The Green Parent

By The Green Parent

19th November 2018

Our pick of alternative schools around the UK that offer children an innovative and inspiring education

The Green Parent

By The Green Parent

19th November 2018

The Green Parent

By The Green Parent

19th November 2018


SANDS SCHOOL, DEVON Sands is one of only two democratic schools in the United Kingdom. There is no headteacher and no hierarchy: the school is jointly managed by students (aged from 11 to 17) and staff. The school is different in many ways from mainstream education; there is no uniform or even a dress-code for students, no clanging bells and there is no “us and them” division between staff and students. Decisions are made together in a spirit of equality and mutual respect. A student chairs the School Meeting and the student council sorts out the day-to-day niggles of school life. Students have ensured that class sizes are kept small, exams can be sat when students are ready, a shared meal is a vital part of the day and practical life skills such as cooking, debating, cleaning and building are considered important enough to be on the curriculum. One of the key aims of the school is to value the students as physical and emotional beings not just as exam candidates.

STEINER ACADEMY EXETER, DEVON Here is a free Steiner school (pictured above) for ages four to 16. The aim is to make Steiner education accessible to all, regardless of background, income, ability, faith, gender or any other consideration and to attract pupils from across the Exeter urban area. The school offers a broad and balanced curriculum, in which all subjects, including intellectual, physical, and practical skills, are taught across the entire age range. In the kindergarten, for example, Reception and Year One are combined in mixed-age classes, each of around 17 or 18 children and the day follows a predictable pattern, alternating child-led time with a teacher-led session. Activities include painting, drawing, crafts and the domestic arts such as cooking, baking, cleaning and care for self and others. The strong tradition of oral storytelling and puppetry is part of every morning, and usually ends the session. Children in the Upper School are offered eight GCSEs alongside the traditional curriculum.

NEW FOREST SMALL SCHOOL, LYNDHURST, HANTS The New Forest Small School offers a small-scale, child-centered environment for children aged from three to 16, which focuses on natural learning abilities. Lessons are mainly hands on and practical rather than passive and abstract, the energy of the pupils is welcomed and used in teaching and time for free-play is part of every day. The school is surrounded by open forest, ideal for walks, nature study and outdoor play. Most pupils attend on a full time basis, but there is the opportunity to attend part-time or flexi-school.


PARK SCHOOL, DARTINGTON, DEVON Park School has been established for over 25 years and is one of the longest running alternative schools in the UK. It welcomes children of all cultural backgrounds and beliefs and is set in spacious grounds on the historic Dartington Hall Estate in South Devon. A Human Scale School, relationships are very important and the quality of these relationships is what stands out when visiting. Children learn to respect themselves and others and to become constructive members of the school community. They are encouraged to be responsible for their own behaviour, to understand its effects, and to gain insight into themselves and others. Small classes mean that there is time for personal attention as well as the space and freedom for individual expression. There are large open spaces and natural woodland used for games, exploration and den making. At playtimes children are encouraged to visit friends in other classes. The school has a healthy eating policy and a mainly organic vegetarian lunch, from the school garden, is prepared daily in the school kitchen – and children wash up their own things afterwards.

WYNSTONES, GLOUCESTER For 78 years Wynstones has focused on bringing a rich, creative curriculum to their students aged from three to 18. The aim is to guide pupils to become unprejudiced, well-informed, confident and creative young people who are responsible and practical contributors to society. A core belief is that it is not only what we learn that matters, but when and how we learn. Children pass through markedly different life stages and a Steiner-Waldorf education provides a coherent curriculum that takes its cues from the child’s needs at each life stage. This is a strong community of pupils, teachers, families and friends and some of the current pupils are third generation following in the footsteps of their parents and grandparents.

