We are both design professionals and involved in teaching at University level. We see first-hand the increasing levels of anxiety and mental-health issues experienced by students who have come through an education system set up to teach pupils to pass exams, and not to think for themselves. The concept of learning through trying, and doing; where failing is an important part of the process, and where having confidence in yourself is key, students are worryingly ill-prepared.
We were therefore really excited to find Dame Catherine’s, and signed our son up when he was 2. He joined nursery with Fay when he was 3 on a part-time basis as he was already established in another setting. He had become increasingly unhappy as the environment got noisier, bigger and more disciplined – with a strong reluctance to go in the morning, but we were unsure how he would settle in. We needn’t have worried. Fay is amazing with the children.
The small class setting is nurturing and familiar, and allows the children to develop as individuals – Fay would often respond to topics/activities that we had been doing at home and work on, and develop them at nursery. We went from two mornings a week to a full week within the first term as our son was enjoying his time there and wanted more.
He’s moved from there through class one (KS1) with Margaret and has now started class 2 (KS2) with Deb…and he’s continued to be a happy little boy.
When asked ‘is it school today?’, the answer ‘no’ is not met with delight, but with dismay. When it’s home time, we are often still standing outside in the garden at 5pm as he wants to stay and play with his friends. School is seen as a positive experience, not an anxious one.
The teachers follow, and deliver, the curriculum but have flexibility with the classroom to expand, develop and explore topics in greater detail. They can respond to the children’s interest and engagement and maximise the learning experience by looking at subjects across a range of activities.
No subject is withdrawn because time needs to be devoted to practising for SATs, but children are assessed and as parents we have a clear idea of how they are progressing against the learning outcomes…but without the pressure to ‘perform’.