Great reasons to choose a progressive school for your child´s education 

Have you noticed that your child doesn´t enjoy school as much as you´d like? Do you  believe that children learn by doing? Have you seen that your child responds well to being  able to explore and discover things for themself? Are you wary of the hothouse environment  of many traditional schools, with exams, grades and homework at the top of the agenda? If any of this sounds familiar, you should probably be looking at progressive schools. 

Progressive education encourages children to be independent, curious, and to become  confident and enthusiastic learners. Many people think this a new approach, but the  progressive education movement actually dates back to the beginning of the 19th century  with the German educator, Frederick Fröbel. He believed that young children possess unique  capabilities and needs, and that adults should serve as the “gardeners” of children’s  potential. Fröbel asserted that young children could learn best in atmospheres that provided  a stimulating and prepared environment where they could explore and learn from their own  perspectives.  

Later philosophers and educators, such as Francis Parker and John Dewey, in late 19th  century America, were opposed to the rote learning that was favoured in most educational  institutions at the time. They believed that memorising facts with the goal of regurgitating  them was not learning. Instead, they favoured a child-centred approach to learning with an  emphasis on creativity and exploration. 

It´s interesting that so many schools still teach in such a traditional way; a method which was  already being questioned nearly 200 years ago. 

Putting the child at the centre of the learning process and encouraging them to think for  themselves is the main thrust of the progressive education movement. This helps them to  build self-confidence and fosters a love of learning. 

Progressive education focuses on experiential learning, allowing students to actively engage  in activities and hands-on projects, experiments, investigations and collaborations with other  students. The pedagogical movement also encourages cross-curricular learning, so what is  studied in one subject will then be applied to another.  

In the traditional classroom the focus is on teaching children facts, sometimes at the expense  of understanding what is being taught. Progressive education, on the other hand, teaches  children to approach subjects from different perspectives, which helps to deepen their  conceptual understanding of a topic and makes proper connections between different  subjects. Children learn skills such as teamwork, critical thinking, creativity, and the ability to  work independently. 

Progressive schools tend to have small class sizes where teachers are able to give children lots of one-to-one attention. At Dallington School in central London, for example, classes are  rarely bigger than 15. The school prides itself on its staff really understanding the children and  being able to maintain excellent communication between school and home. This deep  understanding of children and their individual needs enables teachers in progressive  education to nurture a child’s individual passions and to support their curiosity as they learn.  Children’s powers of reasoning are nurtured and much emphasis is placed on reflective and  critical thinking skills. The classroom is an environment where everyone is encouraged to listen  to others and respect them for their different points of view. 

A cross-curricular approach to learning means that the arts are not seen as an isolated  activity in a progressive education programme. At Dallington School the performing arts and 

visual arts are an integral part of all cross-curricular project work. Whatever their ability,  children here are encouraged to explore their creativity and are taught that it’s the journey,  not the end result that’s important. The arts are seen as a way for students to learn skills such  as the ability to work collaboratively or take constructive criticism. This approach to teaching  the arts not only allows children to develop their natural talent, but also helps them to  develop on a personal level, extending their appreciation of the world in which they live. 

Many independent schools place a huge emphasis on exams, testing and homework. At  Dallington School, on the other hand, a child´s progress is constantly monitored by teachers.  This formative approach to assessment is based on a real understanding of how the child has  progressed. It also informs the teachers of what the child´s next steps in learning are. This is a  much more personal approach and considers the ´whole child`, making it more purposeful  and meaningful. There is adapted teaching in the classroom so that all children can be  challenged. Home learning, as we call it, is limited to doing some research, reading, or  making something.  

Parents often question whether there is enough academic rigour in a progressive school to  enable their child to advance to a good secondary school. The answer is a resounding YES.  

At Dallington literacy and numeracy are given as much importance as in more traditional  schools, with the added advantage of their really understanding what and why they are  learning. 

A truly progressive education allows children to grow in confidence, learn to think for  themselves and develop all the skills they need not only to progress to their next school and  university, but which also prepare them for the world beyond. 

In the words of the Dallington Founder, Mogg Hercules, “The joy and reward of lifelong  learning takes time. That time is called childhood, spent with people who understand and  value it, in a stimulating environment that promotes it.”