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Frequently Asked Questions

Have a question for us? Hopefully we’ve already answered it below, but if not, feel free to contact us directly and ask.

We appreciate that there are a lot of things you’ll want to know before considering a school for your child, and as such we’ve included the most popular questions here. We’ve covered everything from Covid to the Curriculum and Safeguarding to sibling discounts.

Covid, Lockdown & Remote Learning

What is your policy on the Covid vaccines?

Wynstones’ focus is educational rather than medical, whilst at the same time being committed to supporting the health and wellbeing of all students and staff. In this, we work closely with the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship, and support their statement regarding the Covid vaccines:

“School staff are not medically trained, therefore it is outside their remit to advise other staff and families around any medical issues including the decision to vaccinate.  Recognising that some parents and school staff consult anthroposophical doctors we wanted to draw your attention to the statement of the International Federation of Anthroposophic Medical Associations (IVAA) and the Medical Section of the Goetheanum which welcomes the development of the vaccines and their roll out worldwide.”

Will your teachers all have had the vaccine?

Our COVID policy is comprehensive in establishing the safe functioning of the school in the light of government guidance, including testing and vaccination regimes for teachers. Within this there is a recognition that not all people will be in a position to be able to take up the vaccine, and that our safe and inclusive functioning as a school will be a measure of our social as well as physical health. The exact details of our approach for our September reopening are not yet fully determined but will be done so in line with both government guidance and support from the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship.

If we have another lockdown what is the plan for remote learning?

Should there be further lockdowns after September, the school will retain a maximum levels of feasible opening accompanied by online support to students and families.

How will my child's teacher manage to deliver the curriculum for their age group as well as making sure they and other children catch up with everything they missed over lockdown?

Review of previously covered material is integral to most learning strategies in each lesson and across longer schemes of work; for all professional teachers, in all schools. Where there are gaps, either collectively or individually, it is normal practice to integrate such coverage and attention into the current planning.

For a Steiner Waldorf school (which focuses on developmental quests as well as sequential knowledge,) this still applies, and is highlighted in the core purpose of the teachers’ task to ‘freshly curate the developmental challenges at the core of the curriculum for each class’ (the top line of our teachers’ job descriptions). This deliberate mixing of sequential knowledge accumulation (new and revised) and developmental integration is core to Steiner Waldorf education, and will be no different as we emerge from lockdown.

‘Catching up’ is a bit of a misnomer. Children are fantastic sponges for knowledge and are learning all the time. Despite their more traditional classroom teaching having been interrupted, they will still be learning from their environments, their experiences and from you. Whilst we’ll be deliberately reviewing material that way previously covered as a way to remind and refresh students’ memories, we believe that the most important ‘catching up’ they will need to do will be catching up with loved ones, friends, catching up on trips out, social experiences, playing in the park, holidays and having fun. To this end, we will lean heavily on our holistic approach during the school day and ask you to ensure they catch up on the life experiences of which Covid has deprived them in the last year.

My child hasn’t sat and concentrated on something other than lego for more than about twenty minutes throughout lockdown, I’m worried about how they will cope with a whole school day in September!

“Twenty minutes of lego” – as you shared in your question – or variations of what has been working for individual students – could be the key as all new classes come together and find the level at which they have been finding to connection to learning. The physical basis of most learning within Steiner Waldorf schools will be supported through a particular attention on tending the foundations of concentration, of posture, rhythm, movement, speech and singing, sight and hearing, so that the higher cognitive skills, as they are needed, have a strong foundation. Charlotte Davis has an excellent range of videos on YouTube that introduces this work. We will shortly be sharing more about our Sensory Motor Integration Curriculum which ensures these essential developmental journeys are supported for all students.

My child has only played with one other child throughout lockdown, I’m worried about how they will cope with the social aspect of school.

As we approach our reopening on 8th September, we will be working with all families over the summer term through an induction programme that creates a gentle but purposeful welcome and roadmap for children joining the school, with evening and weekend slots available as needed.

