When Tilda Swinton found herself increasingly fed up with the state school system she decided to do something about it. Instead of transitioning her twins from the state system to yet another outdated and ineffective environment, she instead created a school that would live up to her high standards of what education should be.
Mother to 17-year-old twins Honor and Xavier, Swinton co-founded the school in the Scottish Highlands two years ago with Ian Sutherland McCook. Employing Head Teacher Krzysztof Zajaczkowski, the team sought to re-imagine the Steiner school education model and create their own framework to best fill the void in the upper school arena.
In the Drumduan Upper School, there are no exams, no tests, no competition between the students – ever. Desks are avoided whenever possible, and class sessions range from boat building to honey harvesting.
“There’s no grading, no testing at all,” Tilda explained to The Guardian. “My children are now 17, and they will go through this school without any tests at any time, so it’s incredibly art-based, practical learning. For example, they learn their science by building a Canadian canoe, or making a knife, or caramelising onions. And they’re all happy 17-year-olds. I can’t believe it – happy and inspired.”
Happy students? Kids who enjoy school and look forward to going everyday? These are not the regular accounts of schooling life. However, Swinton and Zajaczkowski are seeking to change this.
Zajaczkowski’s methods include multidisciplinary teaching without limitations, for example when building a boat – it’s not just craft time; “You’ve got mathematics, geometry, physics of buoyancy, the chemistry of epoxy resins, the art and aesthetic of colour and shape, the process of collaboration and the physical, outdoor experience of it all.”
According to Drumduan’s website, pupils learn academic subjects such as maths, English, physics, chemistry and geography but lessons are balanced with craft-based subjects and outdoor activities.
Is this something that you would be interested in for your children?