Could a Sudbury School Be Right for Your Child? Find Out Here


  1. First of all, what is a Sudbury school?
  2. Are Sudbury schools free?
  3. Are Sudbury schools successful?
  4. How much do Sudbury schools cost?
  5. Are Sudbury schools legal?


As a parent, you have the ultimate responsibility over how your child should be educated. And, as you’re probably aware, there are so many types of school and this can be overwhelming! Let us take the stress out of it and help you with a comprehensive overview of what a Sudbury school is all about. This way, you can make an informed decision over whether it’s the right form of education for your child. 🤔kids learning with art in school

First of all, what is a Sudbury school?


A good starting point would be to understand what a Sudbury model school is: It’s a type of democratic school or self-directed learning community. This means students are not only responsible for their own learning, but also the school community. 💪 Students have freedom over how they choose to spend their time, what subjects they’re interested in, how they want to learn and when and how they’ll be evaluated. This is believed to be good for decision-making and teaching them about the consequences of their actions. 

Traditionally, children learn in a classroom setting. At a Sudbury model school, some students will learn through arts and crafts, others through outdoor play. The difference is there isn’t a teacher instructing them how and what they should learn. So, where did this idea come from?

In 1968, Daniel Greenberg was a member of the group who first set up the Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, Massachusetts. He spent the rest of his working life there until his death in 2021. What made Greenberg unique was his unwavering belief in democracy along with an absolute trust in children. He was certain that when children are given the rights and responsibilities of educating themselves, they flourish. There’s no need for adults to force them to learn in a way that they think children should learn. He explains why he was disappointed in mainstream education after teaching at Columbia University:

“I would deliver lectures that got standing ovations, but later, in the tests and essays, it was clear to me that the students just didn’t get it. I wasn’t getting through to them and that was very frustrating, very disappointing…Gradually, I came to understand that learning occurs when it is self-initiated, when kids are self-motivated. You can’t make someone learn something – you really can’t teach someone something – they have to want to learn it.”

We must admit, it makes a lot of sense. And Greenberg isn’t the only person to think traditional learning methods are desperately in need of a reboot. How do these other democratic schools differ from a Sudbury school? Here are the key similarities and differences at a glance: 👇




Sudbury model school v Waldorf school

  • Focus on happiness
  • Not made to read early
  • Importance on playtime for learning

At Sudbury schools, children have no pre-arranged curriculum. Instead children and adults decide upon the culture of each individual Sudbury primary school.

Sudbury model school v Montessori school

  • Children are naturally curious and don’t need to be made to learn
  • Children are given freedom to follow their interests

At Sudbury schools, children are given a large variety of activities, Montessori school children choose from specific options given by the teacher.

Sudbury model school v home school

  • Children learn best through experimentation and experience
  • Believe in unschooling, in other words informal, learner-led activities.

At Sudbury schools, children are completely responsible for their own education. With home schooled children, responsibility for the child’s education lies with the parent.  

Sudbury school v Progressive school

  • Traditional education doesn’t work
  • Think students shouldn’t be evaluated by objective testing, in other words test which have right and wrong answers

Sudbury model schools are less permissive than progressive schools because they believe this mentality doesn’t teach children about personal responsibility.


This unique way of learning might be attractive to your child if they:


To get a clearer idea, why not hear from the students themselves.


Are Sudbury schools legal?


Yes, they are legal, just as other forms of democratic schools are legal. Having said this, they are still pretty small in number. There are now believed to be over 60 schools worldwide that regard themselves as Sudbury model schools. 

If you want your child to attend a Sudbury primary school or a Sudbury academy, it’s fair to say that if you live in the UK, you wouldn’t exactly have much choice. Currently, you’d have to attend East Kent Sudbury School in England. If that doesn’t suit you, you’ll have to go further afield. There are two in Ireland: Wicklow Sudbury School and Sligo Sudbury School. The highest concentration of this type of school can be found in the United States with almost 50, followed by France (12) and Japan (9). For a full list of Sudbury schools, locations and websites, take a look here.


How much do Sudbury schools cost?


A Sudbury school receives no funding from the government, unlike state schools. As an independent organisation, it relies completely on donations and school fees. 💰 No funds are taken from the local community as their democratic ethos states that it should be paid for by those who are able to benefit from it.

As Sudbury model schools set their own rules, each has their own autonomous rules and this extends to the fees they charge as well.

However as an example, we’ll give you the fees for East Kent Sudbury School. In the 2021-22 school year there are six different bands according to income and whether a child had siblings at the school. This ranges from £7,200 a year to £1,008 a year. The top price is that of a single child whose parents have a salary that exceeds £65,000 per year. The lowest price is a child who has two or more siblings at the school and whose parents have a salary that is less than £23,000.

They also have bursaries available to families who require them. For more information about fees, have a look at the school’s website page.


Are Sudbury schools successful?


Well, we think this depends on your definition of success. To one parent, success means their child passing exams, to another it means their child enjoying school and being happy to attend each day. 😁 We think it’s probably a better idea to look at the pros and cons, and that’s not just about the absence of Sudbury primary school homework!



A sense of community

Students get the chance to be a part of and make decisions based on the environment they’re in. There is no separation of ages which means the older children can teach the younger children. It also means that people have to get along, just like in the wider community outside the school gates.

Student experience

Without set lessons and homework, it’s perhaps understandable why children would enjoy going to school! 😂

Deep learning

Because of the lack of formal lessons, students are able to focus on their particular interests. Therefore, they get the freedom to learn about this subject or subjects all day if they wish. This is perhaps something that would be particularly attractive to a child with Asperger’s

Good outcomes

Due to this unique school environment, by the time they’ve left school, children who might otherwise have lacked confidence in traditional education, are perhaps better able to deal with conflict and decision-making. According to the Tallgrass Sudbury School in Illinois, Sudbury school students enter college at higher rates than those children in state schools. On top of this, more students opt for self-employment or setting up their own business.




Having to explain their schooling

Self-directed education isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. For that reason students and parents alike often feel like they have to explain and justify their education choice.

Learning different things

Some parents might worry that their child isn’t learning all of the things that are outlined in the national curriculum.

Having to take responsibility

Children in a Sudbury primary school or a Sudbury academy have to take responsibility for their actions at a much younger age and this can be hard. They often learn about boundaries the hard way, by trial and error. They also have to figure out what they want to do without interference from adults.

Non-existent evaluation

Some parents might not be comfortable with the lack of testing and ability to see progress in the form of letters or numbered grades on paper. 📄


Are Sudbury schools free?


As we’ve said, this depends on your own particular circumstances. Your child might be entitled to a bursary or your salary may mean that you receive a reduction in fees. For an example of what the fees or lack of them might look like for you visit the East Kent Sudbury School website. And remember that each school decides on their own fees so this is likely to differ from school to school.

Choosing a school that is right for your child very much depends on your child. We think that you are the best judge of this and if you decide Sudbury schools are the right set-up for your child, then that’s all that matters. If you don’t, well, at least you have read this and have made an informed decision. ⭐

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