Why the Steiner Waldorf Curriculum rather than the National Curriculum?

Recent research into educational provision has tended to support the workings of the Steiner Waldorf curriculum. Furthermore it has shown that a well constructed curriculum such as ours does not require the degree of change that the national curriculum has undergone over the last decade and more.

We have the freedom to deliver a holistic education based on a detailed model of child development encompassing physical, emotional, intellectual and moral development. The key question is at what age a given subject or educational approach is appropriate. Each subject is brought to the children at the point when it will be most beneficial to their overall development.

Is the curriculum updated regularly?

Yes.  A dedicated group is responsible for regularly reviewing and updating the curriculum.

Can children get into university with a Steiner Waldorf education?

Yes. Pupils at Michael Hall sit GCSEs, AS and A2 public examinations as well as Open College Network accredited courses. Many of the Main Lessons in the Upper School are also OCN accredited in their own right. Portfolio based work is also encouraged and can be used within applications to Further and Higher Education.

These qualifications and the reputation of the quality of the Steiner Waldorf curriculum enable those students who choose, to go on to Further or Higher Education.

How do children from mainstream schools adapt to the Steiner Waldorf education (and vice versa)?

Our experience is that children of all ages adapt very well moving either into or out of Steiner Waldorf education. We invariably receive very positive comments from schools, colleges and universities about our former students, who are regarded as socially competent and readily able to assimilate new information and structures.

Strong emphasis is placed on social skills and the fact that the curriculum is so well adapted to the child’s developmental stage means those entering the school from mainstream schools generally adapt healthily and quickly to their new environment.

My five year-old can already read and write. Won’t she be bored at a Steiner Waldorf school?

Not at all. Children in the Kindergarten are provided with a stimulating and nourishing environment where they learn as they play. Taking their cues from watching the adults around them, children bake, paint, sing, build, draw, walk, set-out and clear-up, watch plays and puppet shows, do woodwork, handwork and gardening – the list goes on.

Children know that they have been busy and had fun. They don’t know that they have been learning important pre-literacy and numeracy skills, manual dexterity, spatial awareness, physical co-ordination and vital social skills that prepare them for formal learning at age 6/7.

"Boredom" is the last thing Kindergarten children experience.

If the school does not test its students, how can parents know that the appropriate standards are being met?

We do not have a culture of continuous type testing in the classroom and children at Michael Hall do not take SATs. Such testing encourages children to value their achievements in terms of test results only. Our aim is for children to enjoy a genuine educational experience. We do assess children in basic numeracy and literacy through regular class screening as well as individual assessment. Assessments, from Class 4, use standardised tests that have nationally recognised criteria. As pupils move through the school their progress is monitored and reported to parents through individual meetings and in their child’s annual report.

The Class Teacher who stays with a class for 8 years builds a detailed picture of each child - their school and family life - and is ideally placed to assess how that child is progressing. Parents are also encouraged to speak directly with teachers if they have concerns about their child’s progress.

I’ve heard children can just play all day if that is what they choose.

The school day in the Lower and Upper School is structured according to a timetable and all students have to attend all of their timetabled lessons.

In Kindergarten the day has a very different form but is still structured to meet the needs of the younger child.

If a child has the same teacher all the way through the Lower School, what happens if they don’t get on?

The Steiner Waldorf Class teacher takes on a class with the intention of carrying the class for 8 years. With this comes a commitment to foster good relationships with each child and family and to work for resolution should any problems arise. We regard this as a strength of the Class Teacher system - children are given the opportunity to find ways to work through differences of attitude or expectation in a safe and healthy way.

Isn’t the school full of problem children who can’t cope with mainstream education?

No. We aim to make our education available to those who seek it without unnecessary barriers to entry. We also need to ensure that we are able to educate and develop each child to the best of his or her potential and in line with average standards of their peers.

We monitor the percentage of pupils who might require support with their learning and make sure that each class has a healthy balance.

How much homework do students get?

