Britain’s most hipster school has opened where children have no rules, exams or uniform, climb trees barefoot and learn just three days a week – in a YURT.
Pupils at The Green House Education Project spend their time playing outside and wearing what they like.
They don’t have desks but instead sit on blankets and huddle round wood burning stoves.
The kids are not tutored in traditional subjects but instead are taught ‘how to resolve problems’, ‘find their real passion in life’ and how to play freely without supervision.
Its 23 pupils, aged 5-14, go to classes either outdoors if the weather is good, or in a yurt with a wood-burning stove.
They sit in circles and often give a presentation about their chosen passion – result examples include ”ballet, Hebrew traditions to snow leopards”.
There are no rules, no exams and no uniform, and the school encourages children to understand safety by taking risks – including climbing trees with whittling knives.
And despite the school only running three days a week (Monday to Wednesday), and the majority of the day being made up of outdoor play, termly fees are £1,250.
The Green House Project, located near Southstoke in Bath, Somerset is the brainchild of Bath mums and qualified teachers Anna Robinson and Cindy Adams.
The mums describe their project as a “learning community”, with a focus on developing social skills through “collaborative learning”.
Cindy said: “There is a saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ and that is what we are trying to encourage.
“We are a real community, the children, parents and mentors, we are all one big family.
“Children learn so much through play and interaction with each other, we want them to discover the best of themselves.”
She added that she and Anna had the idea after both agreeing they were “very disillusioned” with the schooling system.
“I think there is too much pressure on children in mainstream schools,” said Cindy.
“There is something wrong when research shows young children are suffering high levels of anxiety.
“In our schools, we do yoga, meditation and mindfulness and we encourage free play. We want our children to be happy – you can’t learn if you are anxious.”
Anna and Cindy’s children attend the school, and the mums say they are very happy there.
They say that the children learn all the things they need to but much else besides – including how to resolve problems, how to find their real passion in life and how to play freely without supervision.
Cindy said: “”We start each day with circle time, a Native American tradition.
“Then each child will give a presentation about their chosen passion, it can be anything from ballet, Hebrew traditions to snow leopards.
“We use technology and they have their power points, but we like to work as a community and spend lots of time outdoors.”
Anna said: “While safety is at the core of what we do, we also like our children to explore, not to be afraid to do things.
“We let them climb trees with their whittling knives – we believe they learn safety by understanding the risks and being allowed to do things without always being supervised.”
The pupils are divided into two age groups – the Wolf Cubs, aged 5-7, and the Wolf Pack, aged 7-14.
The school says the children do not climb trees while carrying whittling knives.
They are allowed to climb trees and they are allowed to carry whittling knives – but not at the same time.
Cindy said whittling knives are only used in special ‘whittling circles’, which are supervised by an adult.
Qualified primary school teacher and life coach Cindy Adams said the Green House Education Project falls under the ‘Education Otherwise’ category.
That is the same category that home-schooling falls under.
She said: “Because we only operate for a certain number of hours a week, all those who come to us are people who have elected to home educate.
“This also means that we have chosen not to be governed by Ofsted – because of the restrictions they place on methods of education.”
Anna Robinson, qualified secondary school geography teacher, added: “We see ourselves as a hybrid between mainstream education and home education.”
Anna added it isn’t required to adhere to the national curriculum but they still have ‘learning modules’ that are directed by the children.
She said: “We allow the children to choose a subject that they’re most passionate about – it can be anything from Einstein to ballet.
“They will then work at home with their parents towards creating a presentation on that subject to present to the rest of the group – and they will receive feedback from us, their mentors.
“We want the children to feel intrinsically motivated, so we allow them to co-create the curriculum with the mentors – we don’t call ourselves teachers – based on what they are passionate about.”
Cindy also said that, because the Project has chosen not to be governed by Ofsted, they do not have access to Government funding.
Therefore the Project’s £1,250 termly fees go towards the basic running costs of the Project.
“We’re looking to make this project much more widespread and accessible to all – but we are still very new, and we have no access to Government funding,” she said.
“We have five mentors currently, and we need more, but at the moment we can only afford to pay our staff a very basic salary.
“We are hoping to introduce a new peer-funding system, whereby parents pay either more or less, depending on what each can afford.”
Cindy added: “‘Education otherwise’ is on the increase in this country and we hope to be able to make it even more accessible.”