There are certain fundamental differences between Steiner Waldorf and current mainstream education in terms of both content and approach. These differences will be explained in detail below, but here, briefly, are some of the most striking ones
- In line with mainstream education in the rest of Europe and most countries worldwide, the start of formal learning in Steiner Waldorf schools is delayed until the age of six years. Pre-school education, therefore, consists of the Kindergarten from ages 3-6. The Lower School covers the ages from 6-14 and the Upper School covers the final years from 14-18. From the age of six years, all children learn French and German.
- The curriculum interweaves artistic, practical and academic subjects in a coherent whole. It takes the form of a learning spiral which sees Lower School subjects picked up again and studied in a new way in the Upper School. The aim of developing imaginative, responsible and caring young people, so central to the curriculum, is deeply embedded in all subjects and in the approach with which they are presented. Our motto: we are being the change we wish to see.
- A prime element of the curriculum for all pupils is the programme of Main Lessons. These are topic blocks which are studied daily for the first two hours of each day for around four weeks. Subjects in the programme include Astronomy, Philosophy, Farming, History of Architecture, History of Art, Geology, Surveying and Mechanics. (More details are given below.) This programme ensures that irrespective of their later exam choices, all pupils receive a broad and cultural knowledge that encompasses science, art, crafts and the humanities.
- Because the curriculum spans the twelve years of formal learning, secondary education arises naturally out of what has gone before. This and the fact that children move into the Upper School at age of fourteen when they are mature enough to cope well with its different demands means that there is usually a seamless transition between Lower and Upper Schools.
- One of the key differences of approach between mainstream and Steiner Waldorf lies in the fact that the Steiner Waldorf curriculum is based on an understanding of human development and the different ways in which children learn at different stages. This includes not only intellectual aspects but also how children develop emotionally, physically and spiritually. There is nothing arbitrary in the curriculum with each subject introduced at a time and in a way which is appropriate to the particular stage of development of the children. (Examples of how this unique aspect of the curriculum works are given in the following pages.)
It is the experience of the schools that this linking of subject matter to the phases of child development is fundamental to inspiring real motivation and a love of learning. It may in part explain why children in Steiner Waldorf schools are widely recognised as being enthusiastic learners, for the relationship between the subject and pupils is so attuned to their inner developmental needs that it nourishes them at a deep level and as a result stimulates their motivation. This might go some way to explaining the positive impact on attitudes, motivation and exam results of previously disaffected students in the juvenile remand institutions in the USA that have successfully adopted the Steiner Waldorf curriculum. We also strongly believe in educating young minds on how to look after the planet from an early age. You can learn more about this by checking out our Carbon Footprint page and reading through our General Information.