Sean took a risk in 1987 and opened Sands School which is run on a new set of principles – those of ‘democratic education’. Rules are decided collectively, there is no uniform, all the staff are paid the same, and everyone is on first-name terms. No adult has a power of veto, and everyone participates in running the school and doing chores.
Sean’s teaching approach follows a concept he calls ‘aesthetic learning’. Based on relationships, confidence and trust, he builds learning around an emotional connection to the material using debate, questioning and a range of media. His overall goal is to get his students to think, so they can understand themselves and be creative, empathic and critical. Democratic education entails that students learn in and outside the classroom about what it means to be a global citizen and the responsibilities we have toward one another.
In 2016, Sean was nominated as one of the top 50 teachers in the world by the Varkey Foundation.