Far Out Friday: The schools with no rules

by Brett Henebery27 Feb 2015

7-17 year olds smoking and swearing freely during class. Outside, a student on his dirt bike pops wheelies on the school lawn.

Meet the school where doing whatever you want comes first and education comes second.

A British boarding school in the 1960s is likely to conjure up images of cane-wielding disciplinarians, Latin lessons and strict uniform codes, but Burgess Hill School was no ordinary boarding school.

The school was founded in Hampstead in 1961 by Cambridge graduate James East, who was determined to "make the development pupils less of an ordeal."

A TIME magazine article shares a glimpse into what life was like at the school:

Two seven-year-olds strolled into the recreation room. "Got a match?" asked one. "Sure," said the other. The boys were puffing away, when suddenly the headmaster appeared. "Hi, Jimmy," they said with friendly smiles.

Waving back with kind disinterest, the headmaster, James East, explained to a visitor: "Kids always smoke, and I'd rather know about it than have it done in secret."

Perhaps inspired by the philosophy of Burgess Hill School (minus the smoking and swearing) is New Zealand principal, Bruce McLachlan.

McLachlan, who brings his dog to school and wears red leather zebra shoes, raised eyebrows last year when SBS reported that he is happy to allow his students free reign in the playground.

Activities such as tree climbing, riding scooters, bikes and freely using building materials - however sharp or dirty – are all allowed in the playground.  McLachlan encourages students to take risks but also learn from their mistakes.
 
When one pupil got stuck up a tree, McLachlan wouldn't help. "You got up there, so you get down" was his response.
 
“Once we took all the rules away, what we were doing was letting kids be kids. They could do anything they liked. That was three years ago now and we wouldn’t go back, the change has been fantastic,” McLachlan said.
 

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