Letter from Camphill

Christmas 2016

Dear parents and friends,

As a prologue to this letter I would like to acknowledge the death on Saturday 15th October of one of our elders, Gerda Holbek, who lived in Fedelma on Murtle Estate. She was without doubt a very important member of the Camphill School community and is sorely missed. On Thursday 20th we came together with her five children, many grandchildren and other family members to celebrate her life at her funeral and then at an evening of remembrance.

Gerda came to Camphill from Germany in 1950, having experienced Steiner Education initially in the Dresden Waldorf School until it was closed down by the Nazi regime in 1941 and then in post-war Stuttgart at the first Waldorf school. While her late husband, Jens Holbek, joined the very first Camphill seminar, Gerda was in the second cohort of students. By convoluted paths they both found themselves in Thornbury, where they married and their five children were born, before returning to Camphill School in 1970, where they remained for the duration, mostly remembered for their many years of house parenting in Camphill Cottage and then St Ternan’s.

On Wednesday 30th November, the first apple tree was planted by Class 11 in the new orchard that is being created in memory of Gerda.


The fourth Advent Sunday has passed and as we approach the last days before Christmas, Camphill life is and has been full of celebrations - Advent sales, plays, school endings, the visit of St Nicholas, puppet shows, fund raising and much more; hardly time to catch one’s breath, but it is what makes this time of the year so special.

During November, Education Scotland returned for a second visit following the inspection a year ago. The verbal feedback was that we are on the right track and that they have seen the progress made in relation to the recommendations from a year ago. The report is due for publication in January. I would like to acknowledge the huge amount of work undertaken by Helen Willey in her role as Head of Education and the team of teachers, their helpers and everyone else involved since the inspection a year ago, in their combined effort to develop Camphill School Aberdeen into a school of excellence.

Since my last letter we have appointed an interim land manager, George Philip, who has replaced Fred Halder who has run the farm for over 35 years to well past his retirement date! Notwithstanding this, he has now retired and our sincere thanks go to him for his dedication to all things connected to the land in particular in relation to Murtle Farm and Estate. The biodynamic cattle he has bred and the succulent meat produced from them has been second to none. Meanwhile the farm is being gradually transformed into a care farm with emphasis on both production and participation, offering increased work placements for our young people as well as increased leisure possibilities as pathways are opened up and new animals appear; pigs have arrived and chickens and goats are on the way.

During the winter break a year ago the farmland by the River Dee was subject to terrible flooding which destroyed the river dyke and hence both the indoor and outdoor riding arenas. Since then the dyke has been repaired, the field replenished with top soil and most recently the indoor arena made ready so we can again offer equine-assisted therapy.

During this past term there have been conversations in the management team, community and Board of Trustees about changes to the management team and its structure, and this letter offers me the opportunity to share these with you. On 3rd February, Vincent D’Agostino who is currently Deputy Executive Director for operational services, will retire. His duties will be carried by the management team more broadly with Mark Greig taking on more responsibility for both facility management as well as health and safety. Vincent has been in management roles in Camphill School for more than 20 years and I would like to put on record our thanks for the contribution he has made to this area of our work; we wish him well in his retirement. Lorraine Smith’s job title has changed from Welfare Manager to Human Resources Manager, which includes the training and development remit. She will be assisted in this by having full-time admin support when Donna, who is currently our receptionist, moves into this new role. We are currently recruiting a term-time, 9 am to 2 pm replacement receptionist.

Following a Student Council initiative, we now have a Fair Trade Group and are in the process of becoming a Fair Trade School. At the time of writing, the students have almost completed the ’90 kg Challenge’ for the second time - selling 90 kg of fairly traded rice to support communities in Malawi. Meanwhile, several groups are involved with Eco School work.

The school has been busy working with Gayle Johnston, the Camphill Estates’ fund raiser and this term the John Lewis Foundation has awarded Camphill School a very generous Christmas present - store credit worth £10,000 for furniture for Cairnlee House. Indeed, December 2016 has been an amazing month for Cairnlee House - £20,000 has been secured! In addition, we have received £8,000 for a new greenhouse from Tesco via their Tesco Bags of Help scheme and the Aberdeen University Students’ Charities Campaign will attempt to raise £2,000 for sofas – our thanks to all three donors.

With this, may I thank you for your support with the Tesco Bags of Help scheme and for your replies to the Education Scotland questionnaire, and wish you all the best for Christmas and the New Year.

Laurence Alfred
Executive Director