Frequently asked questions

These are just some of the things we’re asked from time to time. If you don’t find an answer to your question here please do get in touch.

What makes Lewes New School different?

Perhaps the most obvious difference is that we’re not constrained by the National Curriculum and are, therefore, able to respond to children’s interests. Children are motivated to learn because they are fully engaged in what they are learning and because activities are real, authentic and relevant to their lives.

In some ways the differences are more subtle and run deeper than that. When children are trusted to make decisions about their own learning (and know that their choices will be respected) they develop a sense of their own identity. Visitors recognise immediately the way in which our children feel comfortable to be themselves.

Our school community is another key difference. Our diverse families and staff share a commitment to developing and maintaining a nurturing community where each individual can feel that they belong. We seek out opportunities to get to know each other really well; so we work, play and celebrate together; and strive to communicate openly and honestly, without judgement or blame.

Finally, our beautiful school buildings provide a refreshingly homely environment in which to learn together and explore. Many children (and parents!) have described the school as their second home.

Do children do whatever they like?

No! Children and teachers work together to devise a curriculum which is rigorous and challenging. Each class has a weekly timetable, which includes a range of enquiry-led learning and teacher instruction. However, the timetable is flexible enough to adapt to the needs and interests of the class.

As children progress through the school the timetable begins to include more formal slots for developing and consolidating key skills as well as opportunities for children to reflect on their own individual learning journey.

The autonomy that children have in their learning is most apparent in project work where they work independently or collaboratively to plan, apply and review their learning in a theme – usually chosen collectively by the group. Within other areas of the timetable teachers may offer instruction but children retain an element of choice and activities are as authentic as possible.

Children at LNS learn a very important life lesson about how to balance their own needs and interests with those of the people around them. Sometimes children do something that they’d prefer not to, for the sake of their class or the school community.

Why don’t you do SATs?

SATs relate directly to the National Curriculum, so they are not a good tool for measuring the things that children learn when they’re not following that curriculum. We take assessment very seriously and have adopted alternative tools for measuring the outcomes of our approach – in particular for assessing the learning process itself. We prefer to assess learning on an ongoing basis, in dialogue with the child. This directly engages children with assessing their own work and reflecting on their own learning.

Most of our children go on to a secondary school where testing is a part of life. We help children to prepare for this by sitting CATs (Cognitive Ability Tests) – nationally recognised tests which measure thinking ability rather than factual recall. These results provide useful information for secondary schools and mean we can support children in the reality of sitting a test without spending their last precious primary school year teaching to the test.

Can you tell me more about your history?

Lewes New School was set up in 2000 by a committed group of parents with a passion for education and a desire to do things differently. They attracted the support of benefactors who shared their interest and generously funded the purchase of the site. The founding group were all members of an organisation called Subud, a community of individuals with a range of beliefs who share a spiritual practice. From the outset, the founders were clear that the school would not discriminate on any basis. Subud practices are not a part of the school.

When the school opened (with just a handful of students) it faced its first challenge – the Lewes floods. However, it quickly recovered and grew from strength to strength. We now have around 70 children on roll.

Over the years the school has adapted to suit the changing needs of the evolving school community. Some of our staff have stayed with us since the very earliest days, joined by others who share their enthusiasm and commitment. While the school has worked hard to establish clear structures and to develop rigour and clarity around our approach, our core ethos and values remain the same.
Perhaps inspired by the parents who dedicated countless hours and enormous amounts of energy to setting up the school, we continue to attract parents keen to get involved and make a difference to school life.

I don't live in Lewes. Can my child join the school?

A large proportion of our families commute to our school from Brighton and Hove and from the surrounding villages and towns. Parents often arrange a lift-share rota so they can share the journey, perhaps combined with a play date at the end of the day. Your Class Rep will be able to put you in touch with other families who live locally to you.

We know how important it is for families from out of town to feel a part of the school community, so we plan lots of events and celebrations for all our families to attend. You’re welcome to have a cup of tea in the Quiet Room in the morning (so long as there isn’t a meeting) or to hang out in the playground after school to catch up with other parents.

Can my child attend school part-time?

The law states that all children must be in full time education following their fifth birthday. However, we accept that flexi-schooling better meets the needs of some families. We may be able to accommodate your child attending school four days per week, if you wish to educate your child at home on the fifth day. This must be by prior arrangement with the head.

We encourage children to attend school full-time whenever possible. A great deal of project work is done collaboratively so not only can your child miss out if they are not in school but their peers can too.

What do you mean by being 'reluctantly private'?

We value inclusion and diversity, so in some ways charging fees is counter to our ethos. Nevertheless, we are proud of our independence and our alternative approach.

Over the years we have explored different ways of becoming a non-feepaying school, including an application to become a Free School. However, at the present time, with the wider political educational agenda as it is, we expect to remain independent.

“I'm proud to be part of a community that makes it safe to expose our mistakes, so we can keep on learning together and become who we want to be.”

Elizabeth, parent