Homework tasks usually begin in Class 3 (age 9). In Class 6 (age 12) students have up to half an hour’s homework per day and by Class 9 (age 15) this will go up to two hours. Projects are set from Class 4 (age 10).

My child loves sports. What sports does Michael Hall do?

How we inhabit our body matters and we can express our talents better if we are focused and present. Carefully chosen activities in the movement curriculum can enhance these qualities.

Gym and games begin in Class 3 (age 9) through energetic, imaginative games and simple creative gymnastics. The games and gymnastics curriculum evolves and slowly focuses more specific, skills-based activities and from Classes 6 and 7 (age 12/13) a wide variety of more formal sports are taught. Sports include archery, athletics, badminton, basketball, cricket, cross-country running, gymnastics, hockey, orienteering, rugby, softball, tennis, ultimate, sailing and volleyball.

Competition is a useful educational tool when introduced at the correct age and in the appropriate manner. We do believe in competition and we compete at a high standard in our selected sports. We do not teach sport as an end in itself, but we educate through the medium of movement. Although the school produces some excellent athletes, this is not our primary aim.

We have a new gym with extensive sporting and ancillary facilities, including a climbing wall. We also have tennis courts and grounds for team games such as softball. Basketball and volleyball are the main sports where pupils compete with other schools.

Tell me about the Main Lesson?

Main Lesson is at the heart of the Steiner Waldorf curriculum. From age 7 to 18 all students will spend a substantial part of each morning exploring a Main Lesson topic for a period of 3-4 weeks. This topic will be brought alive through a variety of activities that engage the students and reinforce the information naturally but effectively. Songs and recitation, discussion and storytelling, writing and illustration, music and movement enable students to really immerse themselves in a subject. Each Main Lesson topic has been carefully devised to meet the needs of the child at their particular stage of development.

Can you give me an example?

Stories of the conquering Vikings meet the 9 and 10 year olds precisely at a time when they are experiencing a new sense of independence and exploration in their own lives.

At age 14/15 when students experience the world in extremes (love/hate, joy/despair, moral/immoral), they explore these emotions through English Literature studying Greek comedy and tragedy; in Modern History studying the polarities of fascism and the United Nations; and in art through black and white drawing. This supports Upper School students as they work to transform these emotional polarities into balanced, informed  judgments.

What is eurythmy?

Eurythmy is an expressive art of movement which develops considerable skills in spatial orientation and social awareness. It is 'poetry and music in motion', where gestures relate to sounds in speech and tones and intervals in music.
Eurythmy is a core curriculum subject from Kindergarten right the way through to Class 12.

Do you stream?

No. All pupils participate in all subjects with appropriate challenges set according to differing abilities, practised throughout. There may be some setting according to ability in Maths from Class 8.

Where do they go when they leave school?

At the completion of Class 12 most students go to university or other Further Education. Whatever their direction they leave school well grounded and equipped to follow their chosen path. Students follow a broad variety of career paths: marine yachting, translator, Olympic rower, midwifery, medicine, advertising, child psychology, pilot, teaching, acting, genetics… the list goes on.

My child is dyslexic. How will this be addressed at the school?

The school has a Learning Support department with specialist teachers who support those children with specific learning differences in class and through one-to-one lessons.

What is the school’s policy on television, computers etc?

The role of television is central in modern life, but research indicates that too much screen time can have a negative effect on our children. Steiner Waldorf schools do not encourage watching television or use of electronic media, particularly in the Early Years and Lower School. While we would ultimately prefer that children did not watch television or use computers in the early stages of the child’s education, we recognise that this aspect lies in the domain of the home and the family, and it is for each parent to decide what role television and electronic media should play in their children’s lives.

What is the school’s policy on bullying?

We start from the premise that bullying is unacceptable and needs to be tackled promptly and effectively. We have an extensively researched policy on bullying and a process that aims to resolve incidents in a healthy, non-judgmental way.
Please see our Anti-Social Behaviour & Bullying Policy.

Ways to find out more…