The DFES studies Steiner Schools

The first state funded report on Steiner education was published today. Written by UWE‘s Philip Woods it encourages the sharing of ideas between Steiner schools and mainstream education.

Steiner schools teach project blocks (“main lessons”) such as farming, building, or ancient Greece and to motivate learning geography, history, maths and English. Academic subjects are studied in the morning when the brain is most effective, and sports or crafts in the afternoon. State schools teach discrete subject content specified nationally in a document that makes little reference to developing the “whole child”, and would benefit from a more holistic approach. Too much emphasis on skills and tests and spoon fed content can marginalise the development of a desire for knowledge. Steiner schools, as the report says, could benefit from better management and teacher training.

Unfortunately Steiner schools have maintained a purist attitude to anthroposophy, the spiritual philosophy of Rudolf Steiner. Steiner was a prolific author with an interest in mysticism and the occult. He believed himself to be a psychic. So it’s often the anthroposophy that alienates people: many parents don’t want their children taught by teachers whose training includes reincarnation and karma. Yet where some of the ideas are sound, must they be shrouded in a cosmic mist? Anthroposophists do themselves little favour (and earn enemies) when they refuse to engage with those of a more sceptical bent.

There’s a new state funded Steiner City Academy being built in Gloucestershire. When I’ve talked to those involved in Steiner schools they’ve been concerned that the anthroposophical underpinning might be diluted. Perhaps a school which “compromises” on Steiner’s principles won’t be a Steiner school as far as they are concerned. For the rest of us, simply because some of Steiner’s ideas are unacceptable, we shouldn’t ignore this well developed alternative educational system. The result may be a distinct new school system. Good. The report is overdue.

About Simon Wood

E-learning officer, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

13 thoughts on “The DFES studies Steiner Schools

  1. tarbaby…you disappoint me…no respect.

    As for Steiner schools, if they are based on the philosophies of a psychic and these skills remain vital in the staff today why are they concerned that ‘anthroposophical underpinning might be diluted’ – surely they should know one way or another!

  2. tarbaby…you disappoint me…no respect.

    As for Steiner schools, if they are based on the philosophies of a psychic and these skills remain vital in the staff today why are they concerned that ‘anthroposophical underpinning might be diluted’ – surely they should know one way or another!

  3. Good point, marcusortense. Personally, I’m against Steiner schools until they stop being populated by the children of muesli-belters in badly knitted multi-coloured clothes.

    In the scheme of things however, I doubt they do as much harm as creationist schools.

    On the whole though, I’d like to know what Richard Whiteley’s view was on them. He was right about everything.

  4. Good point, marcusortense. Personally, I’m against Steiner schools until they stop being populated by the children of muesli-belters in badly knitted multi-coloured clothes.

    In the scheme of things however, I doubt they do as much harm as creationist schools.

    On the whole though, I’d like to know what Richard Whiteley’s view was on them. He was right about everything.

  5. Ah albeitphonetic, I sense a likeminded individual. Richard whitely thought steiner schools were ‘amhtsinu pypih sheolv orf sreithec’ Quite a complex conundrum! One clue….alliteration.

  6. Ah albeitphonetic, I sense a likeminded individual. Richard whitely thought steiner schools were ‘amhtsinu pypih sheolv orf sreithec’ Quite a complex conundrum! One clue….alliteration.

  7. Tar baby, Steiner schools discourage students watching TV. Steiner teachers believe developing youngsters should be engaging in physical activity and social interaction instead. You may not agree with it, I think it makes good sense. However, it’s hard to bring myself to support many of the anthroposophists for whom this is the cornerstone of a more general anti-science anti-technology bias.

    Marcusortense, I think you’re mistaking psychics with clairvoyants. Although in fact anyone who can actually read the akashic records would, in effect, be clairvoyant.

    Albeitphonetic, I take exception to your implication that my parents’ multi-coloured clothes are badly knitted. However, the City Academy project is significant precisely because it might see Steiner schools moving out of the museli belt.

  8. Tar baby, Steiner schools discourage students watching TV. Steiner teachers believe developing youngsters should be engaging in physical activity and social interaction instead. You may not agree with it, I think it makes good sense. However, it’s hard to bring myself to support many of the anthroposophists for whom this is the cornerstone of a more general anti-science anti-technology bias.

    Marcusortense, I think you’re mistaking psychics with clairvoyants. Although in fact anyone who can actually read the akashic records would, in effect, be clairvoyant.

    Albeitphonetic, I take exception to your implication that my parents’ multi-coloured clothes are badly knitted. However, the City Academy project is significant precisely because it might see Steiner schools moving out of the museli belt.

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