Philosophy & Education Approach

Frequently Asked Questions

A Sudbury School is a democratic school where students have complete responsibility for their own education. These schools are founded on the belief that human beings are naturally curious, therefore children needn’t be forced to learn. In a Sudbury School students and staff are equal citizens and are responsible for the running of the school community.
The first Sudbury School came about in 1968 in Massachusetts, when a group of parents and educators envisioned students having the freedom and responsibility they need to flourish and excel in life.
To fully understand what a Sudbury school is, you have to set aside all of your notions of what traditional schools look like.
There are no tests, exams, or homework and students are not required to follow any curriculum or time table, unless they choose to do so. Sudbury Schools cater for children between the ages of 5 years to 18 years and students are not separated by age or developmental level but mix freely with all age groups and learn from each other.

The primary administrative body of the school is the School Meeting, which takes place twice weekly and welcomes all students and staff.
As it is a democratic community, it operates on a one- person- one vote basis, regardless of the person’s age. Attending meetings is entirely up to the individual and is not mandatory (after they have attended for at least four meetings). The kind of items that would be discussed at these meetings are things such as: boundaries and agreement’s to make the school a safe place, school budgets and resources, and the overall running of the school.
Giving real responsibility to students allows them to gain experience at decision making and handling the consequences of their choices. They learn that their voice will be heard and that they have the power to affect change in their lives and in the lives of others.

Sudbury schools have some similarities to other approaches such as Montessori, Steiner (Waldorf), Reggio Emilia, Home-schooling & Unschooling, but also have important differences which distinguish it from them.
Montessori is a child- centred approach which affords children freedom to make decisions over what interests them and the pace they work at. Where it differs to Sudbury is that it has a curriculum of particular activities and the child progresses through these in a sequence. In Sudbury schools there are no predetermined sequences of learning and it is the right of the individual student to decide what and how they learn.
The Stiener (Waldorf) philosophy like the Sudbury values the development of the whole child. Their physical, emotional and mental well-being as well as their academic and technical skills. However, there is a curriculum and spiritual philosophy which student’s are expected to follow. Sudbury in contrast does not enforce a curriculum or any particular spiritual philosophy.
Reggio Emilia is an educational approach which supports children to express themselves through many different modes such as art, dance, drama, music and play. The philosophy believes that children have 100 languages, or ways to express themselves and learn. Where it differs from Sudbury schools, is while it offers students some freedom of choice, the teacher directs and plans the curriculum based on the student’s interests. In Sudbury schools the model trusts the student to create their own curriculum and the role of staff is to actively support them in that.
There are several similarities in the Unschooling method of home-schooling and the Sudbury approach. Both value self-directed learning without the use of coercion or extrinsic motivators and both trust that children will learn what they need to when they need it.