Welcome to Bristol Steiner School
The Rowan Tree Kindergarten
Steiner Kindergartens share the same approach to early years education with most European countries, where children do not begin formal learning until their 7th year. The emphasis is on the cultivation of good habits, experiential learning and a natural acquisition of pre-academic skills. We nurture the child’s imagination through the use of natural materials, soft colours, storytelling, puppetry, singing and “ring-times”. We believe that play is the serious work of childhood. Through play activity, the child is enabled to develop the skills and confidence necessary for successful lifelong learning. We recognise that children learn most successfully through imitation and activity, and so provide them with lots of opportunities to develop their intrinsic skills, capabilities and self-confidence.
In the Kindergarten, children make real things from real materials that have a useful application in the world they know. In this way the children acquire the basis for social and academic skills at their own pace. Education at this stage is about instilling in children a genuine feeling of worth and a belief that they can succeed. Steiner Education addresses the whole child, head, heart and hands, and provides the best possible beginning for your child to grow to their full potential, in a way that protects the wonder and delight of early childhood.
During each stage of Steiner education the framework of the curriculum allows each child to develop at his or her own pace. It is recognised that for each age the child has different emotional and intellectual needs and the Steiner Curriculum endeavours to meet, support and encourage these needs as they unfold. We believe that early learning should be self motivated, allowing the child to come to know the world in the most appropriate way for his or her age, through feeling, touching, exploring and imitating, in other words through doing. We believe that when new capabilities appear, around the seventh year, the child is now physically, emotionally and intellectually ready for formal instruction. Our children are encouraged to master physical skills before abstract intellectual ideas/concepts are introduced.
The Kindergarten curriculum is a balance between the artistic and the domestic. Each Kindergarten “day” has its own activity such as baking or painting but the
structure of each is the same. Each activity belongs to a different day. The strong rhythm of the days and the repetition that each week brings carries with it an in-built discipline and this creates a safe and secure environment for the children, which enables more effective learning. Our aim is to build a bridge between home and school by creating a safe, warm, loving environment. We use natural play materials, high quality pigment paints and crayons and we bake with organic whole food ingredients.
Schools and early years’ providers have to follow a structure of learning, development and care for children from birth to five years old. This is called the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and it enables all children to learn through a range of activities. Steiner Kindergartens also adheres to the EYFS which:
“Aims at laying a secure foundation for future learning through learning and development that is planned around the individual needs and interests of the child. The EYFS also aims at improving quality and consistency in the early years sector through a universal set of standards”.
Ultimately the Waldorf curriculum informs our practice and although there are great similarities between the EYFS and the Steiner curriculum, there are some areas of the EYFS that are not compatible with our ethos, such as the use of computers and formal literacy and numeracy instruction. We therefore apply to be exempt from these areas of the EYFS requirements.
Each Kindergarten class (not Playgroup) has mixed ages, 3-4yrs, 4-5yrs and 5-6yrs. Most children will enter Kindergarten when they are 3 and a half and then spend three years with us before moving into Class 1 when they are rising 7. However, depending on when their birthday falls they may join us at 4yrs and they may also celebrate their 7th birthday in Kindergarten.
All the ages in the class play and work together within their ability according to their age. As in a family the older and more able children will take on extra tasks and often help the younger children with jobs such as getting waterproofs and wellies on, holding their hands during a walk and by setting a good example for them to imitate.
During the children’s last year in Kindergarten they take on more responsibilities, work on different craft activities and may also have the opportunity to come together as a group during the summer term (see also ‘Pre-Class One’)
In the Steiner Waldorf Kindergarten, the overall Key Person role is held by the kindergarten teacher, who has the overview of all the children in their group. It is the kindergarten teacher who will write up the assessments, reports and feed back to parents.
We are aware that in order to properly meet the individual needs of each child, and to properly observe and assess their learning and development, each key person should be attentive to around 8-10 children in the group. Therefore the kindergarten assistant or other adult may be given a key person role in respect of certain children in the group, and they will share information with the kindergarten teacher on a regular basis.
We will endeavour to share with parents should a specific person other than the kindergarten teacher take on that role.
