As our children went to a Steiner/Waldorf school in Austria, it was pretty much obvious that we would search for a Steiner school in New Zealand too. Fortunately, the Steiner schooling concept is very much the same everywhere in the World. Apart from that, the idea of Waldorf education just perfectly matches our general picture of New Zealand.
To summarize why we are big fans of Steiner schools:
- They focus on the individual needs and strengths of each child and don’t try to make everyone standardised.
- They spend a lot of time outside doing physical activities.
- They help children to develop their natural interest in learning.
- They pay more attention to social skills than to other things.
- They don’t rush from one topic to the next, but have several weeks long main topics.
We maintain a little ritual every day when going to bed. We tell each others what was the best of our day. The most common answer from our two little girls is:
School was the best of my day!
Steiner education in New Zealand
A bit of a Google research revealed that there are only about 10 Steiner schools in New Zealand, amongst many more kindergartens and playgroups though (see the Steiner Federation NZ website for a complete list). We reached out to all of them that are located in one of our target regions. Interestingly, some are only offering class 1 to 7, a few in the bigger cities do the full 12 year program.
It was a bit of a shock for us to learn that most of the schools are fully booked and have waiting lists for up to 3 years. Some are state integrated schools, which means they get public funding but need to give domestic students priority over international students. After getting a series of negative responses on our inquiries we almost dropped the idea of our New Zealand year. Bummer.
We didn’t want to switch to state schools. Without actually being in NZ it’s very difficult to tell if a school is a good or a bad one. The differences in quality are very big and many people actually move to different areas of a city just to make sure their children can attend a specific school. State schools are free of charge, but zoning rules made by the Ministry of Education define which residents of a town need to go to a certain school. Some of the Steiner schools maintain their full independence and are more open to having international students.
In fact, we just had to wait a bit longer to get the response we were looking for. Well, the clocks are ticking a bit slower in Down Under. We actually got offers for places for both our children at the Motueka Rudolf Steiner School.
Even better: The school is one of the smallest ones in the country with only 55 students. They also have a connected Steiner kindergarten and even a playgroup for babies. Imagine a family style Steiner school in a beautiful and sunny rural area. Great!
The school year in New Zealand is split in four equally long “terms” which you should consider when planning your arrival and departure:
Term 1 lasts from early February to mid April. Then 2 weeks break.
Term 2 lasts from early May to early July. Then 2 weeks break.
Term 3 lasts from late July to late September. Then 2 weeks break.
Term 4 lasts from early October to mid December. Summer holidays usually last for 7 weeks from mid December to end of January.