INADEQUATE: 
 
BRISTOL, FROME, &...
 



School inspectors have sometimes issued blistering reports about Waldorf or Steiner schools.
Here are some Waldorf Watch News items about extremely critical reports issued by
British school inspectors who examined four Steiner academies in the United Kingdom.
[For the results of previous inspections of UK Steiner schools, see, e.g., "RSSKL" and "S. A. Exeter".]










January 17, 2019


MORE INSPECTIONS, 
MORE FAILURES 


School inspectors in the United Kingdom continue to find fault with Steiner schools — they have issued a series of highly critical inspection reports. The damage to the Steiner education movement as a whole may become severe.

The following is from The Guardian [London, UK]:


Ofsted inspections find 
three Steiner schools 
to be inadequate


Concerns raised about safeguarding, 
bullying and high exclusion rates


The future of state-funded Steiner education has been thrown into doubt after a series of snap Ofsted inspections [1] found that three of the four such schools set up under the Conservatives’ free schools programme [2] were inadequate.

The four have been inspected in recent weeks — alongside private Steiner schools, a number of which have also been found to be inadequate [3] — following an intervention by the education secretary, Damian Hinds... [4]

Ofsted reports for the Frome and Bristol Steiner academies are due to be published later this week and have been shared with parents. Copies seen by the Guardian reveal inspectors’ concerns about a wide range of issues including safeguarding, bullying and lack of support for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

The Frome report accuses leaders and governors of failing to provide pupils with a safe and effective education...

It says the school failed to address serious issues that “put pupils at risk of harm” ... The inspection team...also raised concerns about a high number of exclusions [5]...

The report for Bristol similarly details concerns about safeguarding ... It adds that bullying incidents [6] are too frequent, and disadvantaged pupils and those with special educational needs make insufficient progress.

The damning assessments follow similar findings at the Exeter Steiner academy [7] ... The fourth state-funded Steiner school, in Hereford, was judged good...

...At Bristol, parents have been told that the governors [8] have sent a legal letter to Ofsted challenging its report and the inspection process...

Frome is also planning to challenge its report and the inspection process...

Both schools will go into special measures [9] and multi-academy trusts will be sought to take over [10]. Parents fear that the Steiner ethos – the very reason they chose those schools for their children – will be lost in the process [11].

Hinds called in November for additional scrutiny of Steiner schools by Ofsted after the chief inspector of schools in England, Amanda Spielman, raised concerns about safeguarding in the sector on the back of two earlier inspections [12]....

[1/17/2019   https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/jan/17/ofsted-inspections-find-three-steiner-schools-to-be-inadequate]





Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] Oftsed is the UK government's Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills.

[2] Free schools are independent schools that receive government funding. While held accountable by the government, they implement curriculums of their own choosing. In the USA, such schools are call charter schools.

[3] See, e.g., "RSSKL", recounting the situation at Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley. The government ordered this school to close.

[4] See the Waldorf Watch news items for December 10 and 11, 2018: "U.K. Steiner Schools to Receive Special Scrutiny".

[5] I.e., rejected applications for admission.

[6] Complaints about bullying have frequently arisen at Steiner or Waldorf schools. It has often been alleged that Steiner or Waldorf teachers tolerate bullying among their students. [See "Slaps".] One explanation is that Steiner/Waldorf teachers believe students must be free to enact their karmas, such as a karma to bully others or a karma to be bullied. Karma is a key Steiner/Waldorf belief. [See "Karma".]

[7] See "S. A. Exeter", recounting the situation at Steiner Academy Exeter.

[8] I.e., the governors of the school.

[9] I.e., urgent or emergency measures are being taken.

[10] I.e., the government has indicated that these schools should be adopted and administered by experienced educational trusts (multi-academy trusts that operate at least two schools).

[11] The chief advantage a Steiner school receives by being designated a free school is the financing provided by the government. The chief potential disadvantage is that the government may hold the school to standards that run contrary to Steiner educational principles. [For an overview of these principles, see "Oh Humanity".] Parents who select Steiner or Waldorf schools for their children may or may not have knowledge of these principles. A widespread complaint about Steiner/Waldorf schools is that they do not honestly explain their nature and purposes. [See, e.g., "Secrets" and "Our Experience".]

[12] Failure to adequately protect students has been the most publicized fault identified by Ofsted representatives who have inspected Steiner schools. However, many other serious faults — ranging from bad teaching to dysfunctional management — have also been found. [See, again, "RSSKL" and "S. A. Exeter".]

— R.R.





January 18, 2019


MORE INSPECTIONS, 
MORE FAILURES - Part 2


Inspectors have found serious problems in several Steiner schools operating in the UK. The implications for the overall Steiner or Waldorf educational movement are potentially severe.

The most recent inspections have focused on Steiner free schools — schools that, in the USA, would be called charter schools. One of the Steiner free schools recently inspected is located in the city of Bristol. Here are excerpts from a report in The Bristol Post:


Bristol Steiner Academy 
one of three free schools 
to face uncertainty after 
being rated ‘inadequate' 

By Sarah Turnnidge

Three state-funded Steiner Academies in the South West — of which one is in Bristol — have been plunged into uncertainty after snap Ofsted inspections found them to be ‘inadequate' [1].

Bristol Steiner Academy was inspected on November 26 and 27 and is now in special measures [2].

It is one of just four state-funded Steiner schools set up under the free school programme [3], with the other academies based in Frome, Exeter, and Hereford.

All four schools were inspected alongside private Steiner schools — of which a number were also found to be inadequate [4]. The education minister Damien Hinds had ordered an intervention into the group after concerns about safeguarding [5]…

The Bristol school, which is an all-through school for children aged four to 16, was opened in 2014 and currently educates 377 pupils — set to rise to 622 by 2021. It has a higher proportion of pupils with special educational needs and eligible for free school meals than the national average [6]…

When the school was last inspected, in May 2017, it was judged to 'require improvement’…

The school said that they were unable to comment on leaked reports, and thus were not able to discuss Ofsted's [most recent] findings in detail…

Steiner Academy Bristol is now working with an Academy Management Committee [7] which will be responsible for the operational management of the school, appointed by the South West regional schools commissioner.…

[1/18/2019    https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/bristol-news/bristol-steiner-academy-one-three-2439696    This article originally appeared on January 17.]




Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] Bristol is in the southwest of England. Oftsed is the UK government's Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills.

[2] Because of the problems found at the school, urgent or emergency measures are being implemented.

[3] This program, instituted under the UK’s Conservative government, allows for the formation of independent schools that receive public financing. These “free schools” charge no tuition fees, and they serve as competitors or alternatives to traditional public schools. Like charter schools in the US, free schools in the UK establish their own curriculums.

[4] See, e.g., coverage of Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley ["RSSKL"].

[5] Inspections have found that Steiner schools often fail to adequately protect their students. The same inspections have also sometimes found various other shortcomings at Steiner schools, including poor teaching and ineffective management. [See, e.g., “Remembering RSSKL - The Faults Found”, July 7, 2018.]

[6] The Steiner Academy Bristol may be unusual in this regard. Reports have indicated that at least some Steiner schools do a poor job providing for students having special needs, and occasionally these schools allegedly refuse to admit some students having such needs. [See, e.g., “More Inspections, More Failures”, January 17, 2019.] The Anthroposophical movement often attempts to serve disadvantaged individuals not at Steiner schools but at residential institutions called Camphill communities. [See the entry for “Camphill” in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]

[7] An Academy Management Committee (AMC) is, usually, an administrative group that serves temporarily to oversee a school until a new, potentially permanent sponsor for the school is selected.

— R.R.






January 19, 2019


MORE INSPECTIONS, 
MORE FAILURES - Part 3


As reported here during the last few days, inspectors from the UK government’s Office for Standards in Education have determined that three of four Steiner free schools in the UK — those in Bristol, Exeter, and Frome — are “inadequate.” In other words, the inspectors have found serious problems at these schools.

On January 17, we considered a report in The Guardian that summarized the information available at that time about the inspections at all four Steiner free schools. On January 18, we looked at a report in The Bristol Post about the Steiner free school in Bristol.

