Welcome to the start-up info pack. If you are interested in starting a democratic school, this is the right place to be! This infopack will not give you the golden recipe to start a democratic school. Why? Because there isn’t just one way of doing it. Instead, this infopack will help you find your own way by making sure you are asking yourself some of the right questions, have access to useful resources and a list of good contacts.
We wish you a good read and the best of luck with your project.
Table of contents
- School start-up info pack
- Questions for Your Group
- Books and Films
- Useful Contacts:
- Start-up Schools Basecamp Group
- Other Online Resources:
- IDEN (The International Democratic Education Network)
- AERO (The Alternative Education resource Organisation)
- Light Way Schools
Questions for Your Group
Below is a useful list of questions you should ask yourself and your group when beginning to start a school:
- Why are you involved in your start-up? – It is good to ask yourself this question and ask it together as a group.
- Do you have a committed core group? Build a community of trust in the start-up group, group divisions happen often and are not disastrous.
- Do you have a clear vision that your group agrees on? Create a strategy to realise your vision.
- Is your group running according to your vision of how you want to run your school? -> Practice what you preach, run your start-up group democratically. Welcome students into your start-up group.
- Does your group have enough information? read books, watch films, attend events, visit schools, communicate with other people who have or are starting schools etc.
- Do you realise that starting a school is like starting an enterprise? Treat it like a business.
- Do you have enough information about the legal situation in your country? you can contact people in our mailing list for advice and information.
- Be prepared to take risks. There is no perfect way to start.
One of the best ways to get advice, learn, get inspired and connected is to come along to a democratic education conference. Below is information about EUDEC’s annual conference and the International Democratic Education Conference, IDEC.
EUDEC holds a conference each year where people involved in democratic education come together. The conference really is the heart of the community. Here you will have the chance to connect with people involved in democratic education, learn about different types of democratic school, talk to people with years of experience, attend talks and workshops and even run your own workshop! These conferences are guaranteed to get you connected and should leave you going away feeling inspired. You can find out about the EUDEC Conference and book your place here.
IDEC (International Democratic Education Conference)
IDEC stands for International Democratic Education Conference. It is not the name of an organisation or a group. Each year the conference is organised by a different school or similar organisation that has volunteered to do so at a previous conference. The IDEC is the heart of the international democratic education community. Here you will have the chance to connect with people involved in democratic education, learn about different types of democratic school, talk to people with years of experience, attend talks and workshops and even run your own workshop! These conferences are guaranteed to get you connected and should leave you going away feeling inspired. You can find out about the next IDEC event here.
Books and Films
Here you will find books, films and publications that you may find useful when starting a school:
Democratic Education – Yaacov Hecht
Your Competent Child – Jesper Juul
Free to Learn – Peter Grey
Starting a Sudbury School – Daniel Greenburg and Mimsy Sadofsky
Weapons of Mass Instruction – John Taylor Gatto
How Children Learn by John Holt
Free At Last by Daniel Greenberg
Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto
Summerhill by A.S. Neill (for fouding a boarding school!)
No Homework And Recess All Day by Jerry Mintz
Here you can find more books.
You can find more movies and films shared by members here.
Here you will find a list of people who have experience starting democratic schools and they have kindly offered their contacts details so you can get in touch with them if you have questions, need advice or support.
I started my first school, De Ruimte in 2003. This school was based on the model of the Sudbury Valley School. Under pressure of the Government the school changed its concept. A group of staff and students left the school to start De Kampanje, a school based on the Sudbury model. The school grew to 30 students in 2013 and worked very well for the students. For 7 years the school challenged the government and school inspection in court and failed in the end. In February 2014 the parents were criminally prosecuted under the compulsory school laws by the court of appeal and the school was forced to close its doors in February 2014. This was very unsatisfactory and in September 2014 we opened Newschool.nu. In November 2014 Newschool.nu was recognized by the Dutch school inspectorate and now the school is growing.
My experience with democratic education:
• 12 years of experience as a Staff member on Sudbury schools
• Founding schools; Design school statutes to assure the democratic decision making by the students & school organisation, especially organising accountability and decision powers in the school and the decision making processes
• Dealing with Governments, legal challenges and using smart ways to run school in adverse environments
Robert is the founder of the Democratic School INFINITA in the very north of Germany, situated in Steinhorst (Herzogtum-Lauenburg) north-east of the city of Hamburg. He has been helping start-ups for a few years and knows about helping organisations, foundations and banks. He can also help with networking and first steps of the financing model.
Nicola is a council member of the BFAS e.V. (Bundesverband der Freien Alternativschulen) which is the german umbrellaorganisation of the free alternative schools in Germany. The BFAS is also a member of EUDEC, and so is Nicola since the first EUDEC in 2008. She works as a consultant for school development in Germany, and advises school founders and teams in fundraising, nonviolent communication and law questions. She also published one book and various articles on Democratic Education.
Ian Cunningham is the founder of the Self Managed Learning College in Brighton, UK. The SML are very happy to receive visitors so you can get first-hand experience of how the college is run and can also visit other orgnaisations to give talks. You can find out about the SLM here
Founder of École Dynamique in Paris.
I co-founded my first school, Sudbury School Paris, in 2016 with the help of the l’école Dynamique team. I then helped a group of Irish parents to set up a school in Bray, Ireland.
Moe Zimmerberg is one of the founding members of the Tutorial School in Santa Fe, USA, which has been running for 33 years. “We use what I call the "Organic Growth Model." That is, go slow and start small. Works for us, but you have to trust the process.”You can find out more about the Tutorial School here
Hi. I’m Tomis. I co-founded Agile Learning Centres, an emergent model for self-directed learning communities. I help manage the ALC in NYC and ALC Mosaic in Charlotte, NC, and I’m one of the main developers and organizers of our Agile Learning Facilitator training program (ALF Summer). Through ALF Summer we collaboratively train ourselves to be facilitators, support new start-up ALCs, and work on projects that add value to our growing network. Before ALC, I worked with Manhattan Free School for four years and other alternative schools before that.
To can check which current council member is responsible for Start Ups on the Council page.
Start-up Schools Basecamp Group
If you would like to join a discussion group for people starting schools where you can share experiences, ask questions and mutually help and support each other through the process then become a EUDEC member to be added to a the start-up group on our Basecamp platform.
You can find out what schools are a part of the EUDEC here.
Other Online Resources:
IDEN (The International Democratic Education Network)
IDEN is the hub of the international democratic education community. Here you can find useful contacts, news about international democratic education events including the IDEC (International Democratic Education Conference) and much more.
AERO (The Alternative Education resource Organisation)
AERO is an organisation based in the US but working internationally. AERO have an excellent online bookstore which sells books and DVD’s on democratic and alternative education.
They also run a school starter consultation programme which you can find information about here and an annual school starter course which you can find out about here
Light Way Schools
Light Way Schools offer a course for 21st Century Home Education Designers to help people design and implement community based affordable learning environments of which democracy is a part.