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Interview with Mike Tuckwell

Interview with Mike Tuckwell
27th March 2023

In one of a series of interviews that are being conducted and recorded to mark the 25th anniversary of The Alice Springs Steiner School, parent and former chairman Mike Tuckwell reflected on the importance of community in building and maintaining the strength of the school. This is an edited excerpt from that interview:

I think kids seeing their parents, or the parent body, investing time into making a school is really, really important, rather than (seeing it as) a purchased commodity. You know, there's a financial transaction in all these services that schools, businesses and organisations provide, but I think the voluntary and community aspect to what the school tries to do and maintain is important. It isn't a big school, but even if it were twice the size. I think the intent would still be to have that sense of community.

There has been a lot of debate or conversation over the years around that. We live in changing times. Households have less free time to put in towards voluntary activities that the school and other organisations have relied on in the past. And how do we deal with that? Do we try to just commoditise it? How do we get people to invest and contribute to the school more? I don't think there's a single fixed answer that will last forever, but I think continuing to promote the importance of parents having a role in making their school work is an important part of what the school is about.

One of the things that I've always liked about the Steiner history and philosophy is the idea that it was never intended as a separate schooling system; it was intended to be an approach to education that was melded into mainstream schooling. And that's not what's happened, for various social and political reasons.... There's nothing lefty or crazy about what Steiner was about, nor what the Steiner system is trying to promote around Australia. 

It is a solid education based on a sensitised approach and understanding of child development, that tries to encourage the involvement of all the child's ecosystems: their parents, their friends, the community — all becoming part of that educational process. And I think that's important. It's not something you just go and buy from a shop. You know, that's not what education is about.