At Sheiling School, our priority is to provide a flexible and creative environment where children can find joy in learning whilst also finding security in clear structure and consistent expectations. The curriculum, founded on Rudolf Steiner’s principles of holistic education, gives equal attention to the physical, emotional, intellectual, cultural and spiritual needs of each pupil, and is designed to work in harmony with the different phases of the child’s development.
What is Holistic Education
The Sheiling School Curriculum can be termed ‘holistic’ in two respects:
- It understands and addresses the child in all aspects: cognitive, physical, emotional, developmental, and social. Whereas many educational approaches treat cognitive development almost in isolation (unrelated, for example, to the healthy mastery of movement and physical space, or the ability to form meaningful social bonds), the Sheiling School Curriculum recognises the influence of every aspect of human life on the child’s ability to learn.
- The Curriculum is structured in such a way as to present learning almost as an unfolding story; themes are developed from one class to the next, creating a sense of interconnectedness between subjects, skills and approaches that may otherwise seem unrelated. Our holistic approach brings all subjects back to lived experience, so that the ‘wholeness’ of that experience is strengthened in the process of learning.
Our model of Child Development
Pupils at Sheiling School are grouped in classes according to age rather than ability. This is because we do not prioritise cognitive ability over emotional or social development; rather, we recognise the ways in which thinking develops out of and in line with these aspects of human experience. We also believe that all children, irrespective of cognitive development, go through universal phases of development according to their age. All 7 year olds have certain qualities in common regardless of their verbal or cognitive abilities, and if you question whether all teenagers have something in common, try teaching Class 7!
With this in mind, the core subjects are taught in thematic blocks that address the child’s particular phase of maturational development. The emphasis on stories and myths in the younger years connects with the dreamy state of the life of thinking, just as studying subjects such as The Romans connects with a twelve-year-old’s emerging need for order, laws and practicality, just as the moral and ethical dilemmas explored in lessons such as Citizenship relates to the adolescent’s struggle with identity and viewpoint.
A 3D Curriculum
In terms of subject (or topic) based learning, the Sheiling School Curriculum is founded on the recommendations of Rudolf Steiner. The Steiner Waldorf Curriculum includes all areas and key skills of the National Curriculum, although sometimes delivered at different moments of the pupil’s school career in keeping with a child-development based approach.
However, our curriculum extends far beyond the classroom. Educational provision at Sheiling School is understood to include every aspect of the child’s personal development, and as such includes the following nine areas: Choices and Behaviour; Communication; Education and Learning; Feelings, Confidence and Self-esteem; Friends and Relationships; Living Skills; Physical Health and Self-care; Sensory Needs; Being Safe. Each pupils is assessed on a continuous basis in each of these areas, and progress charted in our bespoke Ariadne Assessment.
And because it takes such a panoramic view of education, we call it the Sheiling School 3D Curriculum.
How is Holistic Education differentiated for each child?
Crucial to our child-centred educational approach is the deepest understanding of the specific needs and learning styles of each pupil. Although all pupils access the same topics and skill sets, the ways in which they are enabled to do so varies enormously. It is just as effective (if not more so) to teach numeracy with hammer and nails, or spade and flower bulbs, as with pencil and paper. It depends on how the pupil learns best.
Based on the assessments of a number of professionals (including Teachers, Occupational Therapist, Speech and Language Therapist, Medical Consultant, and in some cases our Developmental Psychologist), we establish the most suitable approach for each pupil and ensure we are working at the right levels. The pupil’s individual goals are set out in an Individual Education Plan (IEP) which is regularly assessed and updated.
Support for Holistic Education at Sheiling School
Our education, care and therapy departments work together and meet regularly to ensure that pupils thrive and succeed. As well as the input from a range of Therapists and specialist Class Teachers, Sheiling School pupils also benefit from a high staff-to-pupil ratio and small class sizes. The overall structure of each day remains the same and each pupil receives their own visual timetable to provide them with added security. The class teacher and LSAs stay with each group for most lessons throughout the day, so that pupils can feel comfortable and confident when exploring new learning experiences.
Each pupil at Sheiling School has an individual programme carefully designed to meet his or her needs. This balanced, holistic programme includes independence and life skills, as well as communication and sensory aspects. A wide range of professionals review the individual programmes to evaluate all outcomes and their effectiveness.
At Sheiling School, we use total communication as part of our teaching methods. Total communication is a system using a variety of communication methods, including verbal communication, sign language and symbols. This enables staff and pupil to communicate effectively in ways which suit each young person’s individual needs.
Latest Ofsted report here