The Lower School Curriculum
The Lower School provides an age-appropriate curriculum for children between the ages of 6 and 11 years old. This page covers the curriculum in more depth.
The distinctive features of the curriculum
The design of the curriculum is based on an understanding that the best outcomes are achieved by:
introducing learning at the moment of maximum readiness. Thus, formal literacy and numeracy are introduced at age six when pupils have developed secure skills from the early years. Similarly, computer technology is introduced after pupils have an understanding of a range of mechanical technologies.
balancing academic learning by providing opportunities for learning through experience, through engagement with the natural world and through artistic activities
giving equal attention to the cognitive, emotional, spiritual, moral, social, cultural and physical development and well-being of the pupils
giving teachers the freedom to adapt the curriculum to suit the needs of their pupils and to use personalised differentiation to promote the learning so that the content of the curriculum and the methodology is appropriate to the age and interests of the pupils
ensuring that learning also takes place within a culture of collaboration, with pupils undertaking tasks and activities cooperatively as a group, rather than competitively as individuals
reviewing, evaluating and developing the content of the curriculum to be authentic and relevant, providing breadth, depth and progression in knowledge and skills with teachers actively engaged in classroom research focussed on the pupils’ response to the curriculum and to their environment.
From Class 1 the emphasis is on developing pupils’ artistic expression and social capacities to foster creative and analytical modes of understanding.
The pupils’ day is divided up into:
The Main Lesson; a two-hour lesson at the beginning of each day that focuses on one topic continuously for usually three weeks. This develops the habit of sustained concentration on one topic, both over the two-hour period and over the three weeks and allows in-depth exploration.
Two subject specific lessons before the lunch break and two subject specific lessons in the afternoon. The subject lessons are usually taught by subject specialists.
All timetables broadly follow this pattern.
i) The Main Lesson
The aim of the Main Lesson is to:
develop the understanding of one subject in depth over two-hours, in three to four weeks
enhance the learning process by incorporating an element of review and recall, and promoting the retention of knowledge through the pattern of revisiting subjects on a regular basis over time
use a three-fold approach to each Main Lesson including physical, intellectual and artistic methods in order that all learners can access the content
foster expressive, creative and analytical modes of understanding to maximise the possibilities for each pupil to find some aspect that they can enjoy and excel at, within the curriculum offered.
Wherever possible, the Main Lesson will be planned and taught by the same teacher for the pupils as they progress from Year 2 to 6 (Class 1 to 5).
The Class Teacher will plan a scheme of work drawn from the content of the main subjects of English, Mathematics, Science and the Humanities.
The Main Lesson is inter-disciplinary, containing a wide range of activities and ways of engaging with the subject, often including music, art and movement. For example, a maths Main Lesson could include dance movement, throwing and stamping out a rhythm, singing, art work, storytelling, mental and written arithmetic. This gives every kind of learner a point of access to the subject.
The rhythm of the Main Lesson aims to meet the pupils’ natural energy patterns so that they do not become restless or unfocused.
This teacher will know each pupil and the social dynamic of the class very well. Their ongoing relationship with the pupils should support the successful management of the personal and social issues that can sometimes interrupt learning as pupils mature. They will be able to respond to the pupils’ natural energy patterns in order to maintain their focus and concentration on the topic being studied over longer periods of time.
Pupils are regularly screened to assess their learning needs. Appropriate interventions supporting pupils with a wide range of needs can be made available. In addition to this provision the school also works and liaises with external agencies to meet the needs of pupils.
The content of the curriculum
The following is a synopsis of subject content for Classes 1 to 5. This is drawn from ‘The Tasks and Content of the Steiner-Waldorf Curriculum’ (2014); Edited by Avison, Kevin and Rawson, Martyn; Floris Books.
Class 1 - introduction to writing through pictures. Introduction to reading through own writing. Writing in Capitals and lower case.
Class 2 - cursive script; reading, basic grammar and spelling rules
Class 3 - as above - basic grammar, sentence structure, comprehension, spelling, simple letter writing
Class 4 - grammar, tenses, spelling
Class 5 - active and passive, description, use of fountain pen, conditional, moods, letter writing
Class 1 – introduction to addition, subtraction, multiplication and division
Class 2 – mental practice and longer exercises, moving on to larger numbers, number bonds, odd and even numbers, columns and carrying over and simple geometry
Class 3 – practice of all 12 tables continues; long multiplication and long division will be introduced, together with money handling and change, and various forms of measurement involving linear dimensions, liquids, solids and temporal intervals
Class 4– introduction of fractions; measurements and area work continue
Class 5 – freehand and compass geometry are introduced, also the decimal system
Teaching the humanities begins in Class 1, as children listen to a fairy tale or nature story on a daily basis.
Progressing through the classes, the children hear the legends of saints, multicultural folklore, Native American tales, Norse mythology and sagas; the successive ancient cultures of Ancient India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece; the History of Western civilization from Rome through the Middle Ages, the rise of Islam, the Age of Exploration, the Renaissance and Reformation.
By learning about these cultures through legends and literature, children gain an appreciation for the diversity of mankind as well as a sense of historical chronology.
