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Canterbury parents and teachers to open new school for six-month trial

By Marijke Hall

The Canterbury New School is due to open next month for a six-month trial in the former Steiner School building in Chartham, with plans to then move to a site in Faussett Hill, Lower Hardres.

Beth Cuenco, one of the parents involved, says the project is a result of the closure of the Steiner, which shuts this month after 40 years due to money troubles, but insists it will be a brand new school.

The Steiner School Garlinge Green, Chartham Picture Gary Browne

The Steiner School Garlinge Green, Chartham Picture: Gary Browne

She said: “We really wanted that inspired education to continue so we got together to set this up, but it is a new initiative.

“Increasingly there seems to be a demand for an alternative to the mainstream education system, which is one that many parents feel places too strong a focus on passing exams over nurturing curiosity and a love of learning that lasts for life.

“We’ve been working together to create a school that will balance a rigorous academic education with a curriculum that is built on a foundation of creativity.”

Mrs Cuenco says the school, which will cost parents about £8,000 a year, will open next month on five mornings a week with a small intake of just 15 children aged six to nine, but the intention is for the number to rise to 10 to 15 per class.

There will also be an independently run nursery, which will start with 10 youngsters in January. Mrs Cuenco says eventually the school will cater for children aged from three to 18.

“We want the school to grow with the children,” she said. “We’ve had amazing support from local councillors and the community and we’ve had inquiries from people all over Kent interested in what we’re doing.”

Mrs Cuenco says a site has been found – opposite the Granville pub – which is now a workshop space and farm buildings but, subject to planning permission, could be converted into a school by September.

She said: “The site is only seven minutes by bus from central Canterbury and will offer children the opportunity to be surrounded by fields and to enjoy the benefits of an education that embraces outdoor learning.”

Amelia Coward, another parent involved, says it is an opportunity to explore what education needs to look like.

She said: “To work together, to pool our contacts, resources and skills, to create something new for our children and to involve them in the process of building their school is daunting but also tremendously exciting.”

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