A sentimental education: inside the school that Tilda built

” … he worried that Drumduan’s radical ideals – no exams, no tests, no hierarchies, no sitting at desks whenever possible – would count against the school.”

the inspectors sat in the classes and watched the students. And if you watch the students at Drumduan, you soon notice they are confident, articulate, highly motivated and respectful. These are, in fact, the words used by the inspectors in their subsequent report. You might even believe the students at Drumduan wanted to be there. The inspectors clearly felt so, but it was when they had retired to an office to confer that Krzysztof, a master of the spontaneous gesture, delivered the coup de grace. He sang to them.

“There’s no grading, no testing at all,” Tilda had explained to me earlier. “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.”


It’s the kind of curiosity that, as a teacher, Krzysztof tends to reward, not punish.

Krzysztof’s aptitude for teaching was as much a surprise to him as to everyone else, given his poor track record as a schoolboy. In the 1980s, he found a job with the Youth Training Scheme and decided to stick with it. Today he lives in a static caravan in the woods.

Drumduan parents are obviously a highly self-selecting group. Sharon McAlister says she’s not worried by the absence of exams. Her youngest son, Angus, a sparky and genial 15-year-old (“You shouldn’t ask a boy his age,” he jests), spent seven years in the state system, where he was bullied and unhappy, before transferring to Drumduan in 2013. “It’s that wonderful thing of being able to celebrate a burgeoning individualism that you don’t get in a state school,” McAlister tells me. Tilda refers to this as “each chain on each moving bicycle” in contrast to the widespread practice of teaching children as if they’re all on the same bike. “I didn’t have a particularly toxic education, but my chain was not on my bicycle,” says Tilda. “I managed to coast down a few hills and got off and walked the rest of the way.”
Full article – The Guardian – Here