What is a democratic school?

The School of Empowering Education is a democratic school in that every member of the school community (students and staff) have a vote in the running of the school.

As with other Sudbury/democratic schools we follow the philosophy of self-directed learning, freedom and responsibility.

Our core intention at the School of Empowering Education is that we create communities where every individual knows they are enough. 

What is ‘self-directed learning’?

There are no fixed curricula, homework, teachers, or schedules to follow. Students are trusted to choose how to spend their days. Staff are facilitators, rather than teachers, with their role being to help expose students to new ideas, to help students recognise their genuine passions and how they best learn and to co-create the school community based on our key values of respect, equality, inclusivity, and care of the Earth. 

What do we mean by ‘freedom’?

Freedom is a key element of this educational model. Freedom refers to the choice students have over when and how they spend their time as well as with whom. Our school is open to students between the ages of 5-18 years; there is no separation of age groups. The freedom for different age groups to mix is seen as important to the learning and growing of all by providing opportunities to be both teacher and learner and by offering exposure to a broader range of ideas and experiences. Freedom is also key to finding and following passions and utilising learning styles that work for each individual. This freedom is based on respect for each student and trust that they will engage in the activities that are best for them.  

What do we mean by ‘responsibility’?

In a democratic school students carry the responsibility for their own learning plus the responsibility of helping to ensure the school community is positive for all of its members. 

To help ensure the school community is a success there will be a number of clear rules, devised and agreed by all members. To start with, each year the school will open with a small set of core rules that the staff feel are necessary to ensure the safety of all our members. These rules will then be reviewed/added to/amended by the school community and adopted as our official school rules. These rules can be reviewed and amended throughout the school year and at the request of any member of the school community. Any conflict in relation to the rules of the school or between members of the community will be dealt with through clear processes involving procedures known throughout the Self-Directed community as Restorative Practices and Non-Violent Communication.

What do we mean by ‘enough’?

We believe the symptoms of feelings of inadequacy are endemic in our current society. In contrast to other educational systems, in the School of Empowering Education (and other democratic schools) there is no expectation to achieve any learning milestone by any given age or school year.We do not assess students. No comparisons are made.There is no place in our school for feeling ‘not as good’ or even ‘better’ than others.We do not feel such assessments or comparisons are useful tools in learning or in life in general.What we strive for is that every student knows how to learn what they want to learn, finds things that excites them and ultimately knows they are enough. 

Lots more questions?