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A growing number of parents and teachers across the globe are looking for new ways to educate – ways that will inspire, motivate and involve each and every child.

Alternatives in Education, enjoying school life.

Concerns about mainstream schooling – the relentless focus on targets and testing and the resulting pressure on young people – are leading many to ask whether there might be better ways to prepare children for life in contemporary society: better ways to create a fairer and more environmentally sustainable future. In a world where information is available at the touch of a screen what and how can young people best learn?

Such concerns are fuelling demand for educational approaches which take account of the latest research into how children learn, which respond to their individual strengths and developmental needs and which reflect the kind of society we want to create.

Alternatives in Education aims to:
  • Raise awareness about different ways of educating

  • Support and encourage people to work for transformative change

“The world is undergoing revolutionary changes. We need a revolution in education too.”

Ken Robinson, author of Creative Schools

Key Questions

In every community we should be asking questions about the purposes of education.

Is it about passing exams?

Is it about developing the whole child?

Is it about preparing children for work?

Is it about building a better society?

Is it best to organise learning by subjects?

Is a more multi-disciplinary approach preferable?

Is education about transmitting knowledge?

Is it about learning how to learn?

Can we create more opportunities for children to learn outdoors, in the community and in different settings?

How can schools keep pace with the changes in society?

How can we help young people cope with contemporary challenges?

How best can schools be organised in order to support children and young people?

Smaller classes? Smaller schools? Learning communities where everyone has a voice and everyone is valued?

How can parents, teachers and members of the local community contribute to strengthening their school?

How can schools make the most of the skills and experiences of parents and members of the wider community?

We cannot rely on governments for the answers. In a democratic society it makes sense for educators and communities to work together to create schools and learning environments that meet the needs of young people and which help to shape society for the future.

Key Questions

In every community we should be asking questions about the purposes of education.

Is it about passing exams?

Is it about developing the whole child?

Is it about preparing children for work?

Is it about building a better society?

Is it best to organise learning by subjects?

Is a more multi-disciplinary approach preferable?

Is education about transmitting knowledge?

Is it about learning how to learn?

Can we create more opportunities for children to learn outdoors, in the community and in different settings?

How can schools keep pace with the changes in society?

How can we help young people cope with contemporary challenges?

How best can schools be organised in order to support children and young people?

Smaller classes? Smaller schools? Learning communities where everyone has a voice and everyone is valued?

How can parents, teachers and members of the local community contribute to strengthening their school?

How can schools make the most of the skills and experiences of parents and members of the wider community?

We cannot rely on governments for the answers. In a democratic society it makes sense for educators and communities to work together to create schools and learning environments that meet the needs of young people and which help to shape society for the future.

Inspiring Examples

Alternatives in Education, enjoying school life.

There are thousands of schools, learning centres and education cooperatives across the world offering child-centred and holistic approaches to education; places where teachers, parents and local communities work together to provide the best start in life for their children.

Alternative approaches seek to:
  • Nurture the whole child – head, hand and heart

  • Build positive relationships

  • Encourage independent learning

  • Foster creativity

  • Give young people a voice

  • Uphold children’s rights

  • Educate children and young people to create a fairer and more sustainable world

“It is not education, but education of a certain kind, that will save us. And the current model of western, urban-centred, school-based education, which is so often more focused on turning children into efficient corporate units rather than curious and open-minded adults, will only lead us further down the wrong path.”

Professor David Orr, author of Earth in Mind

In the State Sector

Alternatives in Education - The State Sector

The Co-operative Schools movement has grown rapidly in recent years as government policy has opened up opportunities to develop new models of governance. The idea behind such schools is that they are underpinned by the cooperative values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. All of the main stakeholders – staff, parents and students – have a voice in the school which ensures a degree of democratic accountability and helps to root the school within the local community. There are currently more than 800 cooperative schools across the UK with more in the pipeline.

www.co-op.ac.uk

www.co-operativeschools.coop

Forest Schools is a framework for giving all children regular opportunities to develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees. It was first developed in Scandinavia and is now used by thousands of practitioners across the UK and further afield. This approach to learning compliments the wider context of outdoor and woodland education and can be adopted by any school with access to outdoor spaces.

