Our Mission

We at Banbury Crossroads treasure children as respected individuals and meet their diverse needs within a safe, familial setting. We are passionately committed to incorporating innovative educational methods that foster intrinsic motivation, learning to mastery, self-responsibility, and social competence. Banbury Crossroads is a Self-Directed Learning School (SDL). We are a member of the Canadian Coalition for Self-Directed Learning, of which there are 8 schools across Canada. Being self-directed, Banbury Crossroads is the embodiment of certain philosophical beliefs and practices.  

Banbury students on a field trip to Nose Hill posing for a picture by raising their arms
Banbury students take a break sitting on a rock during a hike along heart creek in the rockies

Our Vision

The students of Banbury will be self-motivated, intellectual achievers with a strong sense of self. Their empathetic, unwavering spirit will allow them to confidently embrace the challenges and opportunities encountered throughout life, ultimately to become compassionate, resilient, and authentic leaders.

Director's Message

Banbury is devoted to harmonious living. Harmony is an elixir of life, a catalyst for inspiration, an aid for accomplishment, a spur for aesthetic and emotional delight, and a precursor for positive human connection.

This does not mean that our atmosphere is always harmonious, or that we would even expect that. No social setting is static. I can’t actually see how it would even be possible to maintain a harmonious stasis, because social relationships are fluid, changing constantly as each individual’s feelings, perceptions, and actions impinge upon the experience of others, in a fascinatingly complicated ripple effect. Any social environment is being created moment by moment. Any life within that social environment is like a unique tapestry that includes not only its joyful, hopeful or serene parts, but also its challenges, difficulties, and dark patches. We need to embrace this richness that life offers, for we learn and grow through every experience.

Nevertheless, Banbury’s culture is based on the concept of mutual respect, so our predominant effort is to create a positive, nurturing, and peaceful learning milieu. Although we know that we are not able to achieve constant harmony, we do need it whenever we can get it. It helps us to clear our minds so that we can get about our business each day. So, our devotion to harmony is partly that we desire and cherish it as a necessary condition for appreciative living and learning, and that we are willing to sacrifice whatever effort it takes to promote it. We at Banbury know that learning is much more efficient, and retains a positive emotional association when people learn without fear and anxiety—when learners can concentrate in a state of relaxation. Indeed, that is the basic value underlying our provision of a peaceable and relaxed atmosphere here. When people feel generally comfortable—when there is mutual understanding and respect between the people they deal with, when they are able to solve conflicts, when they are engaged with their activities and pursuing knowledge about topics they find meaningful when they can see their skills developing, and when they feel accepted as a unique person—then they are much more likely to have goodwill towards others. We are devoted to creating the conditions that promote empathy so that people can get along with others in the first place.

Diane Swiatek

our philosophy & practises
Flow Chart

Benefits for student life

At Banbury Crossroads, one of our major goals is to elicit autonomous and self-accountable behaviour from our students. We have set up a self-directed learning (SDL) environment in order to do this. In practice, this means that all individual students participate in SDL to the utmost of their capability. Some students, both young and old, are self-directed when they enter the school. Others have lost that ability through previous educational experiences, and need to retrieve it. This means that all of our students are at varying places on the continuum of SDL. Our intention is to help each one of them to progress through the stages until they are fully self-directed. At that point, they will demonstrate the initiative and self-responsibility to exhibit all of the following characteristics. We monitor their progress along the continuum throughout their time at Banbury Crossroads.

Learning is an inevitable consequence of the human condition. We are born with innate curiosity, which is the manifestation of our intrinsic motivation to learn how to master our environment. Without it, we would not survive. We are also social beings, and we learn from each other. In centuries past, learning for the common person was essentially a family or village affair. Children learned by watching and doing, under the tutelage of persons who cared about them and about the product of their labor. Education for the masses in the western world came about during the mid-1850s, when the government acts such as the Factory Act in England, made education for all children mandatory. This happened at a time when youths, living in towns and cities rather than on farms, and being neither babes in arms, nor old enough to work in the factories, had nothing useful to do. Also, factory owners had come to realize that it would be helpful to have semi-literate workers in their factories, and that training the children of their workers would accomplish that aim. And so, the public school system was founded upon principles conducive to the work done in factories. Teachers behaved as bosses; punctuality and conformity were honored; instruction focused upon a curriculum that was utilitarian and respectful of the past, and problem-solving focused on specific tasks assigned to individual students. This was a stroke of genius by the factory owners, as the students who graduated from this system were particularly trained for factory life. However, many of the criticisms that have been leveled at our current system of schooling over the past fifty years derive from the basic structure it inherited from those old days. Primary among modern concerns is the recognition that the conformity-seeking factory approach struggles with the modern mandate of meeting the needs of individuals. In addition, it does not promote creative or big-picture thinking. A third concern is that it leads to a competitive struggle for recognition and acknowledgment by the teacher and peer group, which both eats away at individual self-esteem and prevents true cooperative behavior. 

Our society has chosen certain ideals to pursue in its establishment of schools. We may think of these as the ideologies of education concepts that we honor because we assume they are accurate and inspirational descriptors of the world. The significance of these values is that they predict and color what we will see around us. In effect, we see what we believe. Moreover, our beliefs drive the practical machinery that puts schools in place, and they dictate how we solve the problems that subsequently arise in the systems we create. Since we tend to assume that these ideologies are true and that their practical manifestations are reasonable, it is difficult to objectively assess them. However, when signals of undeniable dissatisfaction start arising, we may find it wise to reexamine our basic premises. So, in order to change schools, we must first scrutinize and revise the ideals that drove the process that created them. 

Our History

Our first school

Banbury Crossroads School Society was incorporated as a registered, non-profit organization on October 4th, 1979. This formed a legal support vehicle for the establishment and future support of the school. Shortly after this, on September 11, 1980, Asilat Learning Systems Ltd. was incorporated, with Diane Cummings (later Swiatek) the only shareholder, to provide a practical vehicle for operating the school.

The school opened its doors on November 1, 1979, in the Banbury of the Principal, Diane Cummings. It began with two students in the building above. As the number of students grew, the location changed to accommodate the increase. When the student enrolment reached twelve, residential accommodation was abandoned for rented classrooms in public schools. For two years, such space was sub-leased from another private school, using the old Balmoral Cottage School, and then the Bridgeland School.

Discovering the inflexibility of classroom space, the school ventured upon commercial space, first in the Mayland Office Park, then in the Calgary Union Building. The following five years were spent in another commercial building around the corner, and just north of Rouleauville Park. In this location, we were able to design a space with many small rooms. We outgrew this space, however, and in August of 1997, we moved into Plaza 14, at 807 – 14th Street N.W., Calgary, Alberta.

In Fall of 2005 we acquired a new location at #201 – 2451 Dieppe Avenue S.W. This is our finest location yet, and we are very pleased to be here.

Policies & documents

Our Alumni