Tagged: Steiner

Latest news on the proposed Steiner and Maharishi free schools in Suffolk

Plans to open a Steiner free school in Suffolk are still being made by the people behind the Fullfledge Ecology School. The East Anglian Daily Times reports:

The Fullfledge Ecology School curriculum would incorporate aspects of the Steiner approach, which is already practised at state-funded schools in other countries like America, Canada and Australia, but bidders say it would not be designated a “Steiner School”.

The same news story mentions that plans for another free school from the Maharishi Free School Trust are also being re-submitted to the DfE.

Last year, the BHA was a signatory to a letter in the Guardian on Steiner schools, Anthroposophy, and Maharishi schools. BHA Education campaigner Richy Thompson explained,

Anthroposophists believe that they have an objective, scientific way in to the so called “spiritual” world. Children with their innocent sense of wonder are particularly well connected to the “spiritual” world, and the motivation for Steiner schools is to nurture this connection. The reason that SWSF schools do not teach children to read and write before the age of 6/7, or use computers before 13, is because anthroposophists believe that to do so damages this connection by quashing this naivety and playfulness. In reality, all it does is damage children’s education.

For more information about Steiner schools, type “Steiner” in our search box.

State-funded Steiner school opens in Frome – plans for a Suffolk Steiner school

Waldorf gnomesI think it’s fair to say that the British Humanist Association was a little slow to wake up to the threat of Steiner schools, while they concentrated their efforts on campaigning against more conventional faith schools. Since the Steiner philosophy is so woolly and many parents are fooled into thinking that it all sounds lovely, few others saw them as threat either. If parents want to send their kids to Steiner schools, where they’ll learn to be at one with Nature, why should we care? We should care because these schools are taking advantage of Education Secretary Michael Gove’s enthusiasm for free schools, a policy that has many critics, to claim public funds to run schools based on the teachings of a cult. For more information, use our search box (right) to see previous posts, including one I posted in July last year, which contains a link to our supporter Esther Fidler’s blog post on “anthroposophical education”.

The people behind the proposed Fullfledge Ecology School still hope to open their school in September next year, in the Woodbridge area. They say, “Our proposal has passed the first stage of approval and we are now on the second stage, which is an interview with the DFE. We are preparing for this now. Five members of the project team will represent Fullfledge Ecology School at the interview. The DFE will inform us ‘in the summer’ whether we have the final go ahead to start the school in September 2013.” Under the regulations on free schools, they are supposed to demonstrate that another school is needed in the area (that local schools are over-subscribed), but other free schools seem to have got round this requirement.

BHA co-signs anti-Steiner letter to the Observer

The British Humanist Association‘s Head of Public Affairs, Pavan Dhaliwal, signed a letter to the Observer on behalf of the association opposing Maharishi and Steiner free schools. The letter was also signed by Melanie Byng, campaigner against Steiner free schools, who wrote a post about them on this website.

The letter begins:

Since the formation of the coalition, a lot of public concern has been expressed over the potential establishment of creationist Free Schools. This concern resulted in the Government changing the rules for Free Schools to prevent them from teaching pseudoscience (Richard Dawkins celebrates a victory over creationists, 15 January 2012).

However, not enough attention has been paid to what we believe to be two equally grave threats to science education, namely Maharishi and Steiner schools. Maharishi schools follow the educational methods of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, guru of the Transcendental Meditation movement, while Steiner education is based on an esoteric/occultist movement called Anthroposophy, founded by Austrian mystic Rudolf Steiner (Holistic unit will ‘tarnish’ Aberdeen University reputation, 29 April 2012).

The proposed Fullfledge school – Steiner, or not?

A guest post from Melanie Byng, aka @ThetisMercurio on Twitter:

Looking at the Fullfledge Ecology School site I see that: ‘Our teachers will be creative, dedicated and both Steiner and State qualified‘.

There is no reason for Fullfledge teachers to be trained as Steiner teachers – unless Fullfledge is to be a Steiner Waldorf school. Steiner teacher training courses are based on Rudolf Steiner’s religion/belief system, anthroposophy. Here is another example, this time from the UK: The London Waldorf Seminar – Steiner education teacher training.

Does Fullfledge intend to create its own Steiner teacher training course, without the anthroposophy which underpins the entire education system? If so, what exactly would be left? If teachers at Fullfledge are trained on Steiner teacher training courses as they exist now, surely prospective parents should be informed about anthroposophy – especially as Fullfledge is already (in our opinion) describing itself dishonestly as not-a-Steiner school. This lack of honesty, however well-meaning some involved may be, will only make things more bewildering when life at the school goes wrong for staff or families.

