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History of our school

Michael Oak was started in 1962 in a house off Rosmead Avenue. The Old House was bought by parents on an auction and provided the first classrooms for the 15 pupils. School assemblies were held in the present reception foyer. Bricks were laid by parents and the first classrooms completed with their hard work.

More classrooms were followed by a school hall, then a neighbour’s house was bought for the kindergarten. The rest has been a story of continuing growth and development, where parents, staff and pupils form a vibrant and strong school community, a school where teachers really love to teach.

'From an Acorn to a Tree'

1919: First Waldorf school in Stuttgart, Uhlandshöhe WS

1950s: Waldorf impulse arrives in SA, various roadshows, public exhibitions, displays, talks.

1960: Rondebosch Waldorf School, 26 Park Road (next door to Forres) — the first Waldorf Nursery and Primary School in Africa.
Split into CWS and MOak. CWS moved to Constantia in 1967.

1962: MOak pioneered by Heinz Schotte and Lia Gabler. MOak started first at ‘East Grange’  94 Rosmead Avenue, home of the Jenkins family, in dining room and lounge.  Meantime new premises sought. 4 Marlow Road (previously owned by the Dutch Consul General up to 1946) was bought on auction from the Spilhaus family in 1962. School moved across on 31 May 1962, into the main house, now the admin block. Started with a Nursery class, a combined Sub A and Sub B, and a Standard 1 class, with founder teachers Heinz Schotte and Lia Gabler. Named Michael Oak Primary School by the original small group of children: ‘Michael’ the great archangel of our time, and ‘Oak’ for strength and growth.

1978: To accommodate the growing Kindergarten classes, the house on the corner of Gibson and Marlow Roads (‘the Delport Property’) was bought.

1983: Michael Oak turns 21

1989: The pioneer Class 8 opened, which grew into Class 9 in 1990 and Class 10 in 1991. o house the growing high school, the 3 cottages against the railway line were bought.

The Oval
The Oval has been the scene of countless festivals, annual fairs, break-time games, a practice space for the Class 6 Olympics, and — more recently — even class plays.  Originally a fine lawn when the Spilhaus family owned the main house (see earlier photo HERE) the Oval is an important focal point for the entire school.  From fine lawn worn down to patchy grass and eventually just sand, brick paving was laid down in 1999 to provide a permanent surface.  Eventually this became uneven and was replaced 20 years later with the synthetic surface in use today.

The Side Court
Like the Oval, the Side Court struggled to keep its grass cover intact with heavy foot-traffic at all times of the day. Drainage and heavy soil were also problems, so the area was often unusable in winter. The ‘Side Field’ received a major upgrade in 2015 [?] when a high quality sport court was built for handball, volleyball, and other games. The ‘Side Court’ has a professional standard surface [called?]

The High School 3 houses
To cater for the growing high school, the 3 ‘Railway Cottages’ were bought in the late 1980s and early 1990s and brought into use as classrooms after extensive renovations.  By 1993 there were 6 ‘new’ classrooms, a laboratory, art studio and woodwork/metalwork space.

The new Primary School Classrooms
With steady growth in enrolment, classroom space became critical. A decision was made in 1998 to build 4 additional classrooms for the primary school — but where?  The only way to go was “up”.  Classes 4 to 7 were built on top of Classes 1, 2 and 3 and the new classrooms were inaugurated in 2001.

The Movement Room
The prefab structure in the “bottom corner” of the school was originally built as two classrooms.  The division was soon removed, to create a large movement space to relieve pressure on the Small Hall. During the Covid pandemic the space was occupied by Class 7, and is currently used for Kindergarten eurythmy lessons.

The High School Block
As the high school consolidated and grew to include the “13th year” (Matriculation) so did the need to create additional teaching space and a dedicated building the high school could call “home”.  Builders moved on site in May 2014.  The new block added 5 classrooms and an art room and the opening ceremony — complete with cutting the ribbon — took place in January 2015.

The Small Hall: Built in the 1970s, originally as two adjacent classrooms with a stage at one end, the building had sturdy walls and roof beams to allow for a future two additional classrooms to be built above.  A wooden floor as added in 1998 [?]  The Small Hall was the only available large space for plays and meetings, with the last Class 9 Shakespeare play performed on its stage in 2006.  The Small Hall is currently used mostly for Eurythmy lessons.

The Big Hall: The Small Hall was always a tight squeeze! A new multi-purpose hall was designed by parent Wilfried Bohm and given the go-ahead in 2004. His brilliant design allowed for a large volume sports hall to also be used as an auditorium with a large stage and — for the first time — enough space for the entire community to gather under one roof. Site work began in 2005, the Foundation Stone was laid on Founders’ Day 2006, and the hall was brought into use by the end of that year.

The Centre for Creative Education (CCE) started, hosted and supported by Michael Oak for 2 years, using the high school classrooms after hours. Founder trainers were MO teachers Peter and Catherine van Alphen, Birgit Bernatzeder, Batya Daitz.  The CCE later moved to its own premises in Victoria Road, Plumstead, and is currently the only Waldorf teacher training centre in Africa, offering degree and diploma courses.

Khanyisa School for Supportive Education — arose out of the initiative of Judy Peel, a Michael Oak parent. Khanyisa is Currently situated on the CCE property in Plumstead.

Late 1960s: The Arrow  a collection of Main Lesson [History and English articles] written by the children, for the parents.

1970s:  Acorns, a magazine format collection of stories, poems and artwork — won second prize in a nationwide competition.

1974:  Oak Leaves — started by Marion Penfold. A quarterly publication containing news, articles, artwork from various sources.  

1982:  The Leaflet — a weekly newsletter which was first roneo-printed and handed out to all families; later an email only version up to the present day. 

1984:  Root and Shoot — a handbook for parents comprising a collection of articles from Oak Leaves.

1988-1992  Development News — a quarterly news and information sheet sent to donors and potential funders.    [ see extract on page 66 ]

Website:  First design (by parent Gonzalo Aguilar) released in early 2000s.  A modernised version (by parent Peter Digby) released in 2011. Latest version (by parents Rudi and Carla Roux) went live in mid-2022.

“Receive the children in reverence, educate them in love, and send them forth in freedom.”

Rudolf Steiner
Founder, Waldorf School movement

“For every one step that you take in the pursuit of higher knowledge, take three steps in the perfection of your own character.”

Rudolf Steiner
Founder, Waldorf School movement

“Activities demanding manual and bodily skill, such as knitting, leads to the enhancement of the faculty of judgement.”

Rudolf Steiner
Founder, Waldorf School movement
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