1. A Time of Childhood: Pre-School Years
In Steiner Waldorf education the start of formal schooling is delayed until the age of six or seven. Before then, children attend the Kindergarten.
The Kindergarten years are characterised in Steiner Waldorf education as being the years when an ethos of ‘goodness’ should prevail, where children’s good actions and good thoughts can be encouraged. They are also the years when children are at the stage of being imitators, when they absorb like sponges all elements, both good and bad, in their environment. The elements they absorb at this time play an important role in how the children develop in the future.
The Steiner Waldorf Kindergarten, therefore, places great emphasis on providing good examples for the children to imitate, along with beautiful surroundings for them to absorb. The rooms are softly lit with simple wooden furniture. Toys are natural objects such as pine cones, sanded off-cuts from a saw-mill, shells, hand-made dolls, traditional clothes-horses and veils. This is so that the children’s senses can have a rest from the stimulation-overload found in the world outside, and also so that through playing with natural objects, they become aware, albeit unconsciously, of the beauty in nature. This also allows us to easily introduce awareness of our Carbon Footprint at an early age.
However, perhaps most importantly, playing with ‘unfinished’ toys, such as handmade dolls with only a suggestion of features, is crucial to the healthy development of the imagination. Just like the cardboard box of old that provided hours of pleasure, children can, by sheer imaginative will, turn the pine cones into money or biscuits or firewood or whatever their game requires. Steiner education is holding out alone standard against the prevailing trend to provide toys which, in their ‘finished’ perfection, leave children little or no room to develop their imagination. The through the Steiner School methodology we are being the change we want to see.
2. A Time for Feelings: The Lower School Years
The Lower School years build on the work of the Kindergarten and share many of its qualities. For example, the classroom environment is still very important and cared for by the teacher with images presented to the children carefully chosen for their inherent beauty. Pupils and teacher together create a calm, beautiful space with a nature table that reflects the changing seasons and children’s artwork on walls. As in the Kindergarten, children learn the importance of caring for their surroundings through daily responsibilities, such as sweeping, blackboard cleaning, handing out books. At this stage, the students take on seasonal responsibilities for the grounds such as picking up any litter and sweeping leaves. Visit the General Information page for more detail on these tasks.
3. A Time for Clear Thinking: The Upper School
As the young people grow more fully into adolescence and into the exercising of their intellectual capacities, the challenge for the Upper School curriculum is to keenly stimulate the intellect whilst continuing to nourish the development of self esteem, emotional intelligence and the imagination. Pupils now seek ideas that can lead them, through their own activity, to ideals. They need experts who can inspire in them the motivation to pursue the clarity of truth for themselves.
The Main Lesson programme, which still works in subject blocks of around three to four weeks, though for the slightly reduced time of one and half hours in the morning, also allows teachers to work out of their own – and their classes’ – enthusiasms. They have the opportunity of an extended length of time to enter deeply into subject matter that can go well beyond the requirements of the exam syllabus.
National exams are taken in Classes 10, 11 and 12, with a mixture of English GCSEs, Standard Grades, Intermediates, AS levels and Highers being offered. The particular mix arises from the teachers’ study of which exam will best fit into the Steiner curriculum and allow the most latitude for study. To enable the broad curriculum of Main Lesson content to continue, exams are taken a year later than in mainstream. Although, reflecting the different range of pupils’ abilities in each class, results vary from year to year, they are generally of a high standard, with an 83% A-C pass at Higher level being a typical result. This is well above the Scottish average and compares favourably with independent