BROCKWOOD PARK, BRAMDEAN, HANTS Brockwood Park School is an international co-educational boarding school in the Hampshire countryside. The personalised, holistic education for just over 70 students (aged 14 to 19) is inspired by J. Krishnamurti’s teachings, which encourage academic excellence, self-understanding, creativity and integrity in a safe, non-competitive environment. A Brockwood education goes beyond more traditional kinds of learning. Not exclusively academic, it integrates academic excellence in its mission to help students learn the art of living, and brings together aspects of learning, sensitivity, open-mindedness, and self-reflection that are too often ignored. Visit

INWOODS SMALL SCHOOL, BRAMDEAN, HANTS In true education no one-size-fits-all. At Inwoods Small School, staff work together with parents to ensure that children are not measured, tested, and coerced into some kind of ideal of a human being. Headteacher, Mary-Ann Ridgway explains that ‘this means a wholly different approach to teaching is necessary, which is less about moulding and more about learning how to observe each child, non-judgmentally, from moment to moment, so that true understanding brings its own unique movement and action. Our role as ‘educators’ and parents is to work together to bring this process about in ourselves, and thus set the scene for a wholesome and varied learning space for the children, free of fear and manipulation and alive with trust and love.’


BRIGHTON STEINER SCHOOL, EAST SUSSEX Brighton Steiner School was established over twenty years ago to provide education to children from the age of three to 16. The Steiner Waldorf ethos is about the education of the whole child, so that not only is he empowered intellectually but also encouraged creatively and emotionally. The school is dedicated to recognising the unique spirit of each individual child and guiding them towards self-knowledge.

MICHAEL HALL SCHOOL, FOREST ROW, SUSSEX Steiner education is based on the teachings of Rudolph Steiner and is focused on the spiritual and physical development of the child. For example in year three, teachers recognise that children become more grounded. The school works with these changes and during their ninth year pupils receive lessons in farming and building; more practical skills. Landwork is an important part of the week and takes place across the 50 acres of grounds. One of the highlights for children in year five is the study of Ancient Greece culminating in Olympic Camp, when children from Steiner schools across the country are invited to come and compete in ancient games. It is believed that children become alienated from nature and one another if they use screens to learn. Steiner education is about giving students the opportunity to develop their imagination. ‘We moved house, changed jobs and left friends behind, in order that our two children could join Michael Hall,’ says one parent. ‘When my three year old ran beaming into Kindergarten with barely a glance behind him, we felt confident we’d made the right decision,’ says another.


IONA SCHOOL, NOTTINGHAM Iona School was founded in 1985 by a group of parents and teachers to provide an education for children aged from three to 11. There is also a Nursery available for younger children. The intention was to provide a Steiner education to all children regardless of race, religion or economic background. The aim is to give the children self confidence, a love of learning, the ability to work with others, practical skills and spiritual freedom. A core belief is that education should be a continuing process, and the teachers’ task is to stimulate and develop the faculties and skills which enable pupils to learn for life.

RUDOLPH STEINER SCHOOL, KINGS LANGLEY, HERTS The Rudolf Steiner School provides a comprehensive and well-rounded inter-disciplinary Steiner Waldorf education from pre-school to A levels – that is permeated with sciences, arts, music and foreign languages. Pupils are encouraged to develop creative, flexible, independent thinking, thereby preparing themselves for university and successful careers. GCSE and A level exam results are well above the national average and students often go on to study at some of the country’s leading universities. The spacious 10-acre campus is on the site of a 13th century royal palace and priory and includes sports fields, a gymnasium, a large theatre, arts and crafts block, pottery and photography lab.

ELMFIELD, STOURBRIDGE, WEST MIDLANDS This is a small, friendly independent school where children get to be children, without the rush to grow up too fast. Pupils gain a well-balanced education following the renowned, creative Waldorf curriculum. The school doesn’t do SATS or ‘hot-house’ the pupils and yet GCSE results are among the best in the area.


