Alternative schools – sometimes known as progressive schools - offer an unconventional approach to education. They suit parents who consider traditional schooling a straightjacket and children who don’t flourish in more traditional settings.
Why alternative schools?
As parents we are never quite sure if we are doing this right. There are no guidebooks to bringing up children and when it comes to schooling, there is nothing more likely to cause sleepless nights. So much emphasis is put on education that as a parent you feel you just have to get it right…but how do you find the right fit for your child?
With ever-increasing emphasis on exam results, it takes a brave parent to step off the mainstream carousel of fact cramming, regular homework and testing. If you are the sort of tiger parent who has already, in your mind’s eye, seen your child off to Oxbridge, alternative schooling probably isn’t for you. But one ‘alternative’ parent described it as a refuge from mainstream education where children are ‘criticised and their self-esteem damaged…like workers in a factory’. Read more
Types of alternative education
Forest schools aren’t actual physical schools. Instead, they refer to regular outdoor sessions, mostly at nursery or primary school level, in natural environments to enable children to develop confidence through hands-on learning.
First, the myths. Home education isn’t illegal in the UK (though it is in some other countries such as Germany). Nor is it deviant or something undertaken only by weirdos whose extreme religious or dietary views put them at odds with society. You’ll definitely encounter a few distinctly quirky perspectives among home educating parents but probably no more so than in any other community defending strongly held views that set it apart from the mainstream. Read more...
Overview: Creativity and exploration – this ethos puts children firmly at the centre of society. Philosophy: Based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play. Background: Pioneered by Maria Montessori, Italy’s first female doctor in 1907 to educate the poor in Italy. To the uninitiated, Montessori methods may seem like a free-for-all. Homework, testing and exams are seldom found. Montessori found that children learn best by doing ‘The essence of independence is to be able to do something for one’s self. A child works in order to grow, and is working to create the adult, the person that is to be.’ - Maria Montessori.
Overview: Steiner Waldorf aims to provide an unhurried and creative learning environment in harmony with different phases of a child’s development. Background: In 1919, Austrian philosopher and scientist, Rudolf Steiner, whose ideas founded the basis of Anthroposophy, began a school in Stuttgart for children of the workers at the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory. This inspired a worldwide movement of schools.
If you thought Steiner and Montessori schools were ‘alternative’, then take a look at The Guide’s ultimate alternative schools, so far removed from a traditional set up that some of them are world renown. Categorised as ‘learning for life’ these schools take traditional schooling and turn it on its head. There are literally a handful scattered through the UK. Think Sands School in Devon, Michael Hall, Brockwood Park and Summerhill. They are one of a kind and completely individual.