The Coombes School is renowned for its innovative approach, most significantly using the school grounds as an exceptional outdoor classroom. This book describes the elements, philosophy and ethos that characterize The Coombes School and give the school its individuality and particular flavor, and which have led to it being internationally acclaimed. The Coombes was until recently a Nursery/Infant setting but in September 2008 it amalgamated with its neighboring Junior School and now has 600 pupils aged from 3 to 11 years. The school serves a local military garrison and a semi-rural area situated south of Reading in Berkshire. It opened in 1971. Since its opening, the school has attracted attention from the media and the national and international educational world because of its innovatory nature. There is a strong commitment to the creative approach, and to practical, multi-sensory, experiential teaching and learning. The school welcomes hundreds of visitors each year from all over the world: teachers, education administrators, politicians, landscape architects, town planners.
It also provides a training ground for prospective teachers, other students working towards careers with children or the caring professions, and work experience students from local secondary schools and the local university and colleges. As the school has developed, so has its outdoor setting. The founding head teacher, Susan Humphries, had an original vision of a school set in a future wood: a kindergarten. Over 37 years, the outdoor landscape of the school has been improved and developed so that it forms the school's largest classroom, in use throughout the year. The ecological, sustainable ethic underpins the school's work. The school dynamic changes all the time: it is a living organism that absorbs new thinking, responds to new trends, adjusts to, adapts and subverts Government requirements, reflects ongoing research and promotes its own. The Coombes does more than recognize change: it actively embraces and promotes it. It is the school's view that change is a sign of life and is absolutely inevitable: the staff endeavor to be proactive rather than reactive.