Pressure-free education in Moray is ‘a joy’ for Tilda

Tilda with Drumduan and Moray Steiner schools in a visit to Cawdor Castle
Tilda with Drumduan and Moray Steiner schools in a visit to Cawdor Castle

Oscar winning Hollywood start Tilda Swinton has been talking of her pride in the Moray private school she helped establish.

Drumduan Upper School in Forres was set up two years ago by the actress and a friend who sought to ensure continuity of education for their children in a “pioneering” fashion.

According to the principal teacher Krzysztof Zajaczkowski, the school has been established in an age where “much of our establishment is now under question and rightly so”.

Speaking of the Ethos of the school he added: “Long held traditions, religions and major institutions are being scrutinised, yet are enough of us asking the fundamental questions?

“What is the true purpose of our education system? Why do we sit at desks for much of the day at school for over ten years? Are we teaching our pupils the life skills they need?

“We ourselves are the product of a post-industrial model of education, so it’s not easy to imagine an alternative to this mind-set. Yet, if we continue to inquire, we begin to find answers.

“At Drumduan we are living with these questions and implementing many of the answers, with passion and with practicality. The emergent future and the health of society will be defined and shaped by the very same young people who come looking for their answers at our schools.”

Ms Swinton founded the school on the traditions of philosopher Rudolf Steiner and it shares its grounds with one of the 32 Steiner schools operating throughout the UK. The school was congratulated in its first formal inspection last year for the “positive attitude of young people, staff and parents in making the school successful”.

Ms Swinton said: “It is an upper school – 15 to 19-year-olds – and it is pretty pioneering. There is no state testing or grading of any kind but, without that distraction and pressure, it’s really teaching these kids how to learn, from head, via heart and hands.

“They learn everything from ethics to science to arts, rigorously through systematic exercises and experiments, so it is hands-on craft-based practical learning.

“For example, part of how they learn physics is by building a Canadian canoe, or by making a knife or caramelising onions. It’s a blast.”

The actress admitted that it was always hard to be away from the school where pupils, teachers and families are “chilled, happy and inspired”.

Living in Nairn Ms Swinton says she is living an ideal, low-key life: “We live here absolutely integrated and nobody pays any attention to us – they all know what we do and nobody gives a damn.

“Really, what’s important is that we are the parents of our children and we have some nice dogs and we meet everybody on the beach – and that’s it.”