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What's love got to do with it?

In December 2017 our children’s school, Canterbury Steiner School, closed its doors for the last time. This was a school that many of us had been to ourselves as children, and other families had moved from far and wide to make it possible for their children to attend.

One child in Class One returned home after hearing the news that his school would be closing and announced that he wasn’t worried because he knew that the parents would set up a new one and that the teachers would then come and fill this new school back up with love. There was no doubt in his mind that this is what we needed to do.

As parents and teachers, we had a choice of how to respond to the heartbreaking news that our school was closing. We were aware that the choice we would make could offer our children an example of how it is possible to respond with courage and hope in the face of adversity. We decided as a group, to set up our own New School.

Deciding upon our vision was as important first step. As the list of priorities for this new education 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, we realised that all of these aspects represented the ‘love’ by which this young boy had felt so surrounded and had 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.

There were only 6 months between the time that the old school made the decision to close and the time they finally shut their doors This gave us very little time to find a way to ensure the continuation of our children's education. We decided to set ourselves up as a part time home education support group until we were granted school status. The search for a site began.

Canterbury Steiner School trustees put the old school site up for sale and it was bought by a developer who initially had plans to build houses. I rang the developer the day after his offer was accepted and asked if we could remain on the site until his achieved planning permission and he agreed.

On the 19th September 2019, the day that schools across the globe celebrated the 100th anniversary of Waldorf education, the Department for Education granted this new school in Canterbury, Independent School status.

The developer has now offered us a long term lease which has allowed New School Canterbury to stay on our 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.

We are passionate about marking the Centennial celebrations of Waldorf education with a commitment to further develop the education for contemporary times with a focus on environmental and ecological awareness. 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. Children 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. Through these lessons the children are developing an eco-garden, learning about rainwater harvesting, organic farming, permaculture, foraging and caring for bees. We are also beginning to work 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 fulfil their unique potential.

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. We have a weekly Parent & Baby Group and a twice weekly Outdoor Parent & Toddler group, both providing a wonderful opportunity for families to get a taste of the gentle approach that is 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 Harris, Chair of Trustees

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