The curriculum is divided into three phases: early childhood from birth to age 6, a primary and middle school phase from age 7 to 13, and a secondary or high school phase from 14 to school leaving age.
Each phase is characterised by a particular atmosphere, approach and teaching style:
Birth to six: The World is Good
In the early childhood phase, teachers create a secure, predictable, beautiful and loving environment, where children can engage in a range of both child- and adult- led activities.
Free play is given plenty of time and space, both indoors and out, with open-ended, creative resources made of natural materials, so that children can learn imaginatively and through exploration, independently and with their peers. Children have the opportunity to engage in meaningful tasks alongside an adult who strives to be worthy of imitation: gardening, cooking, crafts, drawing and painting and effective interactions with skilled early childhood practitioners develop strong relationships. Daily stories or puppet shows provide the foundations of narrative awareness, broadening children’s vocabulary and developing their narrative skills.
Seven to Thirteen: The World is Beautiful
Children begin their journey in the lower school well-prepared and enthusiastic for formal learning.
The Class Teacher ideally stays with the class for a number of years, although the children meet many other subject specialists along the way.
Each morning begins with a cross-curricular ‘Main Lesson’ of up to two hours, including a rhythmic balance of academic, physical, artistic and practical learning and when they are old enough, self study. Other lessons include at least one world language, handwork, Math and Literacy, games and movement, eurythmy, and outdoor education.
The curriculum themes expand in a variety of ways as the children progress through the school. From stories to histories, fiction to fact, local to global, simple to complex and tangible to abstract: as children’s learning capacities develop, so the curriculum grows to meet them. There is a focus on developing children’s skills in observation and imagination, and their ability to create mental images which support their memory and conceptual understanding.
Fourteen onwards: The World is True
In the upper school, the morning ‘Main Lesson’ is now also taught by a range of specialist teachers. The curriculum provides opportunities for students to engage with different and sometimes quite challenging perspectives and points of view. Continuing to build on their academic, physical, artistic and practical knowledge and skill, they engage in questioning, discussion and critical thinking, developing their ability to think objectively, discern with subtlety and form their own judgements. There is a continued focus on curriculum breadth, allowing students to retain their interest in a wide range of subject areas, and supporting the maturing of each young person into a well-qualified, well-rounded, culturally competent, capable, ethical and responsible adult.
The curriculum ensures that all pupils are skilled in the fundamentals of maths, applying their knowledge purposefully in a range of developmentally appropriate tasks. We focus on conceptual understanding and skills to solve increasingly complex problems and teach children to reason by following a line of enquiry, developing an argument and justifying and proving it using mathematical language. After mastering all the key disciplines our children progress to business maths, geometry and complex algebra.
Our teaching places great emphasis on clear, expressive, sensitive and powerful speaking from Kindergarten through to the Upper Classes. Poetry, drama, story-telling, rhetoric and conversation are cultivated hand in hand with literacy. Explicit literacy instruction begins at the age of 6 when the children enter Class 1. This enables them to develop high levels of orality, language familiarity and phonological awareness. Our children become avid readers and enthusiastic writers, capable of a wide range of styles. We nurture a wide vocabulary, an understanding of grammar and knowledge of linguistic conventions for reading, writing and spoken language.
The science curriculum starts holistically with rich imaginative experiences to build our children’s knowledge of the natural environment and how to discuss and describe it. Through life sciences, animals and plants we link to our geology and geography learning and observations become more systematic and analytical. From Class 6, physics, chemistry and biology become distinct subjects with exciting hands-on experiments in optics, acoustics, chemistry and electromagnetism.
Our geography teaching is based on inspiring curiosity and fascination about the world - and its people. Through appreciation of natural phenomena and processes our pupils develop a profound understanding of the intimate connection between physical landscapes and the evolution of human cultures. Learning key physical and human geographical features of the world, how these are interdependent and change gives our children the skills to interpret geographical information through maps, diagrams, globes, images and numerical data - often gathered on exciting field trips and residentials.
Our children are known for their imagination and creativity and begin drawing and painting from Kindergarten onwards. Alongside main lesson we also have designated art lessons and use specialist teachers for a wide range of activities ranging from lino-cutting to photography. We use all forms of medium, starting with watercolour through to gouache, oil pastels and ink moving on to complex form drawing and modelling using clay, wax and kaolinite through to papier mâché, plaster and ceramics.
We celebrate our children’s work and hang it in all the public areas of our school so everyone can enjoy it.
This is a key component of education, not just because of the practical skills it gives our children in later life but because of its invaluable development of hand eye coordination, problem-solving skills and confidence building. Children become masterful in using specific handwork tools and learn a range of skills to create useful items for school or home. Each year they build on the skills previously learned with increasing complexity moving from crocheting and knitting to machine sewing, hand weaving and fabric dyeing. They make the costumes for all their plays and even their own school hoodies!