Far away on the other side of the world, in a small country called New Zealand, something is happening which should give pause to all those people keen to have Steiner schools publicly funded in the UK.
Back in 2009, the Titirangi Rudolf Steiner School, a small school in West Auckland, but also the headquarters of that country's Steiner Federation, expelled an entire family because their eldest daughter was being bullied.
Sadly, this was a private school and in New Zealand, there are no provisions in law to safeguard children's welfare in those establishments. The Law Commission tried in implement some in late 2009, but after a year going back and forth in committee, that proposal was shot down.
This means a private school can pretty much do whatever it likes, like expelling a child without warning, reason given or right of appeal, from one day to the next, even on the very day that her parents were supposed to have a meeting with that school, with trustees, teachers and management to find a solution to the bullying.
Unfortunately for that school though, New Zealand signed up to the Human Rights Act, and there's a law there that states that you can't discriminate against someone just because they're related to someone else - it's called Family Status Discrimination. In the case of the school, they kept saying that they had no problem with the children - just the parents. Their crime? Following school policy and asking management to put a stop to the rampant bullying. So everyone was expelled, even that child's two younger sisters who were perfectly happy there, one of whom just had a birthday party organised by the school a couple of weeks prior.
Because of the family status discrimination, the Human Rights Commission offered to mediate between the school and the parents in an attempt to reach a resolution. This was last year and the school refused, stating that they had not broken any law.
Unfortunately, that wasn't how the Director of the Human Rights Tribunal saw it. Looking at the case, he said that the parents had a "prima facie claim" and urged the school to reconsider mediation. If they wouldn't the Director will then decide whether or not to proceed with legal action.
Suffice it to say that this time, the school agreed and mediation will take place shortly. To our knowledge this is the first time ever that a Steiner school has accepted to attend mediation hosted by the Human Rights.
But with more and more free schools getting public funding and so many Steiner schools[in England] with the same "special character" holding their hands out, we should really ask ourselves if any school looking for public funding should be allowed to "discriminate". Is this the kind of school that we want our hard earned public money to go to?