Steiner School approved in the latest batch

Matthew Pearson's picture
I blogged about this exploring the contradictions in free schools policy and how strictures applied to teaching in state schools appear to be ignored in some Free Schools.

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Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 11/10/2011 - 11:47

Jane Eades's picture
Tue, 11/10/2011 - 21:29

Under the old regime, Steiner managed to turn one of its schools into an academy, thus receiving state funding. It was one of 6 private schools which managed to convert, even before the new programme.

Rather defeats the argument that the previous converters were "failing" schools.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 12/10/2011 - 11:19

The Steiner Academy in Hereford (ages 3-16) was established from an existing independent Steiner school in 2008. It is managed by its sponsors: the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship.

Ofsted (June 2011) said that attainment in reading at ages 6 and 11 was well below the national expectation. According to data put forward by the Academy itself the pupils’ attainment “compares well with the nationally expected levels in English and mathematics” at age 14. Attainment in GCSE English and Maths is above average, although Ofsted warned that learning and progress vary across subjects and classes for ages 7 – 16.

The GCSE (2010) results for Maths and English may have been above average (80% gaining A*-C in both English and Maths against a national average of 54%), and 75% gaining the national average of 5 or more A*-C or equivalent, but the results for Science and modern foreign languages were woeful. 0% gained GCSE A*-C or equivalent in these subjects. It was negligent of Ofsted not to mention these subjects at all in its report. The average total points score for pupil was a low 262 against a national average of 439 and a local authority average of 462. Even the Marlowe Academy in Kent, a creamed secondary modern working under difficult conditions where the pupils only gained 14% GCSEs A*-C in 2010, managed an average total points score for pupil of 320.

Ofsted attributed the low performance in reading at ages 6 and 11 to the Steiner Curriculum. The academy has permission through its Funding Agreement to offer the Steiner Curriculum in place of the National Curriculum. This must raise concerns about standards in the Steiner free primary school which will, no doubt, have a similar funding agreement. The DfE should not be spending tax payers’ money on any school likely to leave pupils ill-prepared for the next stage in their education.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 12/10/2011 - 13:32

This Steiner school looks awesome.....
but then it has 8 students to one ludicrously gifted teacher. Can't see how it would translate effectively to 30 students and an average teacher.

I've seen many schools distill elements of Steiner education which they feel will enhance what they already to with wonderful impact. Extended topic teaching from the Steiner approach is at the heart of Scottish primary education. But it seems to me that mass education should be able to respond to its environment and adopt aspects of different approaches depending on its aims and the perceived needs of its students.

To predetermine in detail so many details of mass education and to force staff to stick to that no matter what does not seem wise.

Ian Taylor's picture
Wed, 12/10/2011 - 14:37

I do not think the average person has any idea about what is behind Steiner education. You can Google for information and you will find strong views.
Surely we should not be using state funds to run schools based on unscientific cults. To allow Steiner schools paid for by the state gives them an undeserved stamp of credibility. It seems to me that Steiner had views close to those of Adolf Hitler, and a range of other crackpot ideas not based on any evidence. Young minds are not able to separate fact from fiction. Would parents want to send their children to an Adolf Hitler School?
Having state funded Free Steiner Schools is a national disgrace.

Sarah Smith's picture
Sun, 18/03/2012 - 18:08

You obviously no nothing about Waldorf education you ignorance is embarrassing!

MarkH's picture
Wed, 12/10/2011 - 20:44

Great article, Matthew.

I was pleased to hear the new shadow education minister call for evidence based scrutiny of whether our new free schools will lead to a rise in standards and naturally, for Mr. Gove to agree with him. I fear that Frome Steiner Academy, like its counterpart in Hereford, will struggle on that front.

The problem, of course, is that they're lumbered with the spiritual baggage of Anthroposophy, the awkward elephant in the room of Steiner education.

Ronald Koetzsch, Dean of Rudolf Steiner College in the US is refreshingly and unusually candid:

Parents of Frome, do your homework!