www.forestschoolassociation.org

The values underpinning a human scale approach are about putting children and young people at the heart of the education process and ensuring that school structures are organised in such a way that children and young people can be known, valued and supported as individuals. ‘Humanity of scale’ and the ‘primacy of relationships’ are thus seen as key factors in the design of schools. At a time when there is growing pressure on schools to increase in size in order to benefit from economies of scale, human scale schools offer an antidote by showing that the values of democracy, justice and respect – for people and planet – can be more effectively realised within smaller scale learning communities.

www.hse.org.uk

Learn to Lead is a model of student participation in schools called ‘co-production’. It goes beyond participation through volunteering or being elected to the school council to an approach which involves everyone, not just the brightest and most vocal. There is a shift of focus away from what the school thinks is important to what the students prioritise. This requires a move towards an institutional culture where young people have some autonomy and responsibility. Students are trained, supported and given the space to take the lead to bring about the positive changes they wish to see within their school and beyond.

www.learntolead.org.uk

The Learning without Limits project, based at the University of Cambridge, was set up in 1999 with the aim of investigating and furthering approaches to teaching and learning that do not rely on the belief that children’s ability is fixed. The project is inspired by a body of research which demonstrates that ideas based on a view of children as having fixed, innate ‘ability’ or ‘potential’ can have damaging effects on their learning. The Learning without Limits project works with a network of schools in the UK and internationally to sustain and strengthen a more optimistic and empowering view of learners and learning.

www.learningwithoutlimits.educ.cam.ac.uk

The Unicef UK Rights Respecting Schools Award puts children’s rights at the heart of school life. It started in 2006 and more than 4000 schools – nursery, primary and secondary, schools for children with special educational needs and pupil referral units – are now registered across the whole of the UK to promote a child rights-based approach and to share good practice. The aim of the programme is to help schools to use the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as their values framework, thereby embedding children’s rights in their ethos and culture. The programme is based on principles of equality, dignity, respect, non-discrimination and participation and everyone in the school community learns about children’s rights by putting them into practice every day.

www.unicef.org.uk/rights-respecting-schools/

The Opening Minds framework was developed by the Royal Society of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce (RSA) in 1999 and is being used in over 200 schools across the country. It  is a competence based approach which enables students not just to acquire subject knowledge but to understand, use and apply it in the within the context of their wider learning and life. It encourages innovative and integrated ways of thinking about education and the curriculum. Teachers design and develop a curriculum for their own schools based round the development of five key competences:

  • Citizenship
  • Learning
  • Managing information
  • Relating to people
  • Managing situations

It aims to be a holistic and coherent way of learning which allows students to make connections and apply knowledge across different subject areas.

www.rsaopeningminds.org.uk

In the Alternative Sector

Alternatives in Education - The Alternative Sector

The basis of democratic schools is that children have a say in what they learn, when, how and where they learn it and in how their school is run. Given the current belief in the importance of teaching children about citizenship, democratic schools take this idea to its natural conclusion. They allow children to make decisions, to take responsibility for those decisions and to learn from the consequences of those decisions through experience.

www.eudec.org

Célestin Freinet was born in France in 1896 and died in 1966. His ideas about education were underpinned by his concept of “productive work”. Students were encouraged to go out into the locality to study both the natural environment and their local community and the results of their investigations were compiled into journals. It was a child-centred approach with an emphasis on working cooperatively. The class met as a group on a regular basis to coordinate their activities and to address any problems. Freinet’s ideas can be seen in action in schools in a number of countries such as France, Germany and Finland.

www.fimem-freinet.org/en

Montessori is a worldwide movement associated particularly with early years education, although increasing numbers of schools are being extended to accept children beyond nursery age. The inspiration behind the movement was Maria Montessori (1870–1952), an Italian doctor, who turned her attention to education. Montessori believed that children are naturally motivated to learn and that they should be allowed to develop and learn at their own, self-directed pace without adult interference. The role of the teacher or ‘directress’ is to guide each child’s progress and to provide the appropriate environment to facilitate the learning process. Today there are over 800 Montessori registered schools in the UK.

