Alternative schooling – What are your choices?

If you are looking for an alternative and more holistic approach for your children’s education, there are a number of options to consider. Making a decision regarding alternative schooling is a major decision to make; it is, of course, not one to take lightly. But if you are starting your exciting journey into selecting the perfect alternative to a mainstream school for your child, this article might just help you to make the right choices for their future.

Firstly, consider the variables that are important to you for your child’s education. What really matters to you?  And what do you feel would most benefit your child? You may be surprised to realize that are more factors to consider than you had originally thought. The Trustees of CfBT commissioned a literature review* (click here for the full report) to help improve understanding of how to measure the effectiveness of Alternative Education Provision (AEP). This review brought together evidence of effective approaches to AEP and identified promising practice and lessons that might be transferable from AEP to mainstream provision.  Interestingly, the evidence reviewed identified the following variables as indicators of effective AEP.

It is based on:

  • Trusting, caring relationships
  • Effective assessment of need
  • Person-centred
  • Purposeful (outcome-focused)
  • Personalised and appropriate (curriculum/addressing needs)
  • Flexible and accessible
  • Delivered by highly skilled and trained staff
  • Monitored and assessed (to ensure needs are met and to inform delivery)
  • Supported by the wider family and community.

Non-traditional approaches to education can offer many benefits over their mainstream counterparts. I believe that the best alternative schools will aim to make provision for the majority, if not all, of the variables identified by The Trustees of CfBT, as listed above. When choosing an alternative school for your child, firstly,  consider the list above.  What is the most important criteria for your choice of school? Here are two options to consider which may fulfil your requirements:

Rudolf Steiner schools

If your priorities include keeping your children engaged with nature, and keeping them away from modern day distractions including video games, computers, etc, then an alternative schooling option for your children could be the Steiner approach. Rudolf Steiner developed his Rudolf Steiner schools, which have been attended by a number of famous people, including Annie Lennox, Jennifer Rush and Sandra Bullock who are all former pupils. Rudolf Steiner schooling starts at the age of seven, with no computer use until 14 and no exams until 15. With an emphasis on natural learning styles, the emphasis is on educational practices which have a particular focus on teaching children in a  holistic way.

Montessori schools

Montessori schools provide another alternative, featuring child-sized environments in which the activities are specifically designed to lead children to learning, without formal lessons of the conventional teaching sense. This teaching style is based principally on the practice and research of Dr Maria Montessori, a doctor and educator, who worked at the beginning of the twentieth century, who held the belief that self-directed learning was best for the under 6s.

Montessori believed that children learned best through sensory experiences, rather than the formal lessons. Play is emphasised to aid the learning process and children are actively encouraged to be as self-sufficient as possible. Adult ‘helpers’ are there to help the children in the activities that they choose, as opposed to traditional teaching where the teacher instructs the student on how to go about activities.

If you are choosing an alternative school, it’s always important to do your research – and not just the online variety. Visit the schools and where possible,  talk to pupils and staff. Also consider the accreditation of the schools; for Steiner schools in the UK and Ireland visit this site  and for Montessori schools visit this site. It’s definitely worth digging a little deeper, to establish whether the school is authentically practicing the approaches it claims to follow.

To find out more about Steiner schools in the UK visit: www.steinerwaldorf.org.uk/ In the USA, visit: http://www.whywaldorfworks.org/

To find out more about Montessori schools visit: www.montessorieducationuk.org/ and http://www.montessori.edu/refs.html

 

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