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State steiner or sympathetic 'free school' in SW London?

(14 Posts)
GotMyGoat Sun 23-Mar-14 20:45:34

I need to be applying for primary school for dd this september - for September 2015 entry, when she'll be 4.

I'm really anxious about school - I had a horrible time, hate the over assesment and learn for examination ethics, the overhall of the education system to almost eradicate the arts and individual styles of learning, the robotic curriculum. Yuck. Just fills me with dread, that saying - my husband really enjoyed school and dd seems to be doing well at her daycare nursery.

We are very lucky to live close to a steiner school, I love this as it's all forest-school based and learning through play and encouraging children to lead their own learning. However, we are about as poor as they get -I worked out that fees would be £500 a month initially, and I just can't see us having that amount comfortably spare in the next few years. Does anyone know of any state funded schools with similar styles of learning, ideally in south west London? What do other low-income people do? i have looked at home ed, perhaps with my part time working? but i'm not sure this is the right path to take without even trying a school - although coming from a family of teachers I think we'd do alright.

I want to give dd the education I wish I had had, rather than just forcing her to go into the state curriculum because of my low income.

Thank you!

GotMyGoat Sun 23-Mar-14 20:57:45

Ah - just read through the archive and realise steiner schools can be a bit contentious due to the spiritial nonsense - so thought i'd pop in this disclaimer! As firm atheists I think I would certainly discredit any school that believed actively taught that form of woo (which is why i'm a little bit hmm about state education to - with the need for collective worship). Hope I've not gotten into trouble there. I suppose by steiner I mean forest schools or creative learning through play is what I'm looking for for my 4-7 year old at least.

NynaevesSister Mon 24-Mar-14 02:46:26

Have you visited your local schools? Don't discount those straight off based on your own bad experience. My husband had such a bad time at primary he can't even go into the playground at DCs school without being full of anxiety. But it is such a lovely, nurturing place and my son adores it there. On paper you might think it would be awful - three form entry, blazer and tie, strict rules like walking with hands behind back. But on the other hand the teaching is amazing and every child is focused on. And they have forest school for the older children too for part of the year. It is surprising how many woods there are in south London!

GotMyGoat Mon 24-Mar-14 07:47:47

We will go to our local schools, as my DH isn't as worried as I am. I think by having teachers in my family i'm just very aware of how crap and limited the current curriculum is, and how they keep changing their minds, endless pressure etc. I think these things will be universal in state schools because they have to do these things.

mammadiggingdeep Mon 24-Mar-14 07:57:47

Steiner sounds great...

Do look at local schools though. I'm a bit dubious of free schools just because they're relatively new and obviously a lot can change in the 7/8 years your child will be at the school...

mammadiggingdeep Mon 24-Mar-14 07:58:03

Steiner sounds great...

Do look at local schools though. I'm a bit dubious of free schools just because they're relatively new and obviously a lot can change in the 7/8 years your child will be at the school...

allyfe Mon 24-Mar-14 09:50:20

Although I do very much agree with you regarding the state system (I loved my primary school but it was all about creative exploration and thinking and not rote learning), I do think I should say that the people I knew who went to Steiner schools (secondary) all struggled a lot with A-level/University.

I am also considering a free school for my children, and share the concerns of some of the posters, but any school can change in 7/8 years. Good luck with your search.

AuntieStella Mon 24-Mar-14 09:56:40

Are you able to move to be near the school/s you like?

Because in London, where there is a looming shortage of school places, it is quite unlikely that you will secure a place in any schools other than your nearest one or two.

Meita Mon 24-Mar-14 10:26:29

DS will be starting school in September, so we were looking at schools this autumn. We visited 5 state schools. They were incredibly different.