Our Welcome Room in the school’s main building is designed as the first step in such a journey, and we are excited to welcome children and families to the site, whether for the first time or in returning to a school they once attended. As soon as lockdown allows (expected from 29th March), we will be doing so, but for now, we are online.

A welcome surprise as part of these last weeks have been the visits of children to these online meetings that their parents have had with us as a team, and the questions that they have asked. No, we won’t be having uniforms (but we will be smart, and tidy – and no spiderman or fairy costumes). School dog – what a great idea, we will have to see. For clarity, our welcome to zoom meetings for prospective parents is extended to children, who are welcome to join / pop in if they’d like to.

It is the social aspect of school that we value alongside the academic, and the orientation that many schools are turning towards as the bedrock of learning. Learning how to cope? Yes, this is our task. Connection and resilience. Understanding and diversity. And community.

My child says that they’re not as good as all the other children at writing and other activities at school. I’m concerned that they already feel like education is something they can’t do. How will Wynstones help them to love learning as much as I did when I was a child?

Our Principal, Paul says: “As a teacher, some of my proudest moments have been those classes where we have transcended expected limitations and students have leapfrogged their own past achievements and identity. I remember clearly a summer term class in Year 10, in a classroom at the back of the school, with the door open for ventilation, as we considered the path of Romeo and Juliet. It was an inclusive class, a main lesson, including some students who wouldn’t end up taking the English Literature GCSE itself. But one young person, with a limited facility in writing, offered us an insight on the path of these star-crossed lovers that illuminated the text for the usual suspects of A-star students in a way that brought both consternation and new avenues.”

These instances of transcending supposed limitations are not just limited to the upper years of school – they happen all through our educational journey and beyond into adulthood. We are all naturally proficient at something, and we all have things we are less good at. Steiner education focuses on teaching our students holistically – by ‘head, hand and heart’, and this means that each student is actively encouraged to find something they take joy in doing, be that art, movement, writing, maths or language.

Learning is not the same for each of us. Your child may not learn in the same way as you did or do, and their expression of any love they have for learning might be expressed in a different language to the one you use. Our collective journey, as students, parents and staff, is to share our learnings, and tread a path together.  ‘Metacognition’ is the process of learning how we learn, and this underpins how we support students of all ages to increasingly step into the driving seat of their own learning and their own agency, and how we as a school progress our own journey in crafting this education.

Day-to-day School & the Curriculum

Where can I find information on the Curriculum?

You can find detailed curriculum information on our dedicated Curriculum page, as well as in our W055 Curriculum Policy. It provides an overview of our practice and provision. In summary, our curriculum approach is holistic, integrated and developmental:

  • holistic: ‘head, hand and heart’ are balanced through an equal focus on the development of academic, active and affective / aesthetic capacities
  • integrated: curriculum subjects are interwoven with each other in several ways, meaning that there are links between subjects and through year groups
  • developmental: curriculum content and developmental challenges are organised and sequence-matched to meet and progress students’ physiological and psychological growth.
What is a typical school day like?

For Lower School (Early Years and Key Stage 1), a school day almost always involves a visible balance of the active, academic and artistic in the school’s programme. A typical Waldorf class will involve plenty of active movement as a foundation of both literacy and numeracy, with Form Drawing and Circle Games underlying both (this is sometimes called a ‘moving classroom,’ in Steiner Waldorf schools). In all weathers this involves outside play, and the tidy management of wet weather gear and wellies is a high priority for Waldorf classes and teachers!

