Peter Washington, Sara Elphick, Anne Marie Richards and Velma Vermaat with Anahera are some of the founding members of the Aroha Discovery School. Photo: Charles Anderson.

‘Free’ school looks to launch


It’s school but not as you know it – where children are free to pursue their own interests, direct the curriculum and learn from playing.

The Aroha Discovery School is on the brink of launching at Fairfield House with 14 families interested in pursuing a different model of education.

One of the founders, Anne Marie Richards, says the fundamental tenet of the school is that relationships are the foundation from which students will continually spark their creativity and desire to learn, grow and thrive as confident individuals.

It is based on the idea that the world has changed and to better prepare children for that world, education needs to change too.

Anne Marie started thinking about education after she began home schooling her son.

“I got exposed to the different models that are out there.”

One of those models was ‘democratic education’ which is driven by a child’s play, curiosity and passions.

They learn by following their natural desires, relishing the joy of discovering knowledge for themselves.

The goal is to keep the desire to learn alive, so students remain intrinsically motivated. In some democratic schools the children have a say in its governance – as well as hiring and firing teachers.

She hopes that it will launch for the second term for students aged 5 – 13.

Anne Marie says there is a demand for something different and she gets enquiries every other week.

“It may not be that it’s for everyone,” she says. “But my experience of these schools has led me to believe how much more confident and self-assured these students are.

“They are free to find their passions.”

While they still need to hire a head teacher and finalise the fees, she is hopeful that it will all become clearer soon.

Other similar schools around the country can cost up to $10,000 but Anne Marie says that their fees would likely be closer to $3000.

The school has registered as a charity and is required to register as a private school with the Ministry of Education.

The school is holding a fundraiser on March 1 at Fairfield from 4pm to 7pm with a free pizza with each ticket as well as raffles and entertainment. For more information click here.