Kezia Cantwell-Wright founded East Kent Sudbury School in 2019. It is a self-directed, democratic learning community for students aged 5-18 years, inspired by the US Sudbury Valley School.
She initially set it up because the progressive choices available for her own children were so limited. She felt frustrated that self-directed education wasn’t recognised as a valid educational approach in the UK and hopes that her own setting, East Kent Sudbury School, will help to change that.
Students self-direct their education, choosing what to learn when, how and with whom, supported by caring staff members and their peers, whilst being a part of a democratic community.
Being democratic, all students and staff together form the community which is responsible for making all decisions. Each member of the community has an equal voice regardless of age or any other factor.
I knew I wanted a school that gave students complete freedom to self-direct their learning and have a genuine say in all matters regarding the running of the school. Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, Massachusetts, was founded in 1968 and is still running and thriving today and was a huge inspiration to me and all of the other founding members.
Sudbury Valley School has catalogued the organisation and philosophy of their school through many books, handbooks and other media, from which many other schools have been founded. Rather than re-invent a new model from scratch, it made sense to base our project on the Sudbury model, whilst ensuring we meet our local regulatory requirements.
[In this film, brought to us by East Kent Sudbury School and Alpine Valley School, Kezia Cantwell-Wright shares her insights from day-to-day life at her school.]
Who is education for? It is to create the perfect workers for society or is to equip children to live fulfilling lives? I don’t think that our current system is working well for either aim. As the nature of work changes, we now need people that think critically and creatively, not just obediently.
But it is only when you put the individual child’s needs as the starting point for determining their education that you really equip them to flourish, and that is what I believe the purpose of education should be.
Getting the most academic students the results they want and places at university.
Think about how you learn as an adult – what passions you have followed, what skills you’ve picked up. How did you do it? Think about what you learnt as a child, the most meaningful long-lasting experiences – were they at school in the classroom or somewhere else?
Chances are, if you’re like me, most of what you have learnt won’t have been in a classroom but elsewhere. When we connect with what we know about learning, the ridiculousness of the conventional school system is obvious.
You can read Kezia’s East Kent Sudbury School blog here: https://eastkentsudburyschool.org.uk/blog/
Follow Kezia on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/EKSudburySchool