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Edinburgh Steiner School to offer Early Years pupils 1,140 hours ELC

Marking the 30th anniversary of collaborating with Edinburgh Council, Edinburgh Steiner School’s Board of Trustees have made the landmark decision to continue to offer families with young children the opportunity of a Steiner Waldorf preschool education through the Early Years and Childcare (EYC) scheme when nursery provision almost doubles across Scotland in August.


Parents and carers of all three and four year olds living in Scotland will be able to meet the cost of up to 30 hours a week in our Seedlings Playgroup and Kindergartens through the statutory scheme.  


Widening social inclusion and diversity

Edinburgh Steiner School is the first school in the independent education sector in the Capital and Lothians to commit to the Government scheme when provision increases from 600 to 1,140 hours at the beginning of next academic year. As a small school for up to 360 pupils aged 2 – 18 years, we have been offering the internationally recognised Steiner Waldorf curriculum in Edinburgh for over 80 years.


We know that not all families who wish to join the school community have equal means to be able to do so. Today it is widely recognised that the first seven years of life are of the utmost importance for the development of the healthy adult. Offering 1,140 hours ELC-funded places to eligible young children in Scotland is just one of the ways we endeavour to widen access, providing an inclusive educational experience for the children.”

Michael Palmer, Chair of the Board of Trustees


Years 0 – 7

Early Years education has a high profile in Steiner-Waldorf schools, offering an important alternative to mainstream Preschool–P2 education. Children here transition into the school after their sixth birthday. Before then, they learn in an environment where the teaching of English, Maths, the Sciences, are integrated rather than subject-based: through cooking vegetable soup with ingredients from the garden, watercolour painting, wood- and metal work; where every day is a waterproofs day, immersed in the seasons; where play is recognised as being the true work of childhood.


Holistic education for the whole child

A central aim of this approach is to develop, harmonise and unite the faculties of thought, feeling, and physical literacy in the child, based on principles of child development, so that the foundations may be laid for mental adaptability, initiative and moral strength in their future school career. This holistic curriculum comes with high overheads, reflected in the £3,064-£8,455 tuition fees, run on a not-for-profit basis. The fifth morning is free for all 2-6 year olds, in addition to 6% of the whole School’s net profits providing bursaries to help families on lower incomes or experiencing temporary financial hardship.


The child-friendly Kindergarten building, ​(​often included in Edinburgh’s annual ​architectural​ Open Doors ​event​)​, acknowledges that ​pupils are profoundly affected ​​by their built environment​.​ Each​ open-plan, canted, room for up to ​​16 children maximises natural light ​and is designed, furnished, and resourced to provide a soft, nurturing and peaceful surrounding. ​The emphasis is on creating an environment which fosters imaginative play and social interaction. Children have the opportunity to take part in domestic and craft activities inside, and in gardening and woodwork outside.


High quality provision

This holistic approach to early childhood education comes with high overheads, reflected in the £3,064-£8,455 tuition fees, run on a not-for-profit basis.​ The City Council funding will not cover this total. ​Careful consideration needed to be given to how the 1140 hours funding would affect the school’s financial sustainability. The School’s Early Years Development Group (EYDG) was formed for this purpose in 2018. A year later EYDG recommended to the Board of Trustees that the School should participate in the 1140 hours funding scheme.


Under the​ new​ rules​ of the scheme, ​Early ​​Years providers offering ELC funded places are no longer ​​permitted to levy a ‘top-up’ fee ​​to parents​. This has meant that many private nurseries and schools have not signed up to the 1140 hours funding. ​



Spring & Summer Terms 2021

In contrast to Edinburgh’s other independent schools, we accept admissions all year round, allowing pupils to start at any point in the academic session; and our admissions procedure does not include an entrance exam or select pupils on academic ability.


Our four Kindergartens of up to 16 children per group, in partnership with the City Council, currently offer 3 and 4 year old children around 16 hours per week funded childcare, delivered as a £5.31/hour grant. The funding comes direct to the school from the Council. Families are then charged a top up fee, to cover the short fall between the grant and the cost of running the school. This scheme will only be available until the end of June. 

Growing as a beacon of Steiner education in Scotland

Edinburgh Steiner School is two years into its ambitious £8million Growing Spaces Project announced by the Trustees in 2018. Included in its long-term campus development plan is the expansion of the School’s purpose-built Kindergarten building and renovating the ground floor of one of the three C19th villas on campus to create a large open plan room that opens out into the Early Years enclosed gardens, for more young children to attend.


The first stage of this project – the conversion of the dilapidated C-listed East Coach House and stables into classrooms won an Honourable Mention in the Educational Buildings category of international Architecture MasterPrizeTM (AMP) – celebrating creativity, innovation and a living example of a community build. ​​The additional teaching space​ ​made room for what will become the new ​Seedlings P​laygroup.


Like every nonprofit organisation Edinburgh Steiner School Trust depends on the philanthropic support of the people who care about our school and our mission. And like every independent school, tuition alone does not support everything it does to educate the children of our school,”

Growing Spaces Project 


With huge gratitude to parents, alumni, staff and one former teacher in particular, Charles Kovacs, the fundraising target of £100,000 for the second stage of Growing Spaces Project was reached through a combination of donations and a community loan just before lockdown; and work will begin as soon as possible. (Ways To Give


The planned expansion has allowed the School to ​continue as a Partner Provider, offering a proportion of places in its Playgroup and Kindergarten through the scheme. ​

Each Kindergarten group includes a mix of ages from around 3-6 years, which means our older pupils help the younger ones, allowing each child to gain a real sense of their growing capabilities ​as they go from a ‘little’ to a ‘middle’ to a ‘big’. Uniquely, we have long run a curriculum that has embraced a start to formal learning at rising 7; and almost all of our pupils who began Class 1 (equivalent to mainstream P2) this year came from one of our

We are one of only a few educational establishments offering a kindergarten environment for children aged
5 – 7 in Scotland.

Susie Musgrave, Kindergarten Coordinator



Perhaps of interest:

What would a Scottish kindergarten stage for under 7s look like?

Learn: For life, from life and throughout life

Big Changes for Little Pupils