Esther Fidler's picture
Wed, 12/10/2011 - 22:57

Ludicrously gifted teacher? Were you watching the same video as I?
What I saw was a fail. No learning took place during that time, the children were copying banal pictures from the board and copying a sentence. This may be acceptable in year one but to children of this age? Come on.
I was ashamed to call this person a teacher, monotone, dreary, I need to go on? This lesson was a definite ofsted fail based on their criteria, the children did not question anything, there was no free thought or discussion and it was clear that what they were being talked to about (I cannot even bring myself to say 'Taught') they already knew, it was like a verbal test.
What a crock.

Esther Fidler's picture
Wed, 12/10/2011 - 23:19

We also have loads of flexibility within the National Curriculum, which if you read it is short and skills based. The topics I teach are my own choice and fully embedded within all subjects, purposeful and creative. Most primary schools teach in this way, and it is NOTHING TO DO WITH STEINER, in fact most primary teachers aren't even aware of what Steiner schooling is.
Steiner schooling is based on the occult visions of one man, anthroposophy is a cult, and their education system is very poor.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 13/10/2011 - 06:29

perhaps extremely bright individual rather than gifted teacher then. :-)

There's a great deal to be said for students of this age working on extended topics for a couple of weeks which transcend all subjects. If you don't see that I guess you don't have children on the mainstream autistic spectrum who struggle to change tasks as so many young children are and do.

Disciplined literacy and numeracy are also needed.
Here's some of my insights into how curriculum centred and constructivist approaches can be combined using facilitative technology.

Just as it is inappropriate to buy into a detailed system wholesale and shut down your ability to develop what you do using other approaches, so it is inappropriate to completely write off everything about a system.

Esther Fidler's picture
Thu, 13/10/2011 - 10:54

' The topics I teach are my own choice and fully embedded within all subjects, purposeful and creative. Most primary schools teach in this way'
Perhaps you should have read this more carefully before adding your second comment.
As for '...I guess you don't have children on the mainstream autistic spectrum....' Actually, I don't take too kindly to being patronised. As I teach in a fully embedded way (yes, this means topics, as mentioned before) I am fully inclusive of the autistic children within my class.
Perhaps you should read some of the works of Steiner where he states that a 'special need' is a result of bad karma. According to him, for your child to be autistic in the first place he must have not been too good in his/her past life.
I would like to politely suggest that you read comments carefully and look beyond the fluff of steiner into the actual beliefs of this system, they are decidedly dodgy, particularly towards special needs children.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 13/10/2011 - 11:18

When I select my childrens' schools and teachers, I am actually more interested in the personal emotional intelligence of the teachers and their overall intellect than the details of how they teach.

The latter is, of course, important but for me it is mainly about ensuring unacceptable practice is eliminated and of course the propagation of views which are descriminatory would fall into that category.

I'm a little puzzled Esther, because my contribution to this thread started with the link to the documentary about Australian State School Steiner schools which is critical of them in a way which beautifully illustrates some of the salient issues.

I then went on to provide some balance by suggesting that in a private school with classes of 8 students may get a very good education within that system. Personally I would be perfectly happy for my children to go to a school like that because I would feel sufficiently confident myself to assess the teachers and judge whether they were suitable to so strongly influence my children and of course, with it being a private school, I would have the power to remove them if I judged it not to be.

I commented that I felt that this would not translate well into state education but that I found some aspects of what I saw in the video well conceived.

Have you children of your own on the mainstream autistic spectrum Esther? Having been a parent and teacher of them the experience of being a parent for me is very different and, at least for me, transformational compared with teaching them. It's been interesting to see how much my son has benefitted from the aspects of Montessori education which were incorporated into his foundation stage curriculum because I deeply understand how much he struggled to change task and with simple issues of self management and socialisation and have seen the benefits. Our other children are so different and would have thrived in the school down the road which is an Ofsted 1 across the board school. But he, and several others in his class who failed at other schools (including the one down the road) have absolutly thrived under his curriculum, which has developed over the last 30 years under consistent management by deeply analysing alternative perspectives and assimilating the aspects of them which they feel will complement what they already offer.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 13/10/2011 - 21:13

Sorry Esther - I should have made it clear I'm not patronising you. I was asking if you had a kid like that just as a marker for how to pitch explanations. I don't know you and in mass online discussion it's so hard to know how to pitch your comments.

I chat mainly on linkedin because you can immediately see people's careers which helps so much!

Sorry for any offence caused.

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