AN alternative school based in Ringwood is to open to sixth form students for the first time.

Ringwood Waldorf School, a centre of Steiner teaching, has won a planning appeal which will allow it to educate young people up to the age of 18 in a two-storey extension.

The extension will house four classrooms, a science lab, music, art and staff rooms, as well as library space.

The decision follows a lengthy planning process with East Dorset District Council and enables the creation of an Upper School dedicated to children aged 14 to 18.

Until now, educational provision at the 41-year-old school in Folly Farm Lane, Ashley, has ended at the age of 16 in most cases.

The new building will also help the school community make better use of existing accommodation for lower and middle school pupils on the campus, according to Elaine Holt, Chair of College at the school.

She said: “This is a landmark decision that gives us the chance to secure the long-term future of the school in terms of facilities for 14 to 18-year-olds.

“It is wonderful news for the increasing numbers of families who want their children to complete the Steiner education they first began as three-year-olds in our kindergartens.

“We knew we needed to extend our accommodation to enable this to happen and we’re thrilled to have secured the official permission to take our plans forward.”

Parents, teachers and friends of the school launched a £350,000 fundraising appeal in support of the Upper School plans in 2010.

The school, founded in 1974, is one of 33 Steiner Waldorf schools in the UK and Ireland. he Steiner Waldorf curriculum is designed to work in harmony with the different phases of each child's development, balancing their physical, emotional, intellectual, cultural and spiritual needs.

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