Steiner in Suffolk?
Successive UK governments have been mucking about with our education system for decades, but it seems to have been almost completely dismantled the previous Labour government, which introduced specialist schools,and academies, and the current government. The comprehensive system may not have been popular with everyone, but it was possible to fix it without destroying it in the process. Nowadays, the emphasis is on parental choice, which usually means that those who shout loudest get the most and their choices aren’t necessarily informed.
The Conservative’s Secretary of State for Education, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, who’s never been short of an opinion or invitations to appear on the telly, has a thing about “free schools”; schools free to more or less do what they like, at taxpayers’ expense. Toby Young, also famous for being famous, is their champion, which ought to be enough to make most people think twice, if not several times, about the soundness of the concept. The Free School movement originated in Sweden, where it hasn’t been the huge success that its enthusiasts would like us to think it is. The main beneficiaries seem to be children from more privileged backgrounds, who have all the advantages anyway. In the UK, the idea has been seized upon by religious organisations, so there’s concern about what children will be taught and about children being segregated by religion, at public expense.
Now a group of parents and teachers want to open a free school in Suffolk based on the principles of Rudolph Steiner, the Fullfledge Ecology School. There’s more about the people behind the idea in the East Anglian Daily Times. Steiner invented “Anthroposophy”, which he defined as “a path of knowledge, to guide the Spiritual in the human being to the Spiritual in the universe.” Steiner has had a cult following for years. David Colquhoun, FRS, the British pharmacologist at University College London, has a blog called “DC’s Improbable Science”, where he attacks pseudo-science, nonsense and general quackery. His posts on Steiner Waldorf schools explain why they shouldn’t be publicly funded, and why all sensible parents should steer well clear of them.
Gove and the DfES are being lobbied to rethink their attitude to funding Steiner schools, and to tighten up their criteria for funding in general.