Parent and Child Groups 0 – 3 years (approx)
Playgroup 3 – 4 years (approx)
Kindergarten 3½ – 6+ years (approx)
Parent and Child Groups One group each morning 9.30am –12.00pm
Playgroup Monday – Friday mornings 9.00am – 12.40pm
Lunch, 12.45pm – 1.45pm
(children may be picked up at this 1.45pm only during settling in period agreed with teacher)
Afternoon Care is available until 3.15pm.
Pick-up times: 12.45pm or 3.15pm
Although informal, these sessions have a strong rhythm and structure, and are designed for parents/carers with children aged from 0 – 3 years. They are held downstairs, in a room near the garden. Each session begins with playtime and includes artistic activities.
There is a shared snack about 10.45am. We like this to be a special time for the children. They sit round the table together and a candle is lit to create a calm and peaceful atmosphere. Please treasure this moment.
The morning finishes with nursery rhymes, seasonal songs and games suitable for the very young child.
We provide food for snack time and there are plenty of natural playthings, so it is helpful if toys and food are not brought from home, with the exception, of course, of feeding bottles and security items like blankets or cuddlies.
Please feel free to play outside or inside during the first part of the morning. We would suggest that if you wish to play outside during wet weather, you come prepared with waterproofs and wellington boots for your child. Please be aware of the playground rules which are up on the back of the door – and stay close to your child at all times.
For further information please contact the office and request an application form. After an initial visit, there is an annual charge for the 36 sessions paid either monthly, half termly, termly or annually. If a family leaves or joins part way through the year this charge will be prorated accordingly.
Entrance to the Parents & Child room is through the gate at the end of the alleyway off Oxford Street, as shown on the map. Please ensure the gate is closed behind you, using the outside bolt. If you have a double buggy, ask the group leader, as it may be more convenient to use the Front door in Cotham Road.
Our Playgroup is open five mornings a week with 10 children attending each morning. We recommend that children come three mornings a week, although more sessions may be available if necessary, after consultation with the Playgroup teacher.
The group is led by a qualified Kindergarten Teacher supported by an assistant.
The aim of the group is to provide a transition from Parent and Child to the larger, more independent life of the Kindergarten.
Settling in Policy
- One parent may stay with the child in the classroom for up to a maximum of one week.
- After this period of time, the parent may stay for up to half an hour in the classroom and then may remain, if necessary, in the building, but not in the classroom, for up to a maximum of one week. This will enable the child to become used to the rhythm and routine of the morning and week, which will help the child to settle more easily. The child will then also be able to begin to interact socially with the other children.
- By the third week, we expect the parent to be able to leave the child in the teacher’s care. If this has not been possible, we will arrange a meeting to discuss whether the child is actually ready for playgroup. If it is felt that the child is not developmentally ready, then the parents will need to reapply at a later date.
The morning begins at 9.15am and finishes at 12.30pm.
The daily structure is similar to Kindergarten and we celebrate the same Festivals in a way suitable for this younger age.
Please read the remainder of this handbook for information about the structure of the day, clothing requirements, absences, communication etc.
About the Kindergarten “Day”
Structure of the Morning – (on walk days or outdoor days this is slightly different)
Creative Play (includes food preparation)
Story and Goodbye
Playgroup follows the same structure, but the activity, ring time and story are shorter and simpler versions of Kindergarten.
The Rowan Tree policy suggests that children start with 4 mornings attendance in Kindergarten and our advice is to increase to 5 mornings and 1 afternoon by the spring term preceding entry to class one. We respect parents may require 5 mornings and some afternoons to fit in with work commitments. All our mornings are rich and busy and the children need plenty of stamina. Children under 6 years may require a quiet morning at home or less stimulation in the afternoons.
One day a week in the 2nd and/or 3rd term, the older children gather together for an activity. This gives them an opportunity to work together as a group, to get to know each other and do an activity that is aimed specifically at their age group. They also start to come together for some activities and trips.This helps them to begin to get to know each other as a class group. All the big children are expected stay for at least 5 mornings and one afternoon by the spring term of their last year in kindergarten. This helps them to prepare for the longer hours when they move up to Class 1 as well as experiencing fully the rhythm of the whole Kindergarten week.
The front door opens at 8.30am and school begins at 9am. The door code keypad is switched on at 8.30am.
It is important to start the day on time with everyone present, as we begin with an artistic activity.
The morning finishes at 12.45pm.