CALDER VALLEY STEINER SCHOOL HEBDEN BRIDGE, YORKS There has been a Steiner Education group in the Calder Valley for over twenty years. The kindergarten takes children from age three to six, and five years ago Class I was introduced, providing full-time Steiner Waldorf education for children once they leave the kindergarten. There are also Parent and Child groups, from birth to three running throughout the school year. The school provides a secure, caring, homely environment where children can grow through play, rhythm and imitation. Here pupils are encouraged to develop physical and social skills and creative impulses, as well as using their imagination and fantasy to form the foundations for a healthy adult life.

BOTTON VILLAGE SCHOOL, WHITBY, N. YORKS The school is situated in a beautiful rural setting close to Danby in the North York Moors National Park. All children bring with them unique possibilities - hidden gifts that, given the chance to flourish, can help transform the world. Too often a narrow, overly intellectual education may stifle the more delicate human qualities. It is the belief at this school that the teachers must observe the changes closely and respectfully and to lead the child towards understanding the world. The bond that grows between pupil and teacher over a number of years is the key element in the process of education. In this way education can be truly human-centred. Through human dialogue, and through the medium of art, the whole child can grow in a healthy way.


DRUMDUAN SCHOOL, FORRES Drumduan is an independent school in Forres that offers a varied and experiential education for all ages, from Parent and Toddler sessions, through kindergarten and Middle School, to the Upper School which students complete at 18 years old. The curriculum is inspired by the work of Rudolf Steiner and designed for the 21st Century. Located in the Scottish Highlands, on the stunning Moray Coast - an area famed for its clear, sunny skies and quiet sandy beaches - many activities in the School’s varied curriculum take place in the natural landscape, including hiking, canoing and mountain-biking, as well as environmental projects and the Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

EDINBURGH STEINER SCHOOL Unique within Edinburgh, education at the Steiner school engages the head, heart and hands of every pupil from 3½ - 18 years. Small class sizes guarantee individual attention while specialist teaching staff create a safe, supportive atmosphere in which pupils can develop a lifelong love of learning.


NANT Y CWM STEINER SCHOOL, CLUNDERWEN, PEMBS Nant-y-Cwm, founded in 1979 by a group of like-minded parents, is one of over 900 Steiner Waldorf Schools. Located in a wooded valley beside the Eastern Cleddau river in rural Pembrokeshire, the main school building was originally a small rural Victorian primary school that had lain empty for years. Since then wooden frame buildings and a unique kindergarten have been added. Designed by architect and parent Christopher Day, the kindergarten has cosy corners, small peephole windows, soft rounded walls painted in soft colours and has won architectural awards. The key ethos is that children need a sensitive and enlightened education. A testament to the strength of the community here is that a former pupil’s children now attend Nant-y-Cwm, and a former pupil teaches at the school.

CARDIFF STEINER Cardiff Steiner School is an independent school for boys and girls aged three to 16. This small, caring and supportive school offers an inspiring and nurturing education based on the needs of the “whole child” - academic, physical, emotional and spiritual. The focus is on the person each pupil will become: a curious, compassionate, critical thinker ready to meet the challenges of a changing world.


LONDON STEINER SCHOOL, BALHAM The London Steiner School is an independent co-educational school for children aged 3 to 14. It provides a proven education that follows the renowned international Steiner-Waldorf Curriculum. The aim is to provide a holistic education that nurtures the children to become well rounded, confident, independently minded, creative thinkers who are authors of their own life, and well prepared for modern society.

MARIA MONTESSORI SCHOOL, HAMPSTEAD The mixed age classes in the Montessori Elemntary school provide a collaborative environment where children learn through debate, discussion and research. This education meets the changing needs of children, and responds to their expanding view of the world around them. At this stage, children are ready for more complex work as they move towards abstract ways of thinking. Many new materials are introduced as they develop their imagination to embrace concepts beyond their immediate environment. Children work individually and in groups, on projects that spark their interest. The teacher’s role is to guide them in their research, and to provide information in such a way that they learn to make full use of a library, reference books and the internet. Core subjects include English, Mathematics, Science, Geography and History. Integrated with these are activities such as Art, Drama, Sport and Music.