One of the cornerstones of Steiner Waldorf education over the past 100 years has been the Main Lesson; a daily 2-hour lesson delivered for a period of 3 or 4 weeks each across the year. Each Main Lesson focuses on a particular subject that is explored and then left to ‘sleep’ – to rest in a process of both depth and block learning. This means that its themes are revisited and expanded on from different angles later on down the line. It encapsulates the learning strategy of ‘quest.’ Waldorf education is renowned for promoting a response to younger children’s questions about the world with a mantra of ‘Well I wonder….’ encouraging ongoing exploration rather than just sharing information. In later years, this approach becomes the heavy lifting of inquiry-based learning.

What are class sizes like?

Class sizes at Wynstones are limited to 21 students in order to promote a strong social dynamic and enable a high quality of individual attention for each student, balancing this with the critical mass of a group of engaged students. All students have an Individual Development Plan created with their Class Teacher / Guardian. This supports them across their journey through school, supporting and stretching as appropriate within a holistic curriculum of head, hand and heart.

What languages will students learn?

Mandarin Chinese and Spanish are the school’s chosen Modern Foreign Languages (the two most spoken languages worldwide), present within Wynstones’ curriculum as a worldview as well as a means of communication. These are taught from Class 1 with songs and rhymes to Class 10 for GCSE (Chinese from 2021, Spanish from 2022).

The choice of Mandarin Chinese as the principal modern foreign language (MFL) arises from its alignment with global literacy, sensory-motor integration and free-thinking as central tenets of our approach. Whilst Chinese may be the most widely spoken language worldwide after English, and whilst China may be an increasing change maker in geopolitics, it is for its cultural and cognitive breadth that it has been chosen.

There are also plans to include British Sign Language (BSL).

When are children introduced to technology?

Our curriculum is ‘purposefully unplugged’ in Early Years (ICT is used only to ensure inclusion and equality), with a gradual introduction of computing alongside craft skills (e.g. knitting then coding before office ICT) so that students become conscious users of a range of technologies, rather than unconscious consumers, with technology taught sequentially from simple machines to increasingly complex ICT and digital media.

The restricted use of information and communications technology (ICT) through early years and primary will be sustained in Wynstones excepting support for pupils with SEND. Consultation with the PTFA and the development of the Parent Contract will mirror this expectation in suggestions on the home use of technology in order to support the cohesion and culture of each class. Student’s own electronic devices, including mobile and smart phones, are not permitted on site. The safeguarding curriculum in these years relating to safe use of technology will be guided by the NSPCC.

Use of ICT in the secondary years will be proportionate and integrated into the curriculum, with a particular focus on the ‘immediacy of industry’ and engineering and investigating how contemporary tools and technologies are designed and function. Smartboards will likely be an integral part of teachers’ ICT repertoire from Class 6 (Year 7) upwards.

What school trips are you planning?

Our school trips programme is still under development, but it will largely mirror that of many Steiner Waldorf schools in meeting the developmental needs of students in a way that is linked to the curriculum. Come September, and all things being equal, a number of traditional Steiner school trips will be embraced by the school from on-site campouts and bushcraft to the iconic Steiner Olympics in Class 5. Further details will follow soon.

What exams (if any) do the students sit?

The only exams students will be offered at Wynstones are likely to be GCSEs. Students won’t sit SATs, but the development of Main Lesson Specifications and a cross referencing of Wynstones’ Curriculum Document with the National Curriculum will become a key feature of the school’s outreach work , especially regarding KS3 progress monitoring.

Generally, Steiner Waldorf education doesn’t subscribe to the mainstream model of regular, formalised testing. Instead students have a close relationship with their teacher, who is constantly monitoring how they are developing. We don’t believe in limiting this to the purely academic, either; students will also be actively supported in their social and emotional development. Whilst the question of GCSEs won’t become relevant for the school’s pupils until 2025-2026, we feel that it is important to address this now, to indicate our likely direction of travel.

The qualifications offered to students at 16 (KS4) in Steiner Waldorf schools vary across and within countries. Steiner himself suggested that students should be in a position to take the state examinations wherever they study, but such an approach has been under challenge in recent years as a more portfolio approach to KS4 qualifications has been undertaken in some areas, such as the Steiner Schools Certificate piloted in New Zealand and taken up by some Steiner Waldorf schools in the UK.

