it has chickens and no uniform. Another nice school in nearby Nunhead. No chickens and a uniform but small and sweet with a nice atmosphere. There are

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