Project 2

The New School – positively changing the way children are nurtured, nourished and educated



At The SHF, we recognise that children and young people are social by nature, that they thrive on good nutrition and contact with both their peers and adults. These interactions and influences help facilitate the learning that helps them build healthy bodies and minds, as well as purposeful lives.

Rather than subduing young children’s active and unique powers of imagination and creativity, their learning is best enhanced through play – not desk based classrooms empty of soft furnishings, toys, or other materials. We can also dramatically enhance health span by both optimising the expression of genes and establishing healthy behaviours from an early age, including around food. Healthy children help forge healthy communities and healthy societies.

A child’s nervous system ‘reads and responds’ to his or her environment and particularly that of adults, and they are particularly sensitive to anxiety, fear and stress. They need to move often and require a level of structure and boundaries. Their immune system relies on dirt and everyday germs – it literally ‘primes’ itself, which is why we love the ethos and approach of The New School.

A new approach

The New School’s driving purpose is to give every student a powerful sense of agency – the will and the ability to positively influence their own lives and the world around them.

It is the brainchild of primary school teacher and health professional, Lucy Stephens, who believes that current education models for children are too focused on passing tests in a narrow curriculum that doesn’t acknowledge the broader interests of children or a richer concept of human creativity. Importantly it also hinders children developing the skills they need for mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.

Lucy and her team have succeeded in creating an educational space that allows young people to be recognised and to participate in decision-making structures as equals, we believe every young person can fulfil their potential and go on to lead a happy life. Ultimately, their goal, which fits with our goals, recognises that if we change the way we educate, nurture and nourish our children, we can change the world.

An innovative funding model

The New School is a non-fee paying, charity-funded school — initially in order to remove the barrier to education created by income. ‘Community’ is a guiding principle, so the school is very keen to create meaningful partnerships with local businesses and individuals who believe in their vision and want to give young people the opportunity to reach their true potential.

Find out more about The New School’s innovative funding model.

About Lucy Stephens

Lucy Stephens is the director and Co-Headteacher of a new non fee-paying democratic school opening in West Norwood in September. She is a qualified teacher, with a PCGE from Cambridge, a 1st Class Hons in Social Psychology, a 1st Class Hons in Nutrition and Herbal Medicine, and a Diploma in Psychoneuroimmunology (Evolutionary Biology). Lucy started her career in teaching to make a difference – but she learned from the outset that we need to think differently about our teaching practices. Recognising that the systems and structures inherent in our education system contribute to only a small minority ‘succeeding’, and the outcomes-based performance and accountability culture limits our ability to include all young people; she left teaching to work for The Prince’s Trust, the leading youth charity supporting NEET young people.

This furthered her awareness of the many young people disengaged from education, through dropping out, being excluded, or being present in the classroom but mentally disengaging. Her deep love for knowledge, led her to research health education in relation to children and families, the body and mind from the perspective of attachment, and the social and emotional needs of young people. Having her own children focused her attention on what an alternative democratic model of education could look like. Armed with the knowledge gained from across her career, Lucy created The New School to put her research into practice, to challenge the current educational paradigm, and in doing so seeks to address the many deeply entrenched problems in education and society.