The future of the borough's only Steiner school has been secured. SAMANTHA PAYNE reports.

LAST year, parents and staff at Greenwich Steiner School were disappointed when it lost its bid for a 150-year lease at Woodlands Gallery, Blackheath, to the London School of Musical Theatre (LSMT).

After seven years of serving the community it came as a blow and the chance of finding alternative premises within the borough was bleak.

But everything changed at the end of last year when Greenwich Council contacted the school to see if it was still interested in the property after the LSMT suddenly withdrew its offer.

LSMT had decided moving to Greenwich was not in its best interests after its enrolment figures started to drop.

This was welcome news to Greenwich Steiner School and the offer was finally cemented last Tuesday, when the council's cabinet committee gave the go-ahead to grant it the lease instead.

The lower school will now move into temporary accommodation at the Army Cadet Centre, Holyhedge House, Wat Tyler Road, Blackheath, before moving to the Woodlands Gallery site in the next 12 months.

Learning support assistant Kendall Noyes, one of the parents who helps run the school, said: "We are absolutely overjoyed.

"The new building will give us the extra room we need to develop our lower school and one day, we hope, an upper school.

"It will also allow us to be more involved in the community, extend our parent and child groups and increase awareness about what we do."

Another parent, Johanna Benseler, said: "This will be a huge boost for the school. I'm so pleased.

"I chose to send my son to Greenwich Steiner as he was so stressed and unhappy at his other school.

"I wanted him to be free to be a boy and it's great to see a change in him."

The independent school based at St George's Church, Kirkside Road, Greenwich, has come a long way from when it started with one teacher and 10 children in 1999, and prides itself on the teaching principles of 20th-century tutor Rudolf Steiner.

He founded his first school in Germany in 1919 and now there are nearly 900 around the world.

An emphasis is placed on the holistic development of the child, which includes their spiritual, physical and moral wellbeing, as well as academic work.

Ms Noyes said: "We follow Steiner's philosophy every subject should be taught as an art.

"We have a different curriculum to other schools but the pupils end up with the same qualifications."

Formal learning begins later than in conventional schools and there is a great emphasis on creative and artistic environments.

They also do not have a headteacher but a "college" of staff.

Ms Noyes added: "We do things differently. We use whole body movement as a way to remember music.

"We encourage pupils to play with natural toys such as logs to make things and to use their imagination. They also learn how to knit and make puppets.

"We like to develop environments where children can start to use their imagination at an early age.

"They enjoy learning poems and singing songs in French and German."

Each morning teachers shake the children's hands so they know they are valued.

The mother-of-two added: "They are not allowed to wear branded clothes because we want to see the child. There is none of the peer pressure.

"They are free to be themselves and we help develop the children's different strengths."