It is our perspective that the heart of the Waldorf curriculum lies not in the qualifications offer per se, but in the methods, ethos and practice in implementing a holistic curriculum. The model at Steiner Hereford Academy remains, in many ways, a gold standard, with a limit of 7 GCSEs or equivalent which are then augmented by main lessons all the way through to Class 10 (Year 11) with an interlacing curriculum across KS3 that serves the content of both the GCSEs on offer and the Waldorf Curriculum. This is similar to the model that we will likely to be adopting, It is also the model that has Wynstones has previously offered.

Safeguarding

What about Safeguarding at Wynstones?

Safeguarding is at the heart of the school’s renewal and reopening this coming September. Some 18 months on from the school’s closure in January 2020 for, in part, a failed safeguarding culture, the school’s initial, pre-Covid task was to ‘fundamentally reinstall an invigorated safeguarding culture and practice in the school, ensuring children’s wellbeing and safety underpin and drive every aspect of the school’s work.’

The delay incurred to reopening, partly due to Covid, has been well used by the school and allowed that fundamental “reinstallation” of an invigorated and robust safeguarding culture to be thorough and secure. Reducing to just two staff members at one point, the re-establishment of the Board of Trustees and body of staff has further ensured that safeguarding is now at the heart of the school’s mission. This has seen a purposeful realignment of understanding in upholding that high quality Waldorf education, in its essential care for childhood, is a pedagogy of safeguarding.

This has manifested in a high-calibre appointments, including that of Kathryn de Ferrer to the post of Vice Principal (Safeguarding and Wellbeing; the continued use of external expert safeguarding consultants to assure the quality of our safeguarding practice; the policy requirement for all senior staff to be trained to the level of Designated Safeguarding Lead; for all recruitment to be safe, fair and quality assured by both Trustees and external expert consultants in education and safeguarding; and an outreach programme of videocasts that contribute towards an ongoing shared ownership of an effective safeguarding culture. These videocasts have been supported and informed by best practice in safeguarding, and particularly by Richard Burrows of Impartial Outcomes, and Kay Joel of the NSPCC.

Outreach in Safeguarding: a shared ownership of safeguarding in schools

  1. Climbing Trees – awareness and accountability in safeguarding
  2. Only Connect – safeguarding childhood in the Waldorf Curriculum
  3. Johnny Rotten – safeguarding and growing public awareness
  4. The Taxi Driver – safeguarding is everyone’s business

As we move forwards, our Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy, shortly to be published, will demonstrate a commitment to the highest of statutory standards and best practice, and describe the school’s procedures and provision as we approach reopening.

Fees & Finance

Why are the fees higher now than from when the school closed?

The fees are now set at the level required to offer a high-quality Steiner Waldorf education, sufficiently resourced to be able to deliver the innovative and progressive aspects of a holistic education we are committed to providing.

Are you sure that you will open in September? Will you have enough students to make the school viable?

Yes, we are sure that we will open. Our working model is for 120 students, and we have contingency plans to be able to operate at nearly half that figure.

We do recognise that many past students and families have now settled at new schools, and understand that many of our students and families for September 2021 will be new to the school. We are warmly welcoming both returning and new students and families.

In our ongoing online welcome meetings, prospective parents are from far and wide in terms of location. Many families are choosing this time to relocate to the South West and are exploring Wynstones as an appropriate school for their child(ren) within that relocation. For some, they are coming to the South West because of Wynstones. Our newsletters are increasingly including snapshots from prospective parents as to why they are choosing Wynstones, and we are sharing these to support the development of the pioneering parent community for September 2021. Our induction programme for the summer term will include open parent meetings, hopefully on site.

How do I apply for a bursary?