Afternoon Care (not for Playgroup)
The Kindergarten “Day” is contained within the morning between 9am and 12.45pm, and there is no educational reason for children to remain at school in the afternoon.
However, you may need your child to stay for lunch and/or the afternoons on a regular basis. If you want your child to stay on regularly we do need notification to ensure our afternoon staffing levels are sufficient. Please approach your teacher before the beginning of each term if you need regular afternoon care.
The kindergarten administrator must be informed (between 8:30-13:00) of any changes to regular hours giving 24 hours notice (or Friday morning for Monday morning).
The afternoon begins with a packed lunch (from home, see policy below). Please collect children staying for lunch only at 1.45pm. This pick up time is only available for the youngest children in kindergarten in their first year, and older children, new to the school, during their settling in time.
For those who are staying longer there is a short rest followed by play (usually outside). Sleeping mats are provided for rest, children may bring their own blanket and cuddly if they wish. Children should be collected at/by 3.15pm.
We encourage healthy eating and as a school, we like to keep packaging to a minimum for ecological reasons. Please do not give your child the following to bring to school:
- Bars, cakes or biscuits that contain chocolate.
- Crisps or similar packets of savoury or sweet snacks.
- Fizzy drinks – water is available.
- Novelty foods, eg. Cheese strings, frubes and snack-packs
Unfortunately, we are unable to offer the garden as a family picnic area.
Registration is a legal requirement, so if your child is going to be late or absent from school, please ring before 9.30am.
In Kindergarten there are various reasons why children may need a day at home. These might include illness, an exciting or difficult weekend or over tiredness.
Children who have been sick or feverish in the night, have diarrhoea or develop spots overnight should stay at home. We reserve the right to ask you to take your child home if we deem them to be unwell.
At a young age, it is still possible for families to take holidays during term time. However, once they reach 5 years of age, we must comply with government policy on attendance. Authorisation must be requested in writing well in advance. It should be noted that the school has longer holidays than state schools and so permission for holidays during term time will only be granted in exceptional circumstances, and taking into account the needs of the child and their previous attendance record. These requests should be made in writing to the kindergarten teacher for under 5’s and to the College of Teachers for 5 and above. All absences from Kindergarten must be explained on a signed absence slip.
- Walking, not running throughout the building
- No playing on the stairs
- Children to hold the handrail when going up or down the stairs
- Children to walk in single file on the stairs
- Children should not jump on the stairs
- Children should not slide down the banisters
- Feet should be wiped on the mat when coming in
- No wellies to come past the boot room
- Indoor shoes to be worn inside the building
- Coats and waterproofs should be hung up
- Do not play with things hanging on other children’s pegs
- Only staff may open the front door
- No buggies to be brought through the front door
- Buggies, bicycles and scooters are to be left downstairs in the buggy room
- Parents must be ready to collect by 12.45 or 3.15
- Parents should please wait quietly as the children are listening to the story
- Children must be with an adult at all times
- Children must be handed over to the teacher in the morning
- No-one should enter the building if the fire bell is ringing
We would appreciate parents helping all children in their care in keeping these rules, even if they are not yet part of Kindergarten
Weather can change quickly and, even on the hottest days, children should come with a cardigan or jumper together with their sunhat. We spend time outside every day so, during the winter, coats with hoods and hats are a must, together with waterproof over-clothing.
Children should keep at Kindergarten
- A long-sleeved top
- A pair of indoor shoes (with backs, these must be suitable to go outside in if there is a fire drill)
- A pair of wellington boots
- Good quality waterproofs to fit over clothes all year – dungarees are preferable to all-in-ones.
- A warm hat for winter
- A sunhat for spring and summer
- A change of clothes in a named bag
NB: All of these items should be labelled with the child’s name. Each group has a designated boot area. Spare clothes should be kept in a labelled cloth bag hung in the cloakroom.
Please keep a check on appropriate sizes of spare clothes for your growing children.
Second-hand wellington boots and slippers and clothes bags are on sale in the Parents’ Room.
Little and Glittery
Please firmly but gently discourage bringing playthings/treasures from home. If your child needs something for the journey, you could suggest looking after it until it is time to come home, or have a special box in the car. Showing things to friends or staff is best done on home visits. Bringing things in can start a craze or encourage hiding in pockets and secrecy. If your child needs a ‘cuddly’ please speak to your teacher to reach an agreement.