One school wants to be seen as a pushy school. They have strict behaviour management systems, and give homework from year 1. They are proud of high achievements in SATS. They say that if you are wanting your child to just coast along, this is not your school. They want parents to be involved, incl. financially. (They also say they base their policies on the latest research, however somehow they seem to have missed the research that says that homework for young children is not effective, and that reward systems can be detrimental to intrinsic motivation.)
The reception class we visited, was very noisy and chaotic. It would be impossible to hold a conversation in the din, let alone focus or concentrate on anything. The children were playing inside and outside, mostly by themselves, with ride on toys, sand&water, lego, drawing, etc. It also featured a couple of children who were just sitting there, staring into space, and five minutes later they were still at the same place, still staring into space, and no-one was attempting to include them or get them to try out some of the many toys/activities.
In year one, the children spend most of their time sitting at desks, doing formal 'learning'.

Another school we saw, was completely different. They are not pushy as such, but differentiate carefully and teach each child at the level they are at. They get excellent results. No homework, no behaviour management system (if behaviour turns into a problem, they find individual solutions with the children and parents involved). Their reception AND year one classes have lots of self-directed play time. How they do it: Their school days start with 15 minutes (reception) or 25 minutes (year one) of teacher led activity (e.g. introducing a letter/sound). Then the teacher goes to work with a group of six pupils, and the TA with another group of six, for about 20 minutes/30 minutes respectively. The other 18 kids do 'self-directed play': They have a board with pictures of all activities on offer, with hooks under the pictures. The children go to the board and hang their name tag onto an activity, then go and do that activity. Each activity has an 'end' so is not just 'aimless' but rather the child knows what they are attempting and can see their own progress. When done with an activity, the children go and put their name on another hook. This continues until it is their turn for the teacher/TA group.
The reception and year 1 classes we saw were calm, quiet, with the children very busy and active but concentrating and ordered. No shouting. They were playing (inside and out) and yet it was quiet enough for those who were 'learning' to hear their teacher's voice.
This IMO comes very close to Montessori education. Lots of structure and discipline lets children thrive, at the same time most of the day is self-directed playing.

The other three schools we saw were at various points on the scale between these two.

I'd suggest you really need to visit the schools around you. The differences in how schools 'deliver the curriculum' are enormous.
Then you need to start weighing up your preferences with things like distances and costs...

GotMyGoat Mon 24-Mar-14 11:08:07

Thank you - will reply properly later, you've certainly give me a bit more to think about.

homespunmum Tue 01-Apr-14 22:09:47

Hi, I'm looking for the same sort of thing. Not sure if this helps, but I'm going to see the london acorn school in Morden this weekend. they've got an open day. The school's based in a national trust house with acres of land, so they do their forest school activities on site. It seems pretty cheap compared to most other independent schools. When i called this week they were very keen to say that they're not a Steiner Waldorf school, they're doing their own thing which is based on steiner but misses out the spiritual stuff that gives steiner a mixed reputation. Worth a look anyway!

Rightojo Tue 01-Apr-14 23:09:49

homespun I would love to hear how you get on.

givemeaclue Wed 02-Apr-14 13:25:30

Op I think you may be surprised by local schools, my dcs are in year 1 they do masses of creative stuff, art, music, dancing, sport, they are constantly making things, exploring the local environment, they have woods and fields at school etc. go and have a look you may be impressed

HPparent Wed 02-Apr-14 15:49:41

OP I would not disregard state schools too readily. I too had an experience like yours at school. I managed to get my children into a quirky private school on very reduced fees. It was the stupidest decision I ever made. They learned nothing. My elder dd is very academic but was so behind on joining her grammar school that she had to be tutored in basic maths. My younger daughter who is dyslexic could not read or write at age 7 and the school said she was just lazy/stupid. Ironically I met a a Mum at a Dyslexia Action class, whose son went to a Steiner School and was in the same situation as my daughter - years behind.

Don't beat yourself up about lack of funds or not bring able to give your kids the upbringing you want. Look at your local primary school, I imagine it is a lot better than you think and state schools are brilliant compared to when I was at school

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