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.