To apply for a bursary please contact our Director of Finance and Resources, Anthony Welsh, who will be able to guide you through the process. In summary, a bursary application window will open in May of each year. We will have previously advertised over each April, inviting applications to places at the school that will be supported by varying levels of financial support. Social inclusion and diversity will guide the awarding panel.

We are actively fundraising to be able to expand our Bursary provision in order to promote inclusion and approach privilege with candour, courage and creativity. If you would like to explore the establishment of further bursaries, either sponsored or otherwise, please contact the school’s Principal, Paul Hougham.

Are you offering a discount to families who were at the school previously?

Sadly not. We have explored this question thoroughly within our Board of Trustees. Very much aware of the impact that the school’s closure (in January of 2020) had on the then families and students of the school, we considered how this might work, to offer a route back into the school if the rise in fees was prohibitive. Ultimately, however, we could not justify charging different fees to returning or new families, given that the education offered would be the same, and our primary commitment is to fairness and transparency in the fee structure, including arrangements for bursaries and for learning support.

Will you be talking to the Department for Education about potentially seeking state funding for Waldorf Steiner education at Wynstones?

No. The academies project (excepting Steiner Academy Hereford) reached a pause in 2020, and it is not within our remit, gift or intention to revisit this question. Our focus is wholly on delivering an excellent Steiner Waldorf education at Wynstones, and nothing beyond, for the immediate future.

Is there a discount for children of staff?

A 20% discount will be applied to annual tuition fees for each child of a staff member attending the school.

How does the sibling discount work?

Siblings of the eldest enrolled child in the family will each benefit from a saving of 4%.

Do you accept Early Years funding?

Yes, Wynstones is able to accept Early Years Funding from the term following a child’s 3rd birthday until the term in which they turn five. Please contact the Finance Department for further information.

Other important questions

Why did the school close last year?

The school’s closure in January 2020 by the then Board of Trustees was as a result of a sequence of inadequate Ofsted inspections that are a matter of public record. A retrospective analysis of the school’s failure was neither in the gift nor remit of Paul Hougham as incoming Principal in March 2020, or the new Board of Trustees that took up office shortly thereafter. Over the course of the following Autumn the new Trustees developed a renewed mission statement for the school that was then shared and discussed in a series of community forums. That mission is now the basis for the school’s work:

A Wynstones education is centred on each child’s academic, social, moral and creative potential and growth. Wynstones values excellence and independent thinking, and seeks to shape rounded, free-thinking, open and resilient people who make a valuable contribution to their communities and the world.

The integrity, format and quality of Steiner Waldorf education in the UK is a matter of extensive discussion, and the sole work of the school’s team is to spearhead and deliver a high-quality Waldorf education that is progressive and professional, and centred on children’s needs.

How do you interpret Steiner’s teachings on race?

There are elements of Steiner’s writings and notes from his lectures on the subject of race that are harmful and indefensible. Various attempts to excuse or contextualise these elements and justify them within an alternative interpretation of what race means or the wider impact of Steiner’s philosophy are not warranted conclusions. Furthermore, they detract from the clarity needed in facing the Steiner Waldorf movement’s history, and potentially allow discriminatory practices and attitudes to persist and remain unchallenged.

We recognise that working to dismantle racism is an ongoing collective journey and one that is not achieved by statements of intent, but rather by living cultures, listening relationships and demonstrable actions. The school is committed to inclusion and diversity as founding principles of its renewal, and takes its inspiration from a range of movements and individuals, particularly the Othering and Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley. Our capacity to listen, within and beyond school, and participate in the ongoing development of a sustainable, just and inclusive society, is inevitably a shared journey rather than an immediate destination, and one that we choose to find at the heart of Waldorf education.

We celebrate and sustain the driving vision and body of Steiner’s work towards universal ethics, equality and awareness, but believe that a clear stand on the elements of his work which do not align with such a vision is both necessary in and of itself, as well as an essential part of our ongoing work as a school community.  We do not and will never support racism.