Philpots Manor School was founded by Peter and Sonja Ogilvie in 1959. Peter and Sonja had grown up experiencing profound trauma, as so many young people did, in Europe during the Second World War. After the War they met in Dornach in Switzerland, the centre for the study of the Anthroposophical Theory of Rudolf Steiner, where they trained as teachers and educators of children with special educational needs. After their studies Peter and Sonja came to England where they worked for a time in special schools before taking the brave step of setting up their own school.
Philpots Manor School grew from a very small seed in an old manor house with a few undeveloped outbuildings in a picturesque rural setting on the edge of the Ashdown Forest (or Hundred Acre Wood for all of you Winnie the Pooh fans). It took in children, who not only needed education, but also residential care and in some cases a home. Philpots Manor School is still owned by the Ogilvie family and the current Proprietor, Steven Ogilvie, is the son of Peter and Sonja. He and his sisters and brother grew up in the school, with the children who attended and together they became part of an extended family.
Steven’s older sister Bridget put it like this: “I think it would be fair to say that the school began as a small family unit and in time grew to be one very large family.”
Steven reflects that: “I believe that (Peter and Sonja’s) experiences led them to want to change the way children were educated so that the early life they had gone through would not be repeated. They believed better education was the key for all children.”
Philpots Manor School was known as a therapeutic home school where the children could have a sense of belonging to a caring and nurturing community. It was based on the principles of Rudolf Steiner.
Over the years the school developed and grew. A purpose-built classroom block was created, along with sports and communal facilities and residential bungalows for boarding pupils. As the growth continued a Reception and Administration Building was opened.
In keeping with the Steiner ethos the children and young people experienced the seasonal nature of the world through horticulture, land craft and managing their environment in the school grounds.
For post 16 education a more practical training course was initiated with working on the farm fields and animal care being a major part of the curriculum. Then, one day, three donkeys and four ponies were donated to the school, which created the opportunity to provide riding and stable management lessons, now a defining characteristic of the school. Although we no longer have any donkeys or farm animals, we still keep horses and ponies and equine studies are an important part of the school curriculum. For some pupils caring for the horses has literally been life changing and they have gone on to follow careers in animal care and husbandry, farming, agriculture, blacksmithing and metalworking.
Art is another important strand of the school’s curriculum and a purpose built art block was created to provide rooms for painting and drawing, pottery and ceramics and textiles. Over the years our learners have created exceptional and exquisite drawings, paintings, sculpture and ceramics, as well as elaborate and beautiful textiles and tapestries.
Recently the school has entered a new phase in its evolution and development, in an ever changing and dynamic world. Over the last few years demand for residential provision has slowly diminished and eventually we had to come to the difficult decision to close down the boarding facilities at the school. We knew though, that over the years we had developed something very special in our approaches to pastoral care and the support of the children and young people who came to the school. We did not want to lose that, so we created from the Residential Care Team a new Wellbeing Team. They are there to provide support for our pupils and their families and liaise with other professionals involved in their care, such as Social Workers and Health Practitioners.
Another recent change is that we are no longer a school that espouses the Anthroposophical principles of Rudolph Steiner. However, we acknowledge the important influence of those principles on the school’s history and identity. We maintain core values around the worth and uniqueness of every individual in our school community and the importance of tolerance and mutual respect for all. We continue to teach our learners about the value of their relationship with nature and the natural world and the importance of conservation and care for the environment.
As all readers of the Winnie the Pooh stories know, The Hundred Acre Wood is a magical place. We at Philpots Manor believe that a little of that magic has made this school what it is, along with the commitment and dedication of the staff and learners over the years. This has been, and continues to be, a very special and truly inclusive school, with a diverse and dynamic community.