ANNAN - The Froebel School: Letting children be themselves

CREATING a lifelong love of learning is central to everything they do at Annan School.

Recognising each child as an individual and letting them develop at their own pace is at the heart of this independent primary school.

Children climb trees, play with mud and water and revel in the wonders of nature as they learn through hands on experiences.  Taking risks, both physically and emotionally, in a safe environment encourages them to be confident and brave.

Children are self motivated and want to do well for themselves, not for reward.

A Froebelian ethos is fundamental to everything at Annan – children learn by doing what Friedrich Froebel called “self activity” and through worthwhile educational experiences. They need to explore and discover for themselves in order to understand and deepen their learning.

So by using a child’s own innate curiosity, Annan School makes them question why things happen and try and find answers for themselves.

Nestled amongst trees in a beautiful rural location between Lewes and Uckfield , the school is a family business owned and run by principals Mark and Debby Hunter.

Housed in a series of purpose built cabins, each classroom is a calm, natural space designed to make children feel relaxed. Outside there are climbing frames, swings, a stream, wildlife areas, an orchard and central playground with pagoda for school gatherings.

Welly boots and waterproofs are a must as pupils make the most of the great outdoors with Forest School all year round, whatever the weather.

Every class spends half a day a week amongst the beautiful woods and trees that surround Annan School. This not only gives them the opportunity to learn about nature and develop new skills but also helps them be a bit braver so they are prepared to take more risks in their wider learning. Forest School also uses nature to foster the spiritual development of the children, something Froebel believed passionately in.

“We want them to leave here full of self confidence, knowing who they are, ready for a challenge and prepared to take risks. Above all we help them develop a deep love of learning.” Debby Hunter

Froebel’s ‘gifts and occupations’ feature strongly in Early Years. The ‘gifts’ are wooden building blocks and ‘occupations’ include clay, paper cutting and folding, sewing and constructing – all the things children love to play with and learn from.

Children do gardening and learn the food chain through practical means – picking an apple, pressing it for juice, making crumble.

Relationships between pupils and staff is a key feature at Annan. Based on mutual respect it is designed to be very positive, nurturing and safe to build up trust. There are high expectations about how pupils and staff talk to each other, with respectful behaviour at the core.

At Annan children are listened to and contribute to the shaping of the curriculum, making them feel empowered about their education. Building self esteem to give them confidence is crucial.

Teaching is exciting and inspiring with lots of enrichment activities to bring learning to life. Learning is meaningful and pupils understand there is a purpose to what they are doing.

Using a holistic, connected approach, teaching has four key stages – Inspire, Discover, Create, Communicate.

During the Inspire stage pupils have memorable first hand experiences so they can investigate, research and make observations on the topic. Discover lets them use the questions they have about the topic to find out more and develop their ideas and interests. Create challenges them to use what they have learned to create something like a film, story, artwork or play. The final stage, Communicate, sees the children sharing what they created – they become the experts, the informers, the performers.

“Pupils are using knowledge for a purpose,” explained Debby Hunter. “They know that what they eventually produce will always be shared with others so they take a pride in their work which is always of a high quality.”

Annan School has about 70 pupils taught in small classes of about 16, with a very high staff ratio.

A large percentage of children learn an instrument – guitar, cello and piano – with concerts throughout the year for the children to take part in.

Debby Hunter explained: “We want them to leave here full of self confidence, knowing who they are, ready for a challenge and prepared to take risks. Above all we help them develop a deep love of learning.”

Annan School is inspiring, a place that lets children be children and enjoy their precious early years. As Froebel said: “To climb a new tree is .. to discover a new world” – something Annan lets children do every day.

Note from the Head

Thank you for considering Annan as a school for your child.

When I trained as a teacher, the approach that we use at Annan was common-place in most primary schools in the UK.  A Froebelian approach where the learning is child-centred, holistic and topic based. Where children are inspired to make their own discoveries and take risks in their learning. Sadly with the drive for education to be ‘measured’ and schools and children judged on what can be tested, much of what is really important about a child’s education has been lost. It is not easy to measure a child’s confidence and self-esteem or a teacher’s inspiration that may spark a life-long interest, or a child’s thirst for knowledge.

We believe that through the Froebelian approach, where primary aged children are encouraged to learn by doing, to really want to find out the answers to their questions and are provided with a stimulating and broad curriculum, children flourish academically. Each child strives to meet their own potential knowing that their achievements are the results of their own efforts supported and encouraged by the teacher’s belief in each and every child’s abilities.

Debby and I are proud to have founded a school that continues this Froebelian approach to learning. Although a small school it has gained an international reputation in a relatively short space of time and is part of a resurgence in thinking and training that acknowledges that there is another way.

Children love their time at Annan, achieve their true potential and also get the academic results that go hand in hand with the approach. Children from Annan go on to the next stage in their educational journey, knowing who they are, what they can achieve and with a love of learning. Children have gained scholarships into other independent schools or moved to local secondary schools confident in the knowledge that they will achieve their goals.

I hope you discover more from the information here, but better still come and see for yourself.

Mark Hunter
Joint principal and founder of Annan School


"Annan offers a perfect balance between academic learning and creative self-expression. The woodland setting is quite magical and our children absolutely love it."
Kevin and Annabel Jones – Parents

"We chose Annan for our daughter six years ago because there is no other school which could nurture her unique learning style. The school's ethos which puts the child at the centre of everything has been fulfilled and she has truly benefitted from the expertise and commitment of the staff. Our child is happy and relishes the practical, outdoor nature of the Froebelian education."
Lisa Farley - Parent

"I think that you have created something very special which I have no doubt will have a lasting positive impact on the children who are lucky enough to attend."
Sarah – University Researcher

School details

Address: Annan Farm, Lewes Road, Easons Green, Uckfield, TN22 5RE
Phone: 01825 841410
Head: Mark and Debby Hunter
Founded: 2001
Pupils: 69, boys 31, girls 38
Ages: Rising 3 to 11
Prospectus: N/A
Additional information:

School visits on Wednesday mornings by appointment. Other times by arrangement.