As Esther Fidler commented in her post at UK Anthroposophy (and note that Ewout Van-Manen is still listed on the Fullfledge site as one of those responsible for ‘Vision and Curriculum’, as a Director of School Development at Greenwich Steiner School and – perhaps surprisingly – as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts):

In my opinion, the only thing setting Fullfledge apart from a regular Steiner school is that the initiative is not a member of the UK Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (SWSF), a prerequisite for including Steiner in a school’s name. Van-Manen said that many parents felt secure with the Steiner curriculum but that SWSF schools have become ‘associated with dogma’ with which Fullfledge did not wish to be associated, as (he said) “Most of the things you read on the internet about Steiner schools are true”.

Steiner education: a parent’s testimony

More on Steiner schools (see last post), and how they might appear child-centred and cuddly, while hiding their true objectives. A comment has appeared on Alicia Hamburg’s blog from the parent of a child who attended the Leeds Steiner kindergarten. He or she wrote:

It is imperative now that the very highest education authorities intervene here, and under no uncertain terms ensure that all Steiner establishments publish full and precise disclosure of their beliefs and intentions. It is paramount that the uninformed and unsuspecting are given protection. Personally, we count ourselves among the lucky ones. The number of victims this cover-up has claimed over the past 90-odd years of Steiner schooling doesn’t bear thinking about, but in these times of the nanny-state, litigation, think-tanks and watch-dogs, it is almost inconceivable that this problem can still exist.

You should read the whole post and all the comments. If you don’t know what anthroposophy is, click here to find out what Steiner Waldorf teachers learn at college.

Steiner Free School in Suffolk one step closer

The people behind the Fullfledge Ecology School, a Steiner school planned for the Woodbridge area, report:

Our proposal has passed the first stage of approval and we are now on the second stage, which is an interview with the DFE. We are preparing for this now.

Five members of the project team will represent Fullfledge Ecology School at the interview.

The DFE will inform us ‘in the summer’ whether we have the final go ahead to start the school in September 2013.

Click here to read our previous posts on this proposal, any why it’s not good news. Click here to read what the Steiner Waldorf critics say.

The TES on Steiner “free” schools

The Times Education Supplement has an article about the applications for free school status by Steiner schools. It says:

The Steiner approach emphasises the importance of practical crafts such as woodwork, book-binding and knitting, while students spend less time learning ICT skills.

Such free-school proposals appear to undermine the Government’s stance that schools should be teaching a more traditional “knowledge-based” curriculum.

Steiner schools are based on the teachings of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, who founded “anthroposophy”, which promotes the belief that all humans possess an innate spirit or soul, through which a person can connect to a spirit world via “inner development”.

The British Humanist Association said it had “serious concerns” over what would be taught in the Steiner schools, given that free schools have considerable freedoms over their curriculum.

For more on this, see our previous posts. We’ll be discussing a proposed Steiner school in Suffolk at our next meeting.

Steiner schools “repudiate” their founder’s racist beliefs to get state funding

Francis Gilbert of the Local Schools Network reports that those who want to open Steiner schools at public expense through Gove’s free school system are keen to “repudiate” their racist roots.

They present themselves today as trendy, progressive schools who welcome parents with alternative views. However, what they keep well hidden is their loony mystical beliefs. Steiner founded a philosophy called “Anthroposophy”, a sort of mystical mish-mash of ideas which includes the concept that the human race are “evolving” through the different races, with black people being “of childhood”, Asians “degenerate” and white people, of course, being the apogee of the evolutionary tree. Many Anthroposophists teach at Steiner schools today — and certainly form the bulk of their teacher trainers — and greatly admire Steiner.

Today, the Department for Education and Skills is interviewing the people who want to open such a school in Frome. If they get the go-ahead it will give the green light to others, inclduing the people who want a Steiner school in Suffolk. We’ll be talking about this at our September meeting.

More on the proposed “ecology” free school based on Steiner principles

Fullfledge logoSince our post on the proposed Fullfledge free school in Suffolk, our supporter and correspondent Esther Fidler has met some of the people who plan to set up this school, and has blogged about their lack of qualifications or credible objectives. On the influence of Steiner’s ideas and the responses she got to her questions, Esther wrote,

I began to get the impression that knowledge, unless gained specifically from a (possibly unqualified) class teacher was not encouraged; the idea of a mystical, esoteric belief system based upon reincarnation and karma being the foundation of a school which does not encourage finding out information through books, TV or the internet was beginning to make me feel distinctly uncomfortable. 

Steiner in Suffolk?

SteinerSuccessive 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.