Frequently asked questions
If a child has the same teacher all the way through the Lower School, what happens in the unlikely case there is not a fit?
The Steiner Class Teacher takes on a class with the intention of carrying the class for 8 years. With this comes a commitment to foster good relationships with each child and family and to work for resolution should any problems arise. We regard this as a strength of the Class Teacher system – children are given the opportunity to find ways to work through differences of attitude or expectation in a safe and healthy way.
How do children from mainstream schools adapt to Waldorf education (and vice versa)?
Our experience is that children of all ages adapt very well moving either into or out of Waldorf education. We invariably receive very positive comments from schools, colleges and universities about our former students, who are regarded as socially competent and readily able to assimilate new information and structures.
Strong emphasis is placed on social skills and the fact that the curriculum is so well adapted to the child’s developmental stage means those entering the school from mainstream schools generally adapt healthily and quickly to their new environment.
Tell me about the Main Lesson.
Main Lesson is at the heart of the Waldorf curriculum. From age 7 to 18 all students will spend a substantial part of each morning exploring a Main Lesson topic for a period of 3-4 weeks. This topic will be brought alive through a variety of activities that engage the students and reinforce the information naturally but effectively. Songs and recitation, discussion and storytelling, writing and illustration, music and movement enable students to really immerse themselves in a subject. Each Main Lesson topic has been carefully devised to meet the needs of the child at their particular stage of development.
If the school does not test its students, how can parents know that the appropriate standards are being met?
We do not have a culture of continuous type testing in the classroom and children at Michael Hall do not take standardised tests. Such testing encourages children to value their achievements in terms of test results only. Our aim is for children to enjoy a genuine educational experience. We do assess children in basic numeracy and literacy through regular class screening as well as individual assessment. Assessments, from Class 4, use standardised tests that have nationally recognised criteria. As pupils move through the school their progress is monitored and reported to parents through individual meetings and in their child’s annual report.
The Class Teacher who stays with a class for 8 years builds a detailed picture of each child – their school and family life – and is ideally placed to assess how that child is progressing. Parents are also encouraged to speak directly with teachers if they have concerns about their child’s progress.
How much homework do students get?
Homework tasks usually begin in Class 3 (age 9). In Class 6 (age 12) students have up to half an hour’s homework per day and by Class 9 (age 15) this will go up to two hours. Projects are set from Class 4 (age 10).
My child loves sports. What sports does Michael Hall offer?
How we inhabit our body matters and we can express our talents better if we are focused and present. Carefully chosen activities in the movement curriculum can enhance these qualities.
Gym and games begin in Class 3 (age 9) through energetic, imaginative games and simple creative gymnastics. The games and gymnastics curriculum evolves and slowly focuses more specific, skill-based activities and from Classes 6 and 7 (age 12/13) a wide variety of more formal sports are taught. Sports include archery, athletics, badminton, basketball, cricket, cross-country running, gymnastics, hockey, orienteering, rugby, softball, tennis, ultimate, sailing and volleyball.
Competition is a useful educational tool when introduced at the correct age and in the appropriate manner. We do believe in competition and we compete at a high standard in our selected sports. We do not teach sport as an end in itself, but we educate through the medium of movement. Although the school produces some excellent athletes, this is not our primary aim. We have a new gym with extensive sporting and ancillary facilities, including a climbing wall. We also have tennis courts and grounds for team games such as softball. Basketball and volleyball are the main sports in which pupils compete with other schools.
Can you give me an example of age-appropriate learning?
Stories of the conquering Vikings meet the 9 and 10 year olds precisely at a time when they are experiencing a new sense of independence and exploration in their own lives.
At age 14/15 when students experience the world in extremes (love/hate, joy/despair, moral/immoral), they explore these emotions through English Literature studying Greek comedy and tragedy; in Modern History studying the polarities of fascism and the United Nations; and in art through black and white drawing. This supports Upper School students as they work to transform these emotional polarities into balanced, informed judgments.
My child is dyslexic. How will this be addressed at the school?
The School has a Learning Support department with specialist teachers who support those children with specific learning differences in class and through one-to-one lessons.