www.montessori.org.uk

www.montessorisociety.org.uk

Reggio Emilia in northern Italy is home to an inspirational model of early years education which, over the past thirty years, has spread throughout the world. The approach is based on the work of Piaget, Vygotsky and Dewey whose ideas were developed and applied by Loris Malaguzzi. Malaguzzi’s image of the child was ‘rich in potential, strong, powerful, competent and, most of all, connected to adults and other children’. Children are seen as having rights as well as needs. The schools are run democratically by parents, teachers and the local community. The emphasis is on following children’s interests and allowing them to determine what is learned. Parents are involved from the outset and so the approach becomes embedded in the way that parents bring up their children and this is one of the keys to its success.

www.reggiochildren.it

www.sightlines-initiative.com

Human Scale Education believes that smallness of scale helps to facilitate the interpersonal relationships that enable children and young people to become confident and resourceful individuals, capable of respecting and caring for each other and for the environment. The charity’s motto, ‘Education as if people matter’, is taken from E. F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful – Economics as if People Mattered. Member schools (in the state sector as well as in the alternative sector) subscribe in varying degrees to Human Scale Education’s philosophy, which holds that education should comprise a number of essential elements – positive relationships, a holistic approach to learning, democratic participation, involvement of parents and the wider community and a commitment to a fairer and more sustainable world.- all of which depend on small structures to be put into practice.

www.hse.org.uk

The Steiner Waldorf School movement comprises around 1000 schools, 2000 kindergartens and over 65 teacher training institutes around the world. The movement dates from 1919 when Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) founded his first school in Stuttgart in Germany, called the Waldorfschule. In the UK there are currently 31 schools, 43 kindergartens and 7 teacher training courses.

Rudolf Steiner saw the purpose of education as being to help the child make sense of the world and this is achieved through a holistic approach. He believed that education comprised three main strands: it had to be practical, artistic and develop the intellect. Developing a healthy relationship with the natural world is a key element and a theme which prevails across Steiner Waldorf education.

www.steinerwaldorf.org

It is estimated that over 40,000 children (and possibly many more) are now being educated at home across the UK. This movement started with a few pioneering families in the 1950s and has grown exponentially, helped by developments in ICT which make it easy to access online resources, information and support. It is a completely legal option in the UK. The legislation makes two things clear: first, that education is the responsibility of parents and second, that it can happen at school or otherwise. This clause was the inspiration for the name of the first support organisation for home educators, Education Otherwise, which was founded in the 1970s.

www.educationotherwise.net/

Alternative Schools in the UK

Annan School Framfield, Sussex
Brockwood Park Alresford, Hampshire
Dame Catherine Harpur’s School Ticknall, Derbyshire
Dharma School Brighton, East Sussex
Educare, Kingston, Surrey
Great Oaks Small School Ebbsfleet, Kent
Hebden Bridge School Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire
Inwoods Small School Alresford, Hampshire
Lewes New School Lewes, Sussex

New Forest Small School Lyndhurst, Hampshire
Park School Totnes, Devon
Sands School Ashburton, Devon
Self-Managed Learning College Brighton, East Sussex
The Small School Hartland, Devon
St Christopher’s School Letchworth, Hertfordshire
Summerhill School Leiston, Suffolk
Sunrise School London
Westside School Hammersmith, London

A list of Steiner Waldorf schools is available at:
www.steinerwaldorf.org/steiner-schools/list-of-schools/

A list of Montessori schools is available at:
www.montessori.org.uk/msa/accreditation/accredited_schools

Schools in the alternative, independent sector in the UK do not receive public funding and are therefore required to charge fees.

Alternative Schools in the UK

Annan School, Framfield, Sussex
Brockwood Park, Alresford, Hampshire
Dame Catherine Harpur’s School, Ticknall, Derbyshire
Dharma School, Brighton, East Sussex
Educare, Kingston, Surrey
Great Oaks Small School, Ebbsfleet, Kent
Hebden Bridge School, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire
Inwoods Small School, Alresford, Hampshire
Lewes New School, Lewes, Sussex
New Forest Small School, Lyndhurst, Hampshire
Park School, Totnes, Devon
Sands School, Ashburton, Devon
Self-Managed Learning College, Brighton, East Sussex
The Small School, Hartland, Devon
St Christopher’s School, Letchworth, Hertfordshire
Summerhill School, Leiston, Suffolk
Sunrise School, London
Westside School, Hammersmith, London

A list of Steiner Waldorf schools is available at:
www.steinerwaldorf.org/steiner-schools/list-of-schools/

A list of Montessori schools is available at:
www.montessori.org.uk/msa/accreditation/accredited_schools

Working for Positive Change

How do we get there?