The study of geography and history as separate subjects begins in Class 4 and starts with a study of the immediate environment, broadening out in the following years to regional, national and global studies.
Class 4 – Project work based on the study of the local area.
leading to Geography of the British Isles.
History: The culture and religion of early civilisations of India, Persia, Babylonia and Egypt, moving on to classical ancient Greek history.
Class 5 – European physical and human geography.
History: Greek History and mythology including participation in a 3 day camping trip to a School's 'Greek Olympics' along with UK and European sister schools.
Modern Foreign Languages
From Class 1 onwards, children learn 2 modern foreign languages. Using an immersive approach, they will learn a wide range of vocabulary and short phrases through songs, verses, poems, recitation, games and cultural activities.
The written form of these languages is introduced in Class 4 but the speaking and listening skills remain central.
At the beginning of Class 4 pupils also begin to gain an understanding of the grammar, spelling, phonics and structure of the language.
Technology and ICT
Pupils are introduced to a wide range of simple technoIogies through their practical and creative work starting with cooking and sewing.
As they get older this develops to include gardening, building, woodwork, pottery and metalwork. In these activities they use an increasing range of hand tools, and learn how mechanical tools function.
E-safety is introduced in Class 3 and computer technology is introduced in Class 5 when the pupils have developed an understanding of a range of mechanical technologies in the broad context of other disciplines.
Religious Education develops the moral and spiritual well-being of the children and is nurtured by developing a strong sense of belonging for all children whatever their faith background. This is achieved through a calendar of seasonal festivals that the school celebrates together.
A sense of reverence and an attitude of tolerance and respect towards each other is encouraged and modelled by the teachers and reinforced by verses said at the beginning and end of the day.
From Class 1 pupils have a separate Religion lesson each week. In this lesson, the children hear stories of human endeavour and courage in the face of difficulty. Questioning and discussion of any moral issues which arise serve to strengthen the pupils’ ethical learning As the children mature, they learn about historic and contemporary religious beliefs from all the main religious traditions. Pupils develop a strong system of values, particularly of the contribution of the individual to the community, our close bond with the natural world and a well- informed understanding of world religions.
Eurythmy (subject to availability of qualified teacher)
Eurythmy is an art of movement that engages the whole human being. It aims to harmonise the child’s physical well-being with their feelings or emotions. Regular eurythmy practice lessons help children to become more coordinated, graceful and alert and to be more at ease with themselves.
In the eurythmy lesson the children move to poetry, prose text and live instrumental music and this experience deepens their aesthetic appreciation of literature and music and complements other aspects of the curriculum.
Eurythmy also requires the children to work in groups which develops spatial awareness and a capacity to sense the movements of the group as a whole, while also concentrating on their own movement.
There is both integrated and discrete physical education.
Integrated physical education includes the movement exercises that come at the beginning of the Main Lesson to help the pupils to settle their focus for learning.
The use of rhythm and movement may come into many lessons, such as maths where pupils, for example may throw and catch bean bags as they recite times tables, or a foreign language, where pupils might follow a sequence of movements when learning parts of the body.
Weekly games lessons include a wide range of team games.
Around Class 5 the ancient Greek Olympic events are introduced: running, jumping, discus and javelin.
Ball games are introduced with rules tailored to the age group.
The Natural Environment & Science
The curriculum respects the restorative benefits of the natural world and the outdoor programme includes land work, farming, and a range of science main lessons, field trips, as well as well-planned outdoor spaces for playing, and opportunities to hold lessons in outdoor classrooms.
Science is introduced through Main Lessons, starting with the Human Being and the Animal Kingdom in Class 4, when the pupils undertake individual projects that focus on the creatures that move in and around the earth. In Class 5, The British Isles is studied and the animals theme is continued, usually looking at animals that are native to our islands.
In Class 5, the focus in the science Main Lesson shifts to the plant kingdom with Botany.
In these Main Lessons the scientific approach stresses the activity of the senses rather than the activity of dissecting and analysing the parts.Children at this stage learn most through what they can see, hear, smell, taste or touch. The aim is to bring the children’s senses to life and science is a stimulating means to this goal.
Music is taught in an integrated way and as a separate subject. Singing and recorder playing is used in the Main Lesson in a wide variety of contexts and all children sing daily. In the weekly music lesson all pupils learn musical notation and pupils have the opportunity to learn other musical instruments.
Art is taught in an integrated way and as a separate subject. Artistic work is an integral part of the Main Lesson and in a wide variety of contexts. Pupils have opportunities to learn a wide range of art techniques in weekly art lessons.
Handwork and crafts
Handwork is an integral part of the curriculum for all children from Class 1. It provides a balancing element to the intellectual activities experienced elsewhere in the curriculum and is designed to aid the harmonious development of the child.
From Class 1, skills that are taught in the weekly lesson include sewing, knitting, crochet, weaving, tailoring, dyeing and felting, with importance placed on the use of high quality, beautiful and natural materials in order to enhance the artistic and creative development of the child.
As well as practical activities guided by the class teacher, such as modelling and painting, pupils are also taught various crafts in other subject based lessons. In Class 1 when children are learning letters and numbers they may mould some of these using bees wax.