Free Spirits Education

by Gemma Gammon in Salisbury, , United Kingdom

£1,070

raised so far

21

supporters

Create an alternative education centre for children aged 4-7, catering for all aspects of development through playful learning & exploration

by Gemma Gammon in Salisbury, , United Kingdom

We're still collecting donations

On the 29th December 2021 we'd raised £1,070 with 21 supporters in 56 days. But as every pound matters, we're continuing to collect donations from supporters.

New stretch target

Once the education centre is up and running, I would love to improve the facilities by adding in an extra bathroom, which would enable me to accept more children on roll. I would also like to install a kitchenette into the back room so that the children could take part in cooking activities, and enable me to provide hot food.


THE VISION

As the mother of a 3½ year old, I've been looking at schools. However, I've found nothing in my local area that feels like the right environment for the next stage in her education once she leaves her wonderful farm-based nursery. Like many parents, I favour the approach taken by Scandinavian schools and in Steiner Waldorf and Montessori schools whereby children continue to learn through play, rather than formal teaching methods, until age 6 or 7.

Children's bodies are made for moving and growing, not sitting and writing. Occupational therapists warn of excess chair-bound work, and of expecting young children to use a tripod pencil grip when they still have lax tendons and immature ossification of the bones in the hand, which aren't developed until around age 7, as seen in the x-rays below of children aged 4 and 7:

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Children usually start school skipping into Reception class, but are turned off education by the time they reach Year 3 (and often before). Children are inquisitive beings, yet our schooling system drains the joy out of them with relentless testing against arbitrary expected levels of achievement that make them feel like failures if they don't develop at the designated rate. Not to mention the declining mental health of schoolchildren, with youngsters being diagnosed with stress, depression and anxiety. And to what end? Our education system seems to be set up to satisfy the needs of the government, not the needs of our children. To me, this is not what education is about. I want better for my children, and I know I'm not alone. After a quick shout-out on a few Facebook groups, I had 40 messages within 24 hours from parents in the same boat as me.

After discovering that there is no suitable setting in the Salisbury area, and not wishing to home educate full time, I decided it's up to me to make the change. I am therefore setting up an educational establishment for children aged 4-7 that will:

- respect children as individuals 

- cater for all aspects of development: physical, mental, spiritual, intellectual, social and emotional 

- allow children to learn at their own pace through play and exploration in an aesthetically pleasing, ergonomic environment.

As such, Free Spirits seemed a fitting name for my alternative educational venture. I have registered my venture as Free Spirits Education C.I.C (Community Interest Company), company number 13700534.

ABOUT ME

I began my four year B. Ed. (Hons) QTS primary teaching degree 19 years ago and have worked in a variety of educational establishments ever since, as a state school primary school teacher, SEN resource base leader, 1:1 special needs HLTA and a private tutor. I am currently working towards a Diploma in Steiner Waldorf education in association with Ringwood Waldorf School (which, incidentally, has three kindergarten classes which are all currently full). I also have a 1-year Certificate of Higher Education in Business Management.

I am passionate about children having access to meaningful and enriching educational experiences in a stress-free environment, and wish to provide such an opportunity for young children in the Salisbury area based primarily on the Steiner Waldorf ethos, but also drawing inspiration from Montessori methods. I live rurally east of Salisbury with my husband and two young children.

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FUNDING 

I have found the perfect setting for my new education centre: a quaint wooden cabin with its own garden nestled in the grounds of Grade II listed manor house Norman Court in West Tytherley, between Salisbury and Romsey. As the manor house was previously used as a school, all the other facilities you would expect are in place: a swimming pool, tennis court, playing field, tarmac playground, adventure play equipment and extensive woodland, all available for use by our Free Spirits.

All this obviously comes at a price - the wooden cabin rental alone costs £650 per month, and in its current state, it needs a complete renovation. The Directors at Norman Court have kindly offered a reduced rent for the first two months while I get the cabin ready. The nine built-in bunk beds need to be dismantled and removed (and repurposed - I'm very keen on upcycling) and the cabin will then require refurbishing and stocking with beautiful natural resources to inspire children and ignite their imaginations, and provide opportunities for rest, learning and free play.

Once the cabin is ready to receive children, I will then have to await an Ofsted inspection, as by law I must be on both the Early Years and Compulsory Childcare registers, and follow the requirements of the EYFS. I welcome this, as it's all in place to keep children safe and in a suitable environment, although it does take yet more time and money.

I am keen to open my doors for business as soon as possible in order that I can offer my provision to the community, and begin earning fees to pay back any start-up debts and to cover the rent. Once I'm up and running and have further funds, my intention is to upgrade the bathroom facilities and install a kitchenette. I am so excited to be starting this venture, and having already run a successful tour of my site to interested parents, I know that families in my local community are waiting in anticipation too. It's a lot to take on alone and I welcome all the support I can get.

Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you feel inspired to support the centre and help provide a wonderful, child-centred environment for learning and play for our local young children.

Rewards

This project offered rewards

£20 or more

£20 Reward

Receive a guided tour of the centre, and see how your money is being used.

£50 or more

£50 Reward

One guaranteed place for a child of your choosing, with one session free, plus a guided tour.

£100 or more

£100 Reward

Your name or company's name on a small plaque on the back of a chair, plus a guided tour.

£250 or more

£250 Reward

A plaque bearing your name or your company's name on a large piece of furniture or outdoor play equipment, plus a guided tour.

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