Let’s open up a debate about the purposes of education at all levels of society

– starting at ante-natal classes and continuing through nurseries, schools, universities and within business and government.

Everyone has a stake and everyone can have a say.

Schools will get stronger by working with their local community

and listening to the voices of those they exist to serve.

“Education is a conversation across the generations.”

Creating the conversation

Alternatives in Education

Student Voice

According to Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, children have the right to have a say on all matters which affect them. This includes their education. When children and young people are involved in decisions about their learning, they become active participants in their education and they are more motivated.

Alternatives in Education - Parent's Voice

Parent Voice

When parents are involved in their children’s education, children do better. Research has found that parental engagement is one of the most powerful levers for school improvement. When schools listen to their parents and work with them as genuine partners they achieve the best outcomes for children and young people.

Alternatives in Education - Teacher's Voice

Teacher Voice

Teachers are professionals and yet many feel that they have little say over their work. They are told what to teach and when and how to teach it by a government (in England) which dictates the content of the curriculum and exerts a stranglehold over schools through the testing and accountability framework. When teachers have greater autonomy to respond to the needs of the children and young people they work with, children do better.

Alternatives in Education - School Community Voice

School Community Voice

When school leaders listen to their students, their teachers and their parents they are better able to meet the needs of the communities they exist to serve. When responsibility for the school’s vision, values and direction is shared, schools are strengthened by such collaboration and empowered to be their best.

Who are we?

Alternatives in Education is an alliance of educators and parents committed to child-centred ways of working. We are affiliated to the European Forum for Freedom in Education.

Fiona Carnie

Director

Fiona has extensive experience of working with schools and organisations across Europe to support educational transformation.

Sean Bellamy

Associate

Co-founder and teacher, Sands Democratic School, Devon.

Ian Cunningham

Associate

Founder and Chair of Governors, Self Managed Learning College, Brighton.

Mike Davies

Associate

Education consultant, secondary head and founding member of Human Scale Education.

Michael Fielding

Associate

Emeritus Professor, Institute of Education, University College London.

Mary Tasker

Associate

Educationalist and adviser on human scale education.

Consultancy

We have a range of experts who can advise on

Encouraging democratic change at your school

The power of student voice

Setting up a small school or learning centre

Publications

Alternative Approaches to Education
Alternative Approaches to Education

by Fiona Carnie

Available from Routledge

Rebuilding our Schools from the Bottom Up
Rebuilding Our Schools from the Bottom Up

by Fiona Carnie

Available from Routledge

Parent Participation Handbook
Parent Participation Handbook

by Fiona Carnie

Available from Optimus Education

Pathways to Child Friendly Schools
Pathways to Child Friendly Schools

by Fiona Carnie

Available from Alternatives in Education

Harnessing Parent Power
Harnessing Parent Power

by Fiona Carnie

Available from Optimus Education

Human Scale Education by Design
Human Scale Education by Design

by Mike Davies

Download

Radical Education and the Common School
Radical Education and the Common School

by Michael Fielding

Available from Routledge

Human Scale Education: History, Values and Practice
Human Scale Education: History, Values and Practice

by Mary Tasker

Download

Events

Seminars and workshops take place around the UK to give parents and teachers the opportunity to find out about different approaches to education and support in setting up a new project.

Alternatives in Education - Workshops

Workshops

This workshop explores:

  • the nuts and bolts of setting up an educational project
  • some case studies
  • relevant legislation
  • raising the funds

Forthcoming date: DATE TBC

Come to this event to explore:

  • developing your school’s vision and values
  • encouraging and supporting change – some case studies
  • listening to students, parents and teachers
  • strengthening your school community
Alternatives in Education - Seminars

Seminars

Find out about:

  • different educational approaches
  • inspiring examples from around the UK
  • options for parents and teachers

Forthcoming date: Saturday 9th December 2017

MORE INFO & ONLINE BOOKING

Organise a Seminar or Workshop in your area

Alternatives in Education can put on workshops for schools, for parents or for students.

For further details or to arrange a date contact us at:
info@alternativesineducation.org