« View all news

Why now is the time for an alternative to mainstream education

More than ever, the well-being of school children in Scotland is paramount. The lockdown has brought months of anxiety, uncertainty, no structured learning and no face to face interaction with children outside the family home. At Edinburgh Steiner School, emphasis is placed on the well-being, learning and creative thinking of the child. It is a crucial time for parents and guardians to consider the benefits to an alternative to mainstream education.


Still the largest and fastest growing global educational movement, now in its centenary year, Steiner schools typically experience a high number of disaffected pupils needing a more integrated, holistic educational approach; one that recognises them as individuals with different thinking and learning styles. In a recent interview celebrating the School’s 81st year, former pupil and Scottish actor, Sam Heughan praised his time at Edinburgh Steiner School for the benefits of a trusting system that allows freedom and the exploration of individuality,  “I always just felt like it was going to be okay. The Steiner education gives you this understanding about the world; that you are not being channelled into one direction of education. Your life isn’t panned out.”


Another key area that is debated often in the welfare of children is the effect of transitioning between primary and secondary.  Last year an international study by Dundee University commissioned by the Scottish government provided “robust evidence” of a deterioration in educational performance when pupils start at secondary school. At ESS the transition is seamless.  Formal education begins at age 6 and it’s a fluid experience from Class 1 to Class 8.


Class 8 is considered a transitional year where pupils undertake a year-long independent project before entering Upper School in preparation for their exams. This solo work is balanced by a full length theatrical performance.  Pupils also have the same teacher from Class 1-8. Whilst specialist teachers deliver certain subjects, from the start of formal education in Class 1 until the end of Class 8, the Class Teacher has overall responsibility and care for the class, which is extremely rare in other schools.


In a rapidly changing world, this provides a haven for continuity and stability and allows the teacher to develop a thorough understanding of the needs of each child. It also means a close and supportive relationship is developed between the Class Teacher and the parents/guardians.


There is a growing need for creative solutions to meet an ever increasing array of social, political, economical and natural challenges; and yet fewer and fewer opportunities for young people to practice the necessary skillsets they will need. Steiner education aims to develop the thinking activity that has the capacity to find solutions rather than only knowing facts, so that pupils can begin to ask questions that have never been asked before and open new findings.


Nick Brett, Chair of Management, comments:

At Steiner’s, teachers teach to the whole child, addressing all the multiple intelligences, including emotional literacy and kinaesthetic learning, while bringing into balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

This develops analytical, logical and reasoning skills as education has always done, but also focuses on the development of imagination, creativity, memory, and flexible-thinking – skills highly prized in today’s society.

You cannot teach a future society providing whatever life throws at it, but you can educate it to recognise the need to collaborate with neighbours, to maintain resilience, to be philanthropic, to cultivate resources that become crucial elements of life, for instance right now during COVID. Resources are formed out of an ethos and concern for well-being and creative thinking.’