The learning atmosphere
At Wicklow Sudbury School students decide on and evaluate their own path of learning and define their own goals.
The school is a place for self-initiated and self-directed learning at all age levels, and children of all ages mix, learn and play together.
Staff will create a safe and enjoyable environment where learning can happen in an inspiring surrounding which fosters the children’s natural curiosity. In order for the students to be able to be totally responsible for their education, they must have, or at least share, the responsibility for creating their learning environment. Students at our school are free to determine how they spend their time each day, they are not limited to a classroom where an adult tells them what they have to learn. They might work on an art project, play sports, cook, dance, read, talk to other students or staff, build a fort, go to the local library, watch birds, do a science experiment, climb a tree, write a story, visit a museum, play a computer game, or work with a facilitator. When students decide they want to learn something new, whether it is an academic subject or not, they may ask a staff member for help, ask another student, or simply learn it on their own with the help of books, material and online resources.
School Council Meeting and democratic structure
This is the heart of the school. We have chosen to use the Sudbury School model as the starting point for the schools democratic structure. To this we have added that a two thirds majority is required to create or amend rules.
- the school council decides on all matters concerning the school and meets weekly
- at each meeting the council decides on someone to keep records
- anyone can add a topic for discussion to the agenda which will be posted on the notice board
- the meeting is chaired by a student who keeps the chair for a defined number of weeks
- the council consists of students and staff and each person has an equal vote
- a two thirds majority is required to set up a new rule or to amend a rule
- a law book contains the schools rules
Committees and clerks
Committees and departments are to be set up off the main school council to address specific issues and put into action certain plans and reach desired goals. They are answerable to the school council but work independently.
- a judicial committee will be set up to look at infringements to the rules. The JC will investigate complaints, hold hearings, listen to all sides involved and gather evidence. It will come to conclusions and decide on penalties when rules are broken. It is made up of students and staff which change frequently. This enables every member of the school community to gain experience in that role.
- committees can be set up by the school council to look after specific long-term issues e.g. premises and building committee could look after maintenance and furnishings.
- departments can be set up and disbanded around the interests of students. A department may be set up if students are interested in a topic to study and the school council can divert funding to a department to spend on facilities, equipment, teachers etc.
- clerks can be appointed to look after specific tasks such as keeping attendance records, after-hours school use, looking after the office etc.
Sudbury Valley: How the Judicial Committee works
Age of students
Our long term vision is to accommodate students of all ages.
Mixed-age learning is something that came naturally to our ancestors but must be rediscovered in modern education. Communication, play and sharing experiences in an age-mixed setting is an essential part of the culture at our school. There are consistent social and intellectual benefits for the community if students can learn from interacting with others who are older and younger than themselves.
The school staff are there to look after the physical environment, take care of administration and support the learning of the children. depending on the wishes and needs of the students and the knowledge and skills in the staff we may look for helpers from various fields to come in and share their skills and knowledge.
We may bring in skilled people, with or without educational background, to run classes, workshops and seminars if so requested by the children. When asked, staff members will help children in their explorations in a non-judgemental, supportive capacity. They bring to the community their experiences, wisdom and commitment to the school’s ethos and students.
All staff and facilitators will be Garda vetted, well-informed about, and comply with the schools ethos. Staff will participate in the decision making processes of the school along with the children.
For the children to explore self-directed development it is important that parents trust in their children’s ability to follow their natural urge to figure out, explore and create.
Communication and co-operation between school and parents is important. At least twice a year, parents, students and teachers meet to discuss and review the process. On request, a meeting can be held at any time during the year.