Here are excerpts from a BBC report about the Steiner free school in Frome:


Ofsted rates Frome 
Steiner school 
‘inadequate'


A school where pupils did not learn "British values" and were unprepared for "life in modern Britain" has been rated inadequate by inspectors.

Ofsted [1] said the Steiner Academy Frome, Somerset, failed to provide pupils with a "safe and effective education”.

The free school [2], which opened in 2012, received the worst Ofsted rating in all four categories including "quality of teaching" and "pupils' outcomes"…

In the report, school leaders and governors were accused of failing to provide pupils with a "safe and effective education" because their own knowledge of current statutory requirements was “limited” [3].

It said the school had failed to address "serious issues that put pupils at risk of harm”…

Inspectors found [that]…in the kindergarten, "inappropriate physical restraint" was being used [4]…

The report also said teachers' expectations of pupils were "too low”…

In addition, the inspector noted: "Pupils do not learn about British values and cannot discuss these.

"They are not well prepared for life in modern Britain [5].”

But Emily Edwards, a spokeswoman for the school, said Ofsted was comparing "a banana to an orange”.

"Steiner schools are obviously run in a certain way and I feel you can't really compare them to mainstream schools and that's what Ofsted go by," she said [6]….

[1/19/2019    https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-somerset-46921639   This report originally appeared on January 18.]






Recent news stories have focused primarily on the Steiner free schools in Bristol and Frome. For extensive coverage of the problems identified at the Steiner free school in Exeter, see "S. A. Exeter".

The problems at these three Steiner free schools are much alike. Indeed, they are similar to problems found at private Steiner or Waldorf schools. They seem to reflect systemic flaws in the Steiner/Waldorf education movement generally. [See, e.g., "RSSKL", "Mistreating Kids Lovingly", and "Complaints".]




Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills.

[2] Free schools (known in the US as charter schools) are independent schools that have been accepted into the public school system. They receive public financing, but they establish their own curriculums and implement their own methods. Despite their independence, they are subject to inspection and are expected to meet at least basic educational standards.

[3] Teachers at Steiner or Waldorf schools may often be only minimally qualified, as judged by outsiders. Often, teachers at these schools are primarily interested in the Steiner/Waldorf worldview, virtually to the exclusion of everything else, and much of their training is likely to have been acquired in special Steiner/Waldorf teacher education programs. [See "Teacher Training".] Thus, their conception of a “safe and effective education" may be quite different from the conception found in other schools, and they may consider “current statutory requirements” largely irrelevant to their own practices and objectives.

[4] Failure to adequately protect or safeguard their students is a criticism that has frequently been leveled at various Steiner/Waldorf schools. [See, e.g., "RSSKL" and "S. A. Exeter".] But the schools have also been faulted for a wide array of other shortcomings. Note that Steiner Academy Frome was given low marks for 
"quality of teaching" and "pupils' outcomes." As has been found concerning other Steiner/Waldorf schools, the Frome school seems to be deficient in almost all the ways a school could possibly be deficient.

[5] Free, universal education in democratic societies should, generally speaking, enable students to become empowered citizens who can exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Public education is thus meant to benefit the students as individuals and it is also meant to benefit the society as a whole. (British public schools should equip students for productive, successful lives in Britain, just as American public schools should prepare American kids for life in the USA. The students will benefit, and the societies will benefit.) This is not to say, of course, that schools should be benightedly provincial or nationalistic. Seen at a deeper level, public education should convey verifiable knowledge to the students — it should accurately inform students about reality, and it should prepare students for productive lives in the real world.

[6] Steiner or Waldorf schools generally employ their own methods as they implement their own curriculum. [See “Methods” and “The Waldorf Curriculum”.] This is entirely permissible under the free school program in the UK and the charter school program in the US. But the ultimate objective of all schools should be essentially the same: It should be to educate children, providing them with the knowledge and skills they will need in order to lead productive and, we should all hope, happy lives in the real world. The crucial difference between Steiner/Waldorf schools and conventional secular schools lies in that final term: “the real world.” The Steiner/Waldorf conception of reality is ultimately at issue. Steiner/Waldorf education is rooted in Anthroposophy, which — despite denials — is a gnostic or cryptic religion. [See “Is Anthroposophy a Religion?”] Any parents who embrace Anthroposophy should be free to send their children to Anthroposophical schools — this is, Steiner or Waldorf schools. But all other parents, along with education officials and school inspectors, are likely to find Steiner/Waldorf thinking very strange, and they may develop profound misgivings about schools that are based on this thinking. [See, e.g., "Oh Humanity", “Foundations”, “Spiritual Agenda”, and “Serving the Gods”.] The question becomes whether Steiner/Waldorf schools, shaped and guided by Anthroposophy, can ever truly deliver a good education, as this concept is usually understood in democratic societies. [See, e.g., "Soul School", "Incarnation", and "Academic Standards at Waldorf".]

— R.R.





January 21, 2019


MORE INSPECTIONS, 
MORE FAILURES - Part 4


In recent days, news articles in the British media indicated that inspectors have found severe problems in several Steiner schools operating in Britain. These articles referred to reports written by the inspectors, but they were generally unable to quote directly from the reports, which had not yet been officially released.

This is now changing; the reports are being released to the public. The following item is from The Bristol Post, and it focuses chiefly on the Steiner Academy Bristol. But the problems found there seem to be typical of those that have been unearthed at other Steiner schools, both public and private. [1] The defensive responses of Steiner supporters in Bristol also seem typical.

The inspectors were sent to the schools by Ofsted, the UK government’s Office for Standards in Education.


"Pupils are not safe" - 
damning Ofsted report reveals 
concerns about 'inadequate' 
Bristol Steiner Academy

But parents are fighting for a fairer assessment after being outraged by Ofsted's findings

By Sarah Turnnidge

Details of an Ofsted report, which have threatened the future of state-funded Steiner education in Bristol [2], have been published — revealing that the school has been graded as inadequate in every area of inspection…

Fellow Steiner Academies in Frome and Exeter also received 'inadequate' ratings, while the fourth school in Hereford was rated as ‘good'.

The report, which was released to parents on Monday before being published on Friday, lists a number of observed failings.

The first of these concerns regards safeguarding [3] …

"The school's work to promote pupil's [sic] personal development and welfare is inadequate," the report [says]. "Pupils are not safe.”

Although the report states that a rise in records of bullying incidents [4] could be due to the implementation of a more effective system of record-keeping, incidents are still acknowledged to be 'too frequent’…

The Ofsted report details five areas of inspection; effectiveness of leadership and management; quality of teaching, learning, and assessment; personal development, behaviour, and welfare; outcomes for pupils; and early years provision — each of which have been rated as inadequate… [5]

Despite the damning report, a large number of parents with children at the academy have rallied around the school, claiming that the report is unfair and does not accurately reflect the experiences of their children…

More than 850 people have signed a petition entitled 'Demand a Fair Ofsted Inspection of Steiner Academy Bristol', started by parents of children at the school, which alleges that the inspection process itself was "unfair and biased”… [6]


[1/21/2019    https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/bristol-news/pupils-not-safe-damning-ofsted-2447330]




Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] See, e.g., “Failure”, “Complaints”, “RSSK”, and “S. A. Exeter”.

[2] Steiner Academy Bristol and its sister schools — Steiner academies in Exeter, Frome, and Hereford — are "free schools." That is, they are independent schools that receive public financing. (In the USA, these would be called charter schools.) The fate of Steiner free schools — and perhaps the fate of all British Steiner schools, public and private — may be significantly affected by the current controversy. In addition, the fate of the overall free school program in the UK may also be impacted.

[3] Steiner schools and Waldorf schools have often been accused of lax oversight of students. The Steiner/Waldorf attitude toward the protection of students is tied to belief in karma and guardian angels. Rudolf Steiner taught that children arrive on Earth with karmas that must be enacted. And, he said, children have guardian angels who accompany them at all times. Steiner/Waldorf teachers may deduce from these doctrines that they should not interfere in the children’s behavior, even violent behavior, since it reflects their karmas; and the kids’ guardian angels can be relied on to prevent any serious harm. [See the entries for “karma” and “guardian angels” in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]

[4] Bullying has allegedly been a serious problem in Steiner/Waldorf schools. [See “Slaps”.] Tolerance for bullying may arise from belief in karma and guardian angels. But other forms of abuse have also been reported in Steiner/Waldorf schools. [See, e.g., “Extremity”.]