Necklaces, bracelets and watches can be a safety hazard and should not be worn in the Kindergarten.
With safety in mind, children are not allowed in the front garden without their parent/carer. The children become the parent’s responsibility once they have been collected. When collecting your child, make sure your teacher or the teacher on duty is aware that you are now with your child and sign them out. Children must be collected by their parent/carer unless we are notified otherwise.
Please note that the children are not allowed to open the front door. Please do not tell them the front door code.
The beginning and ending of Terms
Both Kindergarten and Main School have end of term Festivals. So that parents may attend both Festivals, Kindergarten always finishes one day earlier than Main School.
Similarly the Kindergarten begins the school year each September a day later than main school. This is so that the Kindergarten teachers can be present when the new Class 1 is introduced to the whole school. In Spring and Summer terms Kindergarten and main school begin on the same day.
At the Rowan Tree Kindergarten we work closely with our families. When you bring your child in the morning do let us know if anything has happened to affect their morning i.e. a disturbed night, or a difficult journey to school. As your child’s teacher may be busy settling in the children a note may be the best way to do this.
Each teacher has a regular afternoon to meet individual parents. These afternoons are planned to enable teacher and parents to have a formal but friendly discussion, without the child being present. Your child can play outside with the other children (if you have made a prior arrangement) for the duration of the meeting even if he/she does not attend Afternoon Care that day. If you would like such a discussion please ask your teacher for an appointment. It is our policy that where ever possible two teachers will attend any meetings.
These occur once a term and attendance is essential. If unavoidable circumstances prevent your attendance please notify your teacher and ask someone to take notes for you.
These parents’ evenings give information about the class, school news and an insight into Steiner Education.
There are two notice boards in the front hall and one outside the Parent and Child Group room. Please check them regularly for upcoming events and information. If you wish to display a notice, please take it to the office.
Each class has its own notice board for information concerning that class. You should check this each day; there is important information for you there.
Downstairs there is a room that has been set aside for parents’ use. Please ensure it is clean and tidy before you leave.
In order to maintain and improve the quality of the children’s surroundings we need help with maintenance and new development. We arrange regular work mornings each term and we invite you all to share the load with us. Children may come and help too. It is a great way for you and your family to feel part of the school and sets a wonderful example for your children to imitate.
The Kindergarten has a small library in the office. To arrange to borrow any items please speak to our Kindergarten administrator.
There are two official Fairs each year, Christmas and Spring/Summer, when the whole school community joins together to raise funds. Your class representatives will give you details, but please consult the notice board and the school newsletter for further information and help us support our school.
Money raised by the sale of second-hand wellies, slippers and spare clothes bags is used to provide extras in the Kindergarten (e.g. sleep mats for rest-time, galvanised buckets for the playground).
Parents also raise money for this fund by organising regular Savoury Bake Sales for each class. Hhalf the money raised from these goes directly to the class and the other half to a communal Kindergarten fund.
Any ideas for other ways to fundraise are very welcome and should be put in writing to the kindergarten teachers meeting.
The Season Books
Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, Gateways, Spindrift
Festivals with Children Brigitte Barz
The Children’s Party Anne & Peter Thomas
Work & Play in Early Childhood Freya Jaffke
The Harvest Craft Book Petra Berger
Christmas Craft Book Petra Berger
Easter Craft Book Petra Berger
Feltcraft Petra Berger
Nature’s Corner Leeuwen & Moeskops
Earthwise Carol Petrash
Phases of Childhood Bernard Lievegoed
Brothers & Sisters Karl König
Toymaking with Children Freya Jaffke
The Incarnating Child Joan Salter
Festivals, Families & Food Carey & Large
Children’s Year Cooper, Fynes-Clinton & Rowling
All Year Round Druitt, Fynes-Clinton & Rowling
Raising a Son Dan & Jeanne Elwin
Set Free Childhood Martin Large
Lifeways Davy & Boors
Festivals Together Fitzjohn, Weston & Large
Education Towards Freedom Frans Carlgren
Steiner Education Clouder & Rawson
Free to Learn Lynne Oldfield
The Genius of Play Sally Jenkinson
Kinder Dolls Maricristin Sealey
Kindergarten Education Betty Peck
Simplicity Parenting Kim John Payne
This Little Puffin Elizabeth Matterson
You are your child’s first teacher R. Baldwin