Middle & Upper School
Middle School, Classes VII & VIII
Middle School comprises classes VII and VIII (mainstream schools’ years 8 and 9) and offers a transformational curriculum in support of the changes experienced in early adolescence, physically, mentally and emotionally. Whilst Class Teachers still lead the class, they take a progressively smaller proportion of the lessons and a range of subject teachers are introduced in order to bring the expertise required to explore ever broadening horizons.
Curriculum themes this year mirror the pupils’ outer exploration of the world and their inner journey. English lessons move to the descriptions of the inner feelings of wish, wonder and surprise; the children write business letters and compositions on many different subjects, and revise the grammatical forms of direct and indirect speech. They also study a work of fiction together. History explores the Middle Ages and the transition from feudalism to the Renaissance, and the Age of Discovery with the great voyages of the 15th to the 17th centuries. Astronomy and studies of the night sky link with the voyages of discovery, and geography continues this by moving to World Geography. This includes focusing on one continent and looking at the cultural, material and economic conditions of human societies. Graphs and algebra are introduced in maths whilst continuing to build on geometry. Science continues with mechanics and inorganic chemistry and combustion. Human biology features this year, with an emphasis on health and hygiene and an examination of our breathing, circulation and digestion. The Citizenship curriculum is framed around the theme of “Journeys” and explores the turning points in life as a context for some sex and relationships education, and the development of Human Rights and responsibilities. Music develops singing and instrumental skills in parts, exploring music from the Western Classical tradition as well as more specifically from Britain and Ireland. Other folk traditions such as Samba and Calypso provide a basis for understanding music of different cultures.
Our school follows the tradition within Steiner Waldorf education of offering a major drama production to children as they finish Class VIII. The Class VIII play is intended to function as a bridge towards a greater degree of autonomy and consciousness in Middle and Upper School. Crucially involving a higher level of professionalism, we often choose Shakespeare, possibly reflecting the dawning of new level of sophistication in the development of dramatic arts during the Renaissance, and placing that alongside a similar flourishing within early adolescence. In addition, Class VIII also sees the undertaking of a substantial project of their own choosing for presentation to staff, parents and other pupils at the end of the Spring term.
English lessons continue with sentence analysis, literature study, creative writing and narrative and descriptive prose. Maths is more complex arithmetic using roots and powers, compound interest and surface areas and volumes and the five basic Platonic solids are calculated and constructed, whilst algebra continues with the theory of equations, introducing more variables. Physics covers magnetism, electricity, and electromagnetism. Organic chemistry studies substances which build up the human body whilst biology examines proportion in the human body, the skeleton, muscles and the human eye and ear. Meteorology is introduced with an overview of global weather systems and the study of cloud formations, rain and wind. History lessons this year cover the major trends in the development of Western culture from the 17th Century to the present, examining in particular revolutionary periods, including the English Reformation and Civil War and the revolutions in America, France and Russia. Biographies of inventors, industrialists and social reformers are an on-going feature in these lessons. The Citizenship curriculum for Class VIII follows the theme of “Justice” which is explored in its restorative and retributive forms in class, and then applied through participation in the Citizenship Foundation’s Magistrates Court Mock Trial competition. In music, students use their vocal and instrumental skills to explore the roots of popular music in the Blues of African slave heritage, moving on through Jazz, protest songs and contemporary trends. At the same time, a deeper understanding of Western Classical tradition is encouraged by exploring concertos and symphonies of major composers.
Upper School, Classes IX and X
Upper School comprises classes IX and X (mainstream schools’ years 10 and 11) and sees a journey towards progressing from school onto new opportunities and horizons. The Upper School curriculum, both in its content and its presentation, seeks to support each rising 15 and 16 year old to discover the seeds of their own potential and to explore this in a holistic way, paying attention to the artistic and the scientific, the social and the individual, Each class is led by a Guardian teacher who holds the class for morning and afternoon registration and works alongside colleagues to take care of progress in the class’s learning as well as their pastoral needs.
“If we teach as I have described — we can do this if we have our heart in the lesson — if the lesson interests us ourselves, we are preparing the children eventually and in the right way to pass the usual college entrance examinations. And we teach the children many a thing which the ordinary schools do not give them, but which makes the children vigorous and alive and is of permanent value in their lives.” (Steiner, Practical Course for Teachers, IX)
The school undertakes an ongoing judgement as to how the qualifications offered in Class X can best meet the needs of graduating students and the integrity of the Steiner Waldorf curriculum. With the introduction of revised qualifications frameworks from 2016, the 2014/2015 Class IX cohort have begun a two year programme which will see them have the opportunity to take 8 GCSE equivalent subjects, according to both interest and ability. This programme reflects the aims and qualities at the heart of Steiner Waldorf education. It balances this with a profile of subjects that enables students to progress to a range of new opportunities, from the vocational to the academic. These subjects are organised according to the holistic journey of Steiner Waldorf pedagogy and the requirements of the English Baccalaureate. The school’s core subjects for which a GCSE qualification is integrated in Class X are English Literature, English Language, Maths, Spanish, Science and Citizenship. Students are then able to select two subjects from Art (GCSE), Performing Arts (Lvl2 BTech), Craft (V.Cert) and Additional Science (GCSE) which are grouped afresh each year on the timetable in a way that maximises choice for each group.
Whilst the full Citizenship Studies GCSE is not a usual choice as a core subject for smaller schools, it is a natural expression of the Steiner Waldorf curriculum’s pedagogy that helps prepare young people to become active citizens of our democracy, developing insight into their ‘life-stance’ as well as promoting personal and social development, self-confidence and responsibility.
In Maths they study Number Patterns including Permutations and Combinations, Conic Sections and Trigonometry. In Science the Main Lessons in Biology are human physiology and anatomy, and embryology. In chemistry, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry and the chemistry of the elements are explored. In physics, the main lessons in physics are transport, power and Newtonian mechanics. Other subjects main lesson blocks are History; the 20th century; Ancient civilisations; Art history: ancient art and Egypt to the Renaissance. In Geography it is Climatology and Meteorology and Geomorphology.
Each year several trips are undertaken, generally including a theatre / museum trip to London: a week-long work experience for Class IX at Embercombe centre promoting sustainable living, a Class X work experience placement with local and national companies, and travel abroad as a culmination of their time together at the school. The end of year festival is a celebration of the entire class and each student as they move on to new horizons and opportunities.