[5] This, clearly, is the most important finding in the report: The school failed to meet required standards in every part of its operations, including management of the school, quality of teaching, and outcomes for students. 

[6] Many people love Steiner/Waldorf education, and they will often defend it vigorously. Whether this affection and support are based on a clear-eyed understanding of the Steiner/Waldorf system may be questionable, however. [See, e.g., “The Upside”, “Glory”, and “Oh Humanity”.]

It is certainly true that judging Steiner/Waldorf schools by ordinary standards may be miss a lot about these schools. Steiner/Waldorf schools have different aims and different practices from those found in ordinary schools. Here are a few in indications of this. The following statements were made by knowledgeable followers of Rudolf Steiner:

◊ “[Waldorf] education is essentially grounded on the recognition of the child as a spiritual being, with a varying number of incarnations behind him….” — Anthroposophist Stewart C. Easton, MAN AND WORLD IN THE LIGHT OF ANTHROPOSOPHY (Anthroposophic Press, 1989), pp. 388-389.

◊ “Waldorf education strives to create a place in which the highest beings [i.e., the gods]…can find their home....” — Waldorf teacher Joan Almon, WHAT IS A WALDORF KINDERGARTEN? (SteinerBooks, 2007), p. 53.

◊ "Waldorf education is based upon the recognition that the four bodies of the human being [the physical, etheric, astral, and ego bodies] develop and mature at different times.” — Waldorf teacher Roberto Trostli, RHYTHMS OF LEARNING: What Waldorf Education Offers Children, Parents & Teachers (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), pp. 4-5.

◊ “[T]he purpose of [Waldorf] education is to help the individual fulfill his karma.” — Waldorf teacher Roy Wilkinson, THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1996), p. 52.

[For more such statements, see, e.g., “Here’s the Answer” and “Who Says?”]

— R.R.





January 22, 2018


DEFENDERS PUSH BACK
AGAINST “DAMNING REPORTS”



In recent days, news articles have described “damning” reports about Steiner schools written by inspectors working for the UK’s Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted).

As was to be expected, the schools and their proponents are responding vigorously. Here are excerpts from two articles outlining these responses.


1.

From Somerset Live [county of Somerset, UK]:


Steiner Academy in Frome 
has responded to 
damning report from Ofsted 
which rated it 'inadequate' 

School leaders have said 
they are already taking steps 
to improve the situation 

by Max Baker

Leaders at the Steiner Academy in Frome [1] have responded to the damning Ofsted report which grades it 'inadequate' in every area [2].

The school has said that steps are already being taken to ensure improvements are made after concerns [about] safeguarding and leadership were raised by Ofsted.

A statement from acting principal Nikki Doughty and Suzanne Flack, chairperson of the new academy management sub-committee, said: "Following a two-day inspection at the school in November 2018, the report outlines serious concerns in leadership, teaching and learning and safeguarding.

"A detailed plan addressing these concerns has been completed with many actions, especially around improvements in safeguarding, having already taken place [3]…."

Lead inspector Caroline Dulon said in the report: "There is no consistent approach to managing pupils’ behaviour and this places pupils at risk. In some instances, staff do not address misbehaviour at all. At other times, responses to challenging behaviour have been disproportionate.

"There has been a recent and significant increase in the number of fixed term exclusions [4]. This is particularly the case for pupils with SEND [5].

"Low level disruption in classes is common. Pupils report that this often inhibits their learning. Leaders and staff have not tackled this behaviour.

"Consequently, pupils’ education has suffered.”

Other criticisms included early-year provision for children [6]…

Several people criticised the school for the poor report, but many have got behind Steiner Academy and are confident that it can improve.

[1/22/2018   https://www.somersetlive.co.uk/news/somerset-news/from-steiner-school-responds-ofsted-2443278    This article originally appeared on January 18.]




2. 


From The Bristol Post [city of Bristol, UK]:


Why Steiner Academy Bristol 
is planning to take Ofsted 
to the High Court [7]
after latest inspection 

The unprecedented move is being taken 
by a community which feels it 
has been unfairly targeted

by Emma Grimshaw

Parents and teachers plan to take Ofsted to court after its latest inspection at Steiner Academy Bristol [8].

During an unannounced inspection in November, the watchdog said pupils at the school 'are not safe'.

The school was graded as inadequate in every area of inspection, meaning Ofsted put it into special measures [9].

But the report has angered many parents who have children at the academy, as they claim Ofsted's findings do not represent their child's experience. [10]

Now bosses [11] have launched a crowdfunder to raise £15,000 to start legal proceedings against Ofsted [12].

They wrote on the fundraising page: "The legal claim will argue that the Ofsted inspection was flawed, that they failed to follow guidance and the code of conduct relating to inspections, and the inspectors lacked a proper evidential basis for their conclusions.

"It will also argue that we believe that there was apparent bias in the way that Ofsted carried out their inspection"…

Parents have also launched a petition calling for another 'fair' inspection to take place at the academy. It has already gathered 1,113 signatures in less than one week…

An Ofsted spokesperson said: “We take all complaints about our inspections seriously, and deal with them as quickly as possible.

"Our inspection judgements are never made lightly. They can have a significant impact on a school, its pupils and parents, and the community. However, the safety, well-being and educational achievement of pupils is paramount.

"All schools judged inadequate are subject to additional scrutiny and an extended quality assurance process before being finalised. All such judgments have to be authorised by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, and schools have the opportunity to challenge our inspection findings before the report is published"….






Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] Frome is a town 13 miles south of the city of Bath, England. It is the site of Steiner Academy Frome, one of four Steiner “free schools” (charter schools) currently operating in the United Kingdom (UK).

[2] I.e., in every part of the school’s practices examined by the inspectors.

[3] The school implicitly accepts that Ofsted's criticisms have merit, and it claims to be implemented the needed improvements. (By contrast, Steiner Academy Bristol  effectively rejects criticisms made by Ofsted. See footnote 12, below.)

[4] I.e., rejected applications for admission.

[5] I.e., students with special educational needs and disabilities.

[6] I.e., care and instruction of the youngest children at the school.

[7] One of several types of court in the UK, the High Court is meant to consider cases of high importance.

[8] Bristol is a city in southwestern England. It is the site of Steiner Academy Bristol.

[9] I.e., education authorities will now direct special attention to the school, aiming to improve the institution. Teachers and others may be dismissed. The school itself may ultimately be closed if it does not improve adequately.

[10] Some people love Steiner/Waldorf education. The schools are often lovely, filled with pleasing artwork; the teachers usually seem caring and devoted; there is often a sweet spiritual atmosphere; academic pressures on the students are low; attractive values such as environmentalism are stressed; etc. Parents may become disillusioned eventually [see, e.g., “Our Experience”], and problems may develop when the esoteric belief system underlying the schools (Anthroposophy) comes into view [see, e.g., “Coming Undone”]. But especially in a young school such as Steiner Academy Bristol — which opened in the autumn of 2014 — little of this disillusionment may yet have developed.

[11] I.e., leaders of the school.

[12] While Steiner Academy Frome appears to be attempting to work with, and satisfy, Ofsted, Steiner Academy Bristol is taking a more combative stance. This may prove dangerous. Following a series of critical inspection reports, Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL) tried to defend itself through legal action, but this effort failed and the school was ultimately ordered to close. [See “RSSKL”.]

— R.R.





January 24, 2018


◊ NEWS BRIEFS ◊


1.

BRISTOL WILL FIGHT


Schools Week magazine has published a story about the planned effort by a Steiner free school to fight back against the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted). The Office has declared the school to be seriously flawed in multiple ways. [For previous Waldorf Watch coverage of this matter, see "Defenders Push Back Against 'Damning' Reports", January 22, 2019.]

From Schools Week [London UK]:


Steiner free school vows to fight 
‘inadequate’ Ofsted rating in court 

[By] Freddie Whittaker

…Steiner Academy Bristol, one of two Steiner schools [1] placed in special measures [2] following unannounced inspections in November, was warned by inspectors over ineffective safeguarding policies, weak teaching and low expectations [3].

Now its governors are raising money to launch a judicial review against the judgment…

The school, one of four set up across England under the free schools programme to follow the teachings of the philosopher Rudolf Steiner [4], was rated ‘inadequate’ across the board…

Inspectors noted “frequent” bullying incidents, insufficient progress among SEND pupils [5] and a failure by leaders and governance to ensure an “acceptable standard of education” for pupils…

[The school’s decision to go to court] follows an admission by Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools, that Ofsted has seen an increase in the number of legal challenges against its judgments.

Spielman told MPs [6] on the parliamentary public accounts committee yesterday that the number of challenges has been “going up quite substantially”.

In a recent high-profile case, Durand Academy Trust succeeded in challenging its ‘inadequate’ Ofsted rating, only to have it reinstated after the watchdog [7] won an appeal in the High Court [8]...

Last February, Schools Week also revealed how a Kent school that managed to suppress an ‘inadequate’ Ofsted report for eight months by threatening legal action ended up rated ‘good’ across the board after the watchdog opted to reinspect rather than fight in court…

Steiner Academy Bristol is one of three ‘inadequate’-rated Steiner free schools. Steiner Academy Frome was also rated ‘inadequate’ this week, and Steiner Academy Exeter was issued with a “minded to terminate” warning [9] last October after receiving the lowest possible Ofsted grade…




2.


BRISTOL AND EXETER FAIL

Meanwhile, an article in today’s Mirror Online gives the names of the “worst” state-funded secondary schools in the UK, based on government assessments. Two Steiner schools are on the list. [For previous Waldorf Watch coverage of such listings, see "Worst Schools", December 14, 2018.]


From Mirror Online [London, UK]:


England's worst schools REVEALED —
is YOUR child's school on the 2019 list?

Official government figures, released this morning, 
reveal 382 educational institutions failed 
to meet government minimum standards

By Claire Miller and Sophie Evans

England's worst secondary schools have been revealed — as official figures show more than 380 failed to meet the Government's minimum standards last year.

The figures, released by the Department for Education today and analysed by Mirror Online, suggest 382 state-funded mainstream schools [10] are under-performing.

They are based on how teenagers at each of the country's secondary schools performed in their GCSE exams [11] in 2018…

Schools fall below the performance threshold if pupils fail to make enough progress across eight subjects - with particular weight given to English and maths…

[From the list:]

…Steiner Academy Bristol, Bristol [12]...

…Steiner Academy, Exeter, Devon [13]….






Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] Free school are independent schools that receive state funding. In the USA, they would be called charter schools.

[2] I.e., education authorities will now direct special attention to the school, aiming to improve the institution. Teachers and others may be dismissed. The school itself may ultimately be closed if it does not improve adequately. 

[3] I.e., having low expectations for the students, and thus failing to help the students reach high levels of achievement.

[4] While Steiner is sometimes referred to as a philosopher or as a scientist, these labels are euphemisms at best. Steiner was a mystic, the leader of a religion that he himself devised. [See “Is Anthroposophy a Religion?”] He often called himself an occultist, and he professed to be an extremely insightful clairvoyant having "exact" knowledge of the spirit realm. [See "Occultism" and "Exactly".]

[5] I.e., students with special educational needs and disabilities.

[6] I.e., members of parliament.

[7] I.e., Ofsted.

[8] One of several types of court in the UK, the High Court is meant to consider cases of high importance.

[9] I.e., state education officials are on the verge of ordering this school to close.

[10] Steiner free schools are "mainstream" only in that they are part of the public school system (they receive public financing). At root, all genuine Steiner schools are actually religious institutions. [See "Schools as Churches".] Most Steiner schools are private institutions, dependent on their own fundraising efforts.

[11] I.e., General Certificate of Secondary Education examinations, generally taken by students aged 15-16.

[12] For previous Waldorf Watch coverage of the situation at this school, see "Inadequate — Bristol, Frome, &...".

[13] For previous Waldorf Watch coverage of the situation at this school, see "S. A. Exeter".

— R.R.





January 25


THE BBC
TAKES NOTE 


The British Broadcasting Corporation — the world-renowned BBC — has taken notice of the situation currently roiling a Steiner school in the city of Bristol. The BBC’s account does not add much to our understanding of the situation at the school [1], but the BBC's decision to report on the matter is, in and of itself, potentially important. The story has now become a matter of national and even international concern. [2]

Here are excerpts from the BBC account:


Steiner Academy Bristol 
in Ofsted legal challenge


A Steiner school [3] is to launch a legal challenge against Ofsted [4] after its latest report rated it "inadequate" and placed it in special measures [5].

Steiner Academy Bristol's governing body said it wanted to "challenge the inspection process and report” [6]… 

The report's criticisms included concerns about safeguarding, bullying and high exclusion rates [7]…

Steiner Academy Bristol said it was "concerned" that Ofsted's approach to Steiner schools [8] had "impacted on the fairness and independence of the inspection process”.

It said a request to Ofsted that it "re-inspect with a fresh inspection team" had been refused.

Steiner Academy Bristol governor [9] Roy Douglas said: "While we take the report very seriously and recognise that improvements need to be made [10], we do not consider that the decision to place us in special measures was fair”….

[1/25/2019     https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-bristol-46991709    The BBC originally released this article on January 24.]




Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] For prior Waldorf Watch coverage, see "Inadequate — Bristol, Frome, &...".

[2] For a BBC report about another Steiner academy, see "More Inspections, More Failures - Part 3", January 19, 2019.

[3] Technically, Steiner Academy Bristol is a Steiner free school — what in the US would be called a charter school.

[4] Ofsted is the UK government’s Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills. 
Steiner Academy Bristol plans to take Ofsted to court, challenging Ofsted's actions directed at the school.

[5] A school placed in “special measures” should expect frequent Ofsted inspections conducted with little advance warning. Moreover, an appointed executive committee may remove teachers and managers at the school. In extreme cases, if a school fails to improve, it may be ordered to close.

(The referents in the BBC's lead are a bit jumbled. Here is what the BBC's writers presumably meant: A Steiner school is to launch a legal challenge against Ofsted after Ofsted's latest report rated the school "inadequate" and placed the school in special measures.)

[6] I.e., the school will argue in court that the inspection was flawed and the subsequent report is inaccurate in at least some important respects.

[7] “High exclusion rates” refers to excessive refusal to admit certain students, such as students having special needs. The school will likely challenge this allegation in court.

[8] Proponents of Steiner or Waldorf schools often argue that, because these schools are significantly different from ordinary schools, the usual standards of evaluation should not be applied to them. Proponents may also allege that outsiders, including education officials, may be biased against the Steiner education movement.

[9] A school "governor" is a member of that school's board of governors — what in the US would usually be called a board of trustees.

[10] Significantly, the school apparently agrees that the inspectors uncovered some real problems. “We…recognise that improvements need to be made.”

— R.R.





January 31, 2019


OFSTED MAY SEEK 
SYSTEMIC STEINER FLAWS 


Several Steiner schools in the UK have received blistering official inspection reports in recent months. Now the UK government’s Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) is recommending a deeper, more probing examination of Steiner or Waldorf education. [1] The new investigation would consider whether there are flaws in the “underlying principles” of Steiner/Waldorf schooling.

The implications are potentially dire. The reputation of Steiner/Waldorf schooling could be irreparably damaged. The chief inspector for Ofsted is recommending that “inadequate” Steiner schools in the UK be ordered to close. If this were done, and if it involved several schools, the result could be a blow from which the Steiner/Waldorf movement would have difficulty recovering.

The following is from Schools Week magazine [London, UK]:


Ofsted demands investigation 
into Steiner education 
following failures 

[By] Jess Staudenberg

Ofsted has told the government to investigate whether the “underlying principles” of a Steiner education explain the widespread failures of safeguarding [2] and education [3] found in schools based on that philosophy.

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman has written to education secretary Damian Hinds about Steiner schools…following a series of snap inspections.

Six of the nine [Steiner] schools inspected — across the state and private sector [4] — were judged to be ‘inadequate’ and three were ‘requires improvement’, with none as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.

Ofsted said senior leaders at one of the Steiner schools “blamed pupils with SEND [5] for all the problems in the school”…

[Spielman] has now called on Hinds to carry out a “thorough examination” of the underlying principles of Steiner education to consider the extent to which they may have contributed to the common failures [6] found in the inspections…

She also called for the DfE [7] to close down all inadequate Steiner schools that “fail to improve rapidly” [8]….





Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] In some countries, such as the UK, schools that work in accordance with Rudolf Steiner's educational precepts are generally called “Steiner schools.” In other countries, such as the USA, such schools are often called “Waldorf schools.” Under either designation, the schools are much the same.

[2] A prominent finding in the inspections of Steiner schools is a general failure to sufficiently protect the students. [See “RSSKL”, "S. A. Exeter", and "Inadequate — Bristol, Frome, &...".]

[3] I.e., poor teaching and low student achievement.

[4] I.e., both state-funded Steiner "free" schools and self-funded Steiner private schools.

[5] "SEND" stands for “special education needs and disabilities.” Here, Ofsted is accusing Steiner schools of scapegoating SEND students, blaming the schools’ problems on such students (whom they are often required to admit, due to government regulations).

[6] I.e., problems that are frequently (commonly) found in Steiner schools — problems that thus may be systemic in Steiner education generally. 

[7] I.e., the government’s Department for Education.

[8] This is an extremely threatening prospect, which could severely damage the reputation of the Steiner education movement generally. Note that one Steiner school in the UK has already been ordered to close [see “RSSKL”] and another has been threatened with a possible closure order [see "S. A. Exeter".]

— R.R.








February 1, 2019


OFSTED MAY SEEK 
SYSTEMIC STEINER FLAWS - II 


Here is an additional news report about the call for Steiner schools in the UK to receive special scrutiny. [For a previous report, see the Waldorf Watch news item for January 31, 2019.]

This is from TES, formerly the Time Education Supplement [London, UK]:


Spielman calls on DfE 
to shut down failing 
Steiner schools 

Ofsted found common failings 
around safeguarding and education 
in batch of inspections 

By John Roberts

Amanda Spielman [1] has called on Damian Hinds [2] to close down all inadequate Steiner schools that fail to show rapid improvement, after Ofsted found widespread failings during a special inspection of a group of schools.

Ofsted has warned that a batch inspection of Steiner schools found a number of areas of common weakness which mean that many children are inadequately safeguarded and are receiving a poor quality of education.

The chief inspector has now written to the education secretary urging him to take action to close down failing schools and review the principles behind Steiner schools [3]…

Ms Spielman’s letter to Mr Hinds, published today, says "a significant number" of [Steiner] schools were inadequate in all areas [4], and a number of the independent [Steiner] schools inspected failed to meet the department’s independent school standards [5].

She wrote: "Overall, the findings are deeply concerning. They demonstrate that there are a number of areas of common weakness in these schools, which mean that in many cases, the children attending them are inadequately safeguarded and are receiving a poor quality of education.

"At the root of many of the weaknesses are poor leadership, management and governance…

"In the worst cases, senior leaders and governors have created a culture in which it is difficult for parents to raise their concerns, and some parents who have made complaints to Ofsted or to the school have felt ostracised and intimidated by school leaders [6]..."

[A] Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship [7] executive said: “It is a matter of deep regret when individual schools fail in their duties [8]. There is no compromise where the welfare of pupils is concerned. Our role is to provide guidance to schools in order for them to ensure all standards are in-line with the requirements set out by the Department for Education (DfE).…”

[2/1/2019   https://www.tes.com/news/spielman-calls-dfe-shut-down-failing-steiner-schools   This article originally appeared in TES on Januray 31, 2019.]




Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] Ms. Spielman is the chief inspector for the UK government’s Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted).

[2] Mr. Hinds is the UK’s Education Secretary — he is the head of the UK government’s Department for Education (DfE).

[3] The inspections already conducted identified similar failings in many, if not all, of the Steiner schools visited. The new scrutiny would seek the causes of these failings — it would examine "
the principles behind Steiner schools" to see if these produce systemic shortcomings across the Steiner system generally.

[4] I.e., all of the criteria by which Ofsted evaluates a school: (i) effectiveness of leadership and management, (ii) quality of teaching, learning, and assessment, (iii) personal development, behavior, and welfare of students, (iv) outcomes for students, and (v) provisions for the youngest students.

An example: The following is from the Ofsted draft report on the Steiner Academy Frome:



[See SomersetLive].


[5] Some Steiner schools in the UK are state-funded; they are “free schools,” the equivalent of charter schools in the USA. Other Steiner schools in the UK are private or independent educational institutions that raise their own funds. Free schools and independent schools in the UK are judged by somewhat different standards.

[6] Steiner or Waldorf schools often resist criticism and pressures to change. The schools are typically run by devout followers of Rudolf Steiner, who consider his doctrines to be virtually holy writ — hence, they consider their own practices to be beyond reproach. Relations between the schools and students' parents may become tense as a result. [See, e.g., “Our Experience” and “Coming Undone”.]

[7] The Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (SWSF) is the membership organization for Steiner educational institutions in the UK and Ireland. [See https://www.steinerwaldorf.org.]

[8] The executive acknowledges that some Steiner schools "fail in their duties," but he denies that Steiner schools overall have systemic shortcomings. Establishing the truth about the latter point would be the objective of the new scrutiny Ms. Spielman has called for.

— R.R.







February 2, 2019 


OFSTED MAY SEEK 
SYSTEMIC STEINER FLAWS - III 


Coverage of the crisis facing Steiner schools in the UK continues to spread. A report has now appeared in a newspaper that has occupied a position of special prominence in Britain: The Times (of London). 

Like preceding reports from other news organizations, The Times’ report places particular emphasis on the harm Steiner schools can inflict on their students. But other problems in Steiner schools are also mentioned, including poor teaching and weak management. 

UK education officials are now reported to be asking whether there are deep flaws in Steiner education stemming from the belief system on which the schools are based — Anthroposophy. The answer to this question may have profound and far-reaching implications for Steiner education in the UK and beyond. 

Here are excerpts from The Times’ article: 


Improve or face closure, 
Steiner schools warned 

[By] Rosemary Bennett 

Ofsted [1] has urged the education secretary to close Steiner schools that fail to improve swiftly after a series of snap inspections found disturbing failings [2].

It also wants an investigation into whether the Steiner educational philosophy itself is contributing to the problems uncovered by its inspectors. 

Amanda Spielman, chief inspector [for Ofsted], said the findings of snap inspections had been “deeply concerning”. Of the nine schools inspected, six were found to be “inadequate” and three were rated “requires improvement” [3]… 

Ms Spielman said the organisation of the schools and weak safeguarding for children were a concern. “For example, some of the schools did not have an adequate system for maintaining an accurate admissions register, while others had not made sure that staff are suitable and safe to work with children,” she said in a letter to Damian Hinds, the education secretary. 

“In the worst cases, inspectors witnessed inappropriate physical handling of children and a failure to make appropriate referrals to the local authority when pupils were clearly at risk of harm. My inspectors also found instances where the approach to safeguarding protected staff rather than children, because senior leaders and governors failed to address serious complaints from parents about a member of staff…” 

…[Ms. Spielman] called for the Department for Education to close all inadequate Steiner schools that “fail to improve rapidly”. Mr. Hinds gave the go-ahead to inspect the schools last November amid fears over safeguarding and educational standards [4]. 

In a statement, the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship [5] said it was “disappointed that six schools have been judged as inadequate” and they had “taken immediate action to ensure that standards rapidly improve as per Ms Spielman’s recommendations [6]...”

[Said one parent:] “It is a shame the English system does not support Steiner pedagogy [7]….” 

[2/2/2019    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/improve-or-face-closure-steiner-schools-warned-kjl53f27k   This article appeared in The Times on February 1.] 




Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] Ofsted is the UK government's Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills. It reports to Parliament. 

[2] For previous coverage of the current crisis, see the Waldorf Watch items for January 31, 2019 and February 1, 2019.

[3] “Inadequate” is the lowest grade Ofsted can give to a school — it indicates the school falls far below the required standards. (This grade is equivalent to an F or D on the traditional A-F scale.) The second-lowest grade is “requires improvement” (equivalent to a D or C), meaning the school is substandard but not severely deficient. The next grade up is “good” (equivalent to a C+ or B), meaning the school is doing well but could do even better. The highest grade (equivalent to an A) is “outstanding,” meaning the school fully meets or exceeds the required standards — the school is excellent. 

In the recent round of inspections, all the Steiner schools visited were graded "inadequate" or "requires improvement."

[4] See “UK Steiner Schools to Receive Special Scrutiny” and “UK Steiner Schools to Receive Special Scrutiny (Cont.)”, December 10 & 11, 2018

[5] Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (SWSF) is  is the membership organization for Steiner educational institutions in the UK and Ireland. [See https://www.steinerwaldorf.org.]

[6] Significantly, SWSF effectively accepts that some of the inspectors’ finding are correct, meaning that at least some Steiner schools in the UK need improvement. On the other hand, SWSF and other proponents of Steiner education will doubtless fight hard against any suggestion that systemic flaws in the Steiner approach create serious problems in virtually all Steiner or Waldorf schools. (The SWSF statement, as quoted in The Times, fails to mention the three Steiner schools that were graded "requires improvement.")

[7] The Times’ article ends with a “case study” of one student who attended, but then chose to leave, a Steiner school in the UK.
— R.R.








February 3, 2019


BRISTOL WILL FIGHT 
(CONTINUED) 


Steiner Academy Bristol is one of the UK Steiner schools that have received severely critical evaluations from school inspectors. But unlike some of its sister schools that appear to have accepted these evaluations and vowed to improve, Steiner Academy Bristol has elected to fight the inspectors in court. [1]

An article in the Bristol Post reports that the school has raised funds to begin its legal battle. here are some excerpts:


Bristol's Steiner school 
will take Ofsted to High Courts 
after funding secured 

It could be months before the case goes before judges

By Emma Grimshaw

Campaigners collected £15,000 in less than two weeks to take Ofsted [2] to the High Courts [3].

The unprecedented move [4] is being made by governors [5] and parents at Bristol's Steiner Academy Bristol who feel they have been targeted unfairly.

During an unannounced inspection in November, the watchdog [6] said pupils at the school 'were not safe'.

The school was graded as inadequate [7] in every area of inspection [8], meaning Ofsted put it into special measures [9]…

The legal team [10] will argue that the Oftsed inspection was flawed, that they failed to follow guidance and the code of conduct and that there was apparent bias in the way they carried out their inspection…

[2/3/2019   https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/history/bristols-steiner-school-take-ofsted-2494263   The article originally appeared in the Bristol Post on February 2.]




Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] For previous coverage of Steiner Academy Bristol’s response to the inspectors, see, e.g., “Bristol Will Fight”, January 24, 2019.

[2] Ofsted is the UK government's Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills. It reports to Parliament.

[3] In the UK, high courts are meant to hear cases having high or major societal significance.

[4] Actually, other schools have mounted legal challenges against Ofsted, with varying outcomes. The Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL) engaged high-powered legal representation to fight Ofsted, but the school was nonetheless ordered to close. [See “RSSKL”.]

[5] I.e., school leaders, especially members of the school’s board of governors (what in the USA would usually be called a board of trustees).

[6] I.e., Ofsted.

[7] “Inadequate” is the lowest grade issued by Ofsted; it indicates the school is severely deficient.

[8] Ofsted evaluates schools according to five criteria: (i) effectiveness of leadership and management, (ii) quality of teaching, learning, and assessment, (iii) personal development, behavior, and welfare of students, (iv) outcomes for students, and (v) provisions for the youngest students. Steiner Academy Bristol was judged inadequate in all five areas.

[9] “Special measures” are, in effect, emergency procedures meant to rapidly improve — or close — a failing school. 

A school placed in “special measures” should expect frequent Ofsted inspections conducted with little advance warning. Moreover, an appointed executive committee may remove teachers and managers at the school. In extreme cases, if a school fails to improve, it may be ordered to close.

[10] I.e., lawyers hired by the school.
— R.R.







February 4, 2019 


UK STEINER SCHOOLS: 
MORE CRISIS COVERAGE 


Yet another article about the crisis confronting Steiner schools has appeared in the British media. 

The following is from a report in today’s issue of Education Executive [1]: 


Ofsted urges government 
to ‘carry out thorough examination’ 
of Steiner schools 

With many Steiner schools failing, Ofsted [2] 
is urging the government to step in and 
take a close look at their underlying issues 

…Ofsted is calling for the government to look more closely at Steiner schools, after safeguarding issues [3] were highlighted across multiple facilities [4].

Steiner schools allow pupils to learn at their own pace, in a system developed by an Austrian writer named Rudolph Steiner [5]. This has meant, in many cases, that children fall behind significantly – often unable to write and read until far later than their mainstream contemporaries. [6]

The head of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman [7], has told Damian Hinds [8] via a letter that the government should “carry out a thorough examination of the underlying principles of Steiner education and consider the extent to which they may have contributed to the common failures we found in our inspections.” 

Several ‘inadequate’ Steiner schools are at risk of being shut down entirely, Spielman continued, due to a variety of serious issues… 

Hinds responded to Spielman’s letter, suggesting that the DfE [9] and Ofsted officials should work together to discover “what may be lying behind those schools that are failing to meet the standards”. 






Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] From the EdExec website: “Education Executive is carefully targeted to benefit the key decision makers across England’s 24,317 state schools and academies. We provide relevant and tailored information, case studies, news and ideas that help school business managers….” [See https://edexec.co.uk/about/.] 

[2] Ofsted is a department of the government of the United Kingdom (UK). From the Ofsted website: “Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. We inspect and regulate services that care for children and young people, and services providing education and skills for learners of all ages….” [See https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/ofsted.] 

[3] The failure of various Steiner schools to adequately ensure the safety of their students has received great attention in the press and elsewhere. However, the Ofsted inspections found other serious deficiencies in several Steiner schools, including mismanagement and poor teaching. [See, e.g., “Inadequate - Bristol, Frome, and…”.] 

[4] I.e., at multiple Steiner schools.

[5] Rudolf Steiner is sometimes described as a philosopher, scientist, or education reformer. All of these terms are uninformative, as is the label “writer” — perhaps least informative descriptor that could be applied to him. By his own account, Rudolf Steiner was a clairvoyant and an occultist. In reality, he was the leader of a new religion, one he himself devised. [See “What a Guy” and "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?".] 

[6] The problem is most acute in the lower grades. Proponents of Steiner education claim that Steiner students catch up eventually, but the evidence is uncertain. In general, low academic standards prevail at all levels of Steiner/Waldorf education. [See "Academic Standards at Waldorf".]

[7] Ms. Spielman is Ofsted’s chief inspector. Matthew Coffey is Ofsted’s chief operating officer, and Sean Harford is the national director for education. 

[8] Damian Hinds is a Member of Parliament and the Secretary for Education. 

[9] I.e., the Department for Education, which is headed by Mr. Hinds.
— R.R.






February 6, 2019


AMID CELEBRATIONS, 
PREPARATIONS FOR BATTLE 


Waldorf education is now 100 years old — the Waldorf movement is currently celebrating its centenary. Rudolf Steiner founded the first Waldorf school in 1919, in Stuttgart, Germany. Today there are well over a thousand Waldorf schools all around the world. By many measures, the Waldorf movement has grown and flourished. There is much for Waldorf proponents to celebrate.

Yet in this centennial year, controversies and crises haunt Waldorf education. This is perhaps most evident in the United Kingdom (UK), where the government has ordered one Steiner school to close and seems prepared to close others unless they improve speedily. [1]

Resolution of the Steiner controversy in the UK will almost certainly not be easy or painless. While some Steiner schools have indicated willingness to work with education authorities to resolve issues raised by school inspectors, other Steiner schools and their supporters have taken a more militant stance. Battle lines seem to be forming.

Here are excerpts from the online British newspaper, The Independent [London, UK]:


Parents of children in 
‘failing’ Steiner schools 
fight back against Ofsted

[By] Eleanor Busby and Ewan Somerville

Families of children in Steiner schools which have been heavily criticised by Ofsted [2]…are fighting for the survival of the unique [Steiner] education philosophy [3].

Thousands of parents at Steiner Academy Bristol are calling for another inspection of the school as they fear the damning Ofsted report [4] may lead to the principles of Steiner education being lost.

Governors [5] at the school have now raised more than £16,000 for a judicial review against Ofsted’s judgement [6]…

Meanwhile, hundreds of families from the Steiner Academy Exeter [7], another state school which received a poor judgement from Ofsted, have launched a campaign calling for Steiner ethos to be retained [there]…

[This] comes after Ofsted boss Amanda Spielman [8] called on the government to consider shutting down Steiner schools which fail to keep children safe and provide them with a quality education [9]…

Professor Richard Brazier, from the parent-led Moving Forward, Steiner Academy Exeter campaign, said: “We don’t recognise this implication [from Ofsted] that there are any deep-rooted problems with the [Steiner] philosophy or the pedigree of the educational approach itself.”

The campaign group’s petition, signed by more than 700 people, is calling for the Steiner approach to be adopted in more state schools across the country.…

Last week, education secretary Damian Hinds said the government would take “robust action” against Steiner schools that are deemed inadequate [10].

Over the summer, the Department for Education (DfE) closed the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley in Hertfordshire following a series of damning Ofsted reports [11].…






Waldorf Watch Footnotes:


[2] Ofsted is the UK government's Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills. It inspects various schools in the UK. (Some schools are outside Ofsted's ambit.)

[3] Steiner or Waldorf schools are undeniably attractive. [See, e.g., "Glory".] But a fundamental question — perhaps the fundamental question — is whether supporters of Steiner education truly understand "the unique education philosophy" underlying Steiner/Waldorf schools. In at least some cases, it seems they do not. [For a primer on the Waldorf "philosophy," see "Oh Humanity". For a brief introduction, see "The Key to Waldorf", January 27, 2019.] Steiner/Waldorf schools have a long history — initiated by Steiner — of concealing their intentions and beliefs from "outsiders," including the parents of the schools' students. [See, e.g., "Secrets".]

[4] An Ofsted inspection of Steiner Academy Bristol found the school seriously deficient. [See, e.g., "More Inspections, More Failures", January 17, 2019.]

[5] I.e., leaders of the schools, particularly members of the board of governors (what in the USA would usually be called a board of trustees).

[6] I.e., they plan to take Ofsted to court — they are, in effect, suing Ofsted.

[7] See "S. A. Exeter".

[8] Ms. Spielman is Ofsted's chief inspector.

[9] See, e.g., "Ofsted May Seek Systemic Steiner Flaws - II", February 1, 2019.

[10] See, e.g., "Steiner schools warned of closure after first Ofsted inspections reveal 'deep concerns' over child safety", The Daily Telegraph, January 31, 2019.

[11] See "RSSKL".


— R.R.







February 16, 2019


STEINER ACADEMY BRISTOL 
GIRDS FOR A FIGHT 


Inspectors have determined that three of four Steiner free schools in the United Kingdom (UK) are failing. [1] As reported here previously, leaders at one of these schools are taking a particularly confrontational stance in response. [2]

Here are excerpts from a new report in The Bristol Post [England, UK]:


Bristol's Steiner Academy school 
gets 'termination warning notice' 
but fights on

“We intend to challenge the Ofsted judgement in the courts”

By Tristan Cork

Leaders at a Bristol school that has been given a ‘termination warning notice’ that it could be shut down have slammed the Government.

The Department for Education [3] today published the notice to the Steiner Academy in Bristol…

The notice comes months after an Ofsted inspection in November last year, which judged the school to be ‘inadequate’ [4]…

The termination notice gives the school just a week — until February 20 — to form or join a multi-academy trust [and] create an action plan…or face being shut down [5]…

Parents, teachers and governors of the school in Fishponds [6] are fighting hard to save their school.

Governors have set up a Crowdfunding [sic] page and have so far raised more than £17,000 to go towards legal costs of challenging the Ofsted judgement in the courts…

The move to shut down, or see the school taken over by an outside sponsor or academy trust has been seen by Steiner school supporters as part of a wider mission by educationalists within the Government to target the Steiner school ethos [7].

[2/16/2019    https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/bristol-news/bristols-steiner-academy-school-gets-2542334    This story originally appeared on February 14 and was updated on February 15.]




For more on the crisis facing Steiner schools in the UK, see "Steiner School Crisis".

For previous coverage of the situation at Steiner Academy Bristol and at a similar academy in Frome, see “Inadequate: Bristol, Frome, &…”.

For coverage of other UK Steiner schools that have been judged inadequate, see “RSSKL” and "S. A. Exeter".




Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] Free schools receive funding from the government but they operate in accordance with their own educational systems — in this instance, the Steiner or Waldorf system. (Free schools are equivalent to charter schools in the USA.)

[2] See, e.g., "Bristol Will Fight", January 24, 2018.

[3] The Department for Education is a division of the UK government. It has responsibility for children’s services and education.

[4] Ofsted is the government's Office for Standards in Education. "Inadequate" is the lowest grade Ofsted can give to a school — it means the school is failing.

[5] Multi-academy trusts are organizations consisting of two or more schools that work together to in an effort attain high educational standards. A single board oversees all the schools in the trust. Joining such a trust can mean that a Steiner school loses its autonomy and may no longer be able to operate in accordance with Steiner/Waldorf beliefs.

February 20 is just a few days off, but the inspection occurred months ago and leaders of the school have known of its findings for a many weeks.

[6] Fishponds is a suburb of the city of Bristol.

[7] I.e., Steiner/Waldorf beliefs and practices.

Whether there is a group within the UK government that has a "mission" to "target" Steiner schools is doubtful. But Steiner's followers have a long history of claiming that they are besieged by enemies and foul conspiracies. [See, e.g., "Enemies".] 

— R.R.







March 1, 2019


STEINER ACADEMY IN FROME 
MAY BE FORCED TO CLOSE 


School inspectors in the United Kingdom (UK) have declared several Steiner schools to be “inadequate” — that is, they have found these schools to have severe deficiencies. [1] The UK government has already ordered one Steiner school to close [2], and now they are threatening to close others. The Steiner academies in Frome and Bristol seem to be in the most immediate danger.


The following is from the Frome Times [Somerset, England]:


Steiner Academy faces 
possible closure or takeover 
but has ‘robust plan’ for improvements 

STEINER Academy Frome has received a termination notice by the Government after being rated as ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted [3].

The school faces possible closure or takeover after the Department for Education [4] said it intended to cut off their funding later this year. But the school has told Frome Times it is working on ‘a robust development plan to bring about rapid school improvement’ [5]…

The school had until 20th February to hand over an action plan for improvement to the government.

The Department for Education has advised the school to convert to a multi-academy trust [6] and said it would help them find a sponsor. Once this happens, funding from the Department for Education will terminate as they [7] will convert from free school status [8] to being part of a multi-academy trust. This process is expected to take several months. If no action plan is made or a sponsor is not found, both schools will close…

The school was rated ‘inadequate’ in a report published by Ofsted in January. Areas of concern included: the unsafe nature, insufficient progress for those with special educational needs, high number of exclusions [9] and no senior authority [10]. 

At the time, the trustees of Steiner Academy Frome said they would be formally challenging the report and the inspection process itself [11].





Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] “Inadequate” is the lowest grade given to any school — it means the school is failing as an educational institution.

[2] This is Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley. [See “RSSKL”.]

[3] Ofsted is the UK government’s Office for Standards in Education.

[4] The Department for Education (DfE) is a ministerial department of the UK government.

[5] Significantly, such a statement indicates that the school’s leaders accept the accuracy of at least some of the inspector’s findings — the statement indicates that the school does need “improvement.”

[6] A multi-academy trust is an educational organization consisting of two or more schools, all operating under a single board of governors or board of trustees. Placement in such a trust may mean that a Steiner school will lose control of its own operations, and it may be forced to reduce or even sever its ties to Anthroposophy. Thus, it would cease to be a Steiner school.

[7] I.e., the Steiner academies in both Frome and Bristol. [See “Inadequate — Bristol, Frome, and…”.]

The Steiner academies are “free schools” — they function essentially as independent schools, having their own syllabi and methods, but they receive public financing. In the USA, such schools are called charter schools. (Steiner academies are at least technically different from private, self-funded Steiner schools. Generally, however, both types of Steiner educational institutions strive to fulfill the vision of Rudolf Steiner.)

[8] I.e., rejected applications for admission. Because the school is funded by the government, it should be open to virtually any child in the region. But the Frome academy — like many other Steiner institutions — has tried to be selective.

[9] I.e., no clear and effective management.

In addition, inspectors found that teachers at Frome have unduly low expectations for their students. The teaching, in other words, is poor. [See “Failing Steiner Schools Must Improve or (Possibly) Close”, February 13, 2019.] 

[10] Some of the Steiner academies and schools receiving negative evaluations from Ofsted have challenged the inspectors’ findings; others have indicated a willingness to cooperate with education officials. At this time, Steiner Academy Frome may be attempting to follow the latter course.

— R.R.







March 2, 2019


MORE TROUBLES 
FOR FROME — AND BEYOND 


Troubles continue to pile up for Steiner schools in the United Kingdom (UK). The Steiner academy in Frome has recently received particular criticism from UK education authorities, but the difficulties at that school appear to reflect a widespread pattern affecting virtually the entire Steiner school movement in Britain. [1]

The following is excerpted from Schools Week [London, UK]:


Steiner school handed finance warning 
after failing to submit accounts on time

[by] Pippa Allen-Kinross

A Steiner academy has received a financial notice to improve after failing to submit its audited accounts on time.

Steiner Academy Frome [2] has been formally warned to improve financial management, control and governance by the Department for Education [3] after it missed the December 31 deadline to submit its accounts.

Issuing a finance warning for solely failing to submit accounts on time seems highly unusual. [4]

The DfE usually just ‘names and shames’ such trusts [5]…

The Steiner school, which follows the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, has been placed in special measures by Ofsted [6] and given a funding termination warning [7] by the DfE in the last two months.

The government warning now urges [Steiner Academy Frome] to consider joining a multi-academy trust [8] to “secure the academy’s future”. It stated that failing to submit accounts on time breached funding rules…

The trust [9] has been told it must review its governance arrangements and the roles of current trustees “to ensure that the pattern of repeated financial mismanagement is addressed” and must hold more regular board meetings…

Steiner Academy Frome’s Ofsted report [10], published in January, warned that leaders had “failed to provide pupils with a safe and effective education”.

In February, Steiner Academy Frome and Steiner Academy Bristol were issued with termination warning notices, meaning they could be transferred to new trusts unless improvements are made. Steiner Academy Exeter, which was placed in special measures in October, received a “minded to terminate” notice from the government in December. [11]

Three of the four state-funded Steiner schools in England are now rated ‘inadequate’ [12], prompting education secretary Damian Hinds to grant Ofsted powers to inspect all Steiner schools in England, including 21 private schools [13]….





Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] See “Steiner School Crisis”.

[3] This is the ministry that oversees education in the United Kingdom; it is the equivalent of the federal Department of Education in the USA.

[4] Some Steiner representatives have alleged that the government is unfairly targeting Steiner schools. [See, e.g., “Steiner Academy Bristol Girds for a Fight”, February 16, 2019.] Schools Week says issuing a warning "solely" because accounts are late would be unusual. But in this case, Steiner Academy Frome has been found to have multiple failings, including "repeated financial mismanagement" and failure to provide "a safe and effective education."

[5] In the UK, academies are, technically, self-governing trusts.

[6] Special measures are emergency provisions intended to produce rapid improvement in failing schools. Ofsted is the UK government's Office for Standards in Education.

[7] The school has been warned that it may lose its state funding, an eventuality that might lead to the closing of the school.

[8] I.e., a trust that runs two or more schools. Joining such a trust would mean the academy would lose much of its independence.

[9] I.e., the school’s current supervisory organization, especially its board.

[10] I.e., the report on the most recent official inspection of the school, conducted by the Office for Standards in Education.

[11] See “S. A. Exeter”.

[12] This is the lowest grade given to schools by UK education officials; its is the equivalent of an “F” (failing).

[13] For reports on conditions at some private Steiner schools in the UK, see, e.g., "RSSKL" and "Another 'Damning' Inspection of Another Steiner School", February 28, 2019.

— R.R.






May 11, 2019


INSPECTIONS: 
WIN SOME, LOSE SOME 


The Steiner education movement in the United Kingdom (UK) has been rocked by a series of highly critical inspection reports. As a result, Steiner education in the UK may fairly be said to be in crisis. [1]

Two new reports open the latest chapter in this long, complex tale.


1.


From BristolLive [Bristol, England]:


How Bristol Steiner School 
did in its latest Ofsted inspection

The positive rating follows a series of 
damning reports at Steiner schools across the country

By Emma Grimshaw

Bristol Steiner School has been awarded a 'good' rating [2] in every category following its latest Ofsted inspection [3].

It's been a turbulent period for families who have chosen a Steiner education following a series of damning Ofsted reports from Bristol, Frome and Exeter's free schools [4].

But the latest inspection conducted at Bristol's fee-paying Steiner, based in Redland [5], offers a welcome change.

Headteacher Ruth Glover said: "Steiner education has received a lot of bad press recently, but this school's progressive attitude shows that the Steiner model of education is not flawed and can stand the test of time…"

Bristol Steiner Academy, an all-through free school in Fishponds [6], plans to take Ofsted to court following its inadequate rating earlier this year.

Ofsted’s report into the school in January, following November’s inspection, was damning [7]…

The Fishponds school’s principal, Joss Hayes, said: "External partners have already confirmed that safeguarding is effective at the school [8].

"We are committed to making improvements [9] and have started implementing a number of new learning programmes," she added.






Waldorf Watch Footnotes:


[1] See “Steiner School Crisis”.

[2] “Good” is the second of four ratings used by the official school inspectors. The highest rating is “Outstanding.” The ratings below “Outstanding” are, in descending order, “Good”, “Requires Improvement”, and “Inadequate.”

[3] Ofsted is the UK government’s Office for Standards in Education.

[4] See “Inadequate”.

[5] Redland is a well-to-do suburb of the city of Bristol. Bristol Steiner School, in Redland, is a private Steiner school — the student's families must pay to send their children there.

[6] Fishponds is an outer suburb northeast of Bristol. Bristol Steiner Academy, in Fishponds, is a free school (what in the USA would be called a charter school) — enrollment is "free" there (the government pays).

[7] See, e.g., “More Inspections, More Failures”, January 17, 2019.

[8] Poor safeguarding — that is, failure to adequately ensure the safety and wellbeing of students — has been a prominent issue identified by inspectors at various UK Steiner schools. [See, e.g., “S. A. Exeter”.]

[9] In acknowledging the need for improvements, Joss Hayes acknowledges shortcomings at the school. The new, positive inspection report indicates these shortcoming have been, or are being, addressed.





2.


From GlouchestershireLive [Glouster, England]:


The damning Ofsted report that rates private 
Gloucestershire school 'inadequate' 
in every single category 
and raises safeguarding worries

Ofsted say the Steiner school must do better after it was rated inadequate [1] across the board but the school has started to address weaknesses

By Janet Hughes

A private Gloucestershire school [2] which charges up to just shy of up to £10,000 [3] a year in fees has been branded failing by Ofsted inspectors in a damning report.

Inspectors rated all six areas [4] of Wynstones School on the outskirts of Gloucester as inadequate after a visit in March and say it must carry out more checks on staff.

Inspectors say its pupils are at risk because managers are not carrying out the necessary safeguarding checks and training to ensure all staff, volunteers and trustees are suitable to work with children…




Standards at the Steiner Waldorf school, which takes in pupils from the age of three to 19, have slipped since Ofsted last visited in 2007 when it was rated good [5] and nobody has been properly holding the teachers to account, says the report.

Management have had too many responsibilities to ensure that the school provides a good quality of education [6] and carry out effective child protection arrangements, say inspectors.

And from early years to the sixth form the quality of teaching and learning and outcomes for the 317 pupils at the school on Church Lane, Whaddon were branded inadequate.

Although parents value the emphasis on crafts craft, drama and other creative areas at the school [7], education standards are too low and many pupils are working several years behind where they should be, says the report…

What the school says:

"The school is deeply disappointed with the Inspectors’ findings. We do, however, accept their conclusions and are working to rectify every weakness as a matter of urgency and restore the school to its 'Good' rating.

"Our teachers are deeply committed to the pupils at Wynstones and passionate about their work with them