In December 2017 Canterbury Steiner School closed its doors for the last time. Families had moved from far and wide to make it possible for their children to attend this school and many parents had themselves been pupils there when they were children.
On hearing the news that his school would be closing, Jude (aged 6) announced that he wasn’t worried because he knew that his mum should set up a new one and that the teachers would then come and fill it back up with love. There was no doubt in his mind that this is what needed to happen.
Whilst the news that the school was closing was heartbreaking for parents and teachers, it also offered an opportunity for them to model to the children how to respond with courage and hope in the face of adversity. A small group came together and decided to work on opening a new school.
Deciding upon the vision was as important first step and the list of attributes needed within a school that would educate children for the 21st Century began to grow to include ambitions such as developing environmental awareness, encouraging empathy for others, nurturing a sense of curiosity for learning and underpinning all of this with joy.
“In writing this list we realised that we were beginning to understand the ‘love’ by which young Jude had felt so surrounded and which he held so dear. A love that each teacher feels for each child and for their class as a whole; a reverence for nature that is nurtured through stories, caring for their environment and time spent outdoors; empathy that grows through an honouring of each child’s individuality and a love of learning that comes from offering an unhurried and creative learning environment where children can find the joy in learning and experience the richness of childhood.” Saskia Anley-McCallum – Trustee
The Waldorf movement is the largest educational movement worldwide with over 1000 schools in 70 countries around the globe. Last week, exactly 100 years since the first Waldorf school opened its doors, the Department for Education granted this new school in Canterbury Independent School status.
New School Canterbury sits on an idyllic site in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, surrounded by an organic farm, just 10 minutes south of Canterbury. Wooden, purpose built classrooms offer the children a beautiful environment within which to learn and the site also has expansive outdoor areas and a stunning 150 seater theatre.
Children will also take part in land care and environmental awareness classes helping to develop a deep understanding of nature and a love for the world in which we live. Beth, added: “We want our children to care for the planet out of love and respect rather than fear of what will happen if they don’t”.
Through these lessons the children are developing an eco-garden, learning about rainwater harvesting, organic farming, permaculture, foraging and caring for bees. They are also working with experts in the field to integrate circular economy thinking to reduce waste across the whole site.
Funding from the local council has also enabled New School to develop an intergenerational project that brings older retired people at risk of social isolation, to the site as volunteers, to work with the children in the garden, breaking down barriers between generations.
The school offers education for children between the ages of 3 and 11 and aims to inspire a love of learning and to have each child’s wellbeing at its heart.
“If we are serious about equipping young people to thrive in an uncertain future, we need to explore what they will need in order to face the challenges and embrace the opportunities within our changing world. At New School we are passionate about nurturing creative, compassionate, critical thinkers who have a strong sense of purpose and confidence to fulfill their unique potential.” Beth Cuenco – Headteacher
New School also has a Kindergarten that welcomes children between the ages of three and six and provides an environment where childhood is valued, imagination nurtured and education unhurried, developing creative and confident learners who are ready and eager to take their first steps into school life at the age of six.
A weekly Parent & Baby group taking place on Mondays and an Outdoor Parent & Toddler group that takes place on Tuesdays and Thursdays, both provide a wonderful opportunity for families to get a taste of the gentle approach that integral to the education throughout the school.
“Our journey to this point has been truly inspirational, starting as we did with a small group of parents determined to provide a 21st century Waldorf education for their children, and turning this dream into reality. There have been many challenges along the way and it is wonderful to see how the whole community has responded. Of course, this is only the beginning! I am confident that our spirit of adventure and dedication will result in an exciting and rewarding future for all.” – Robin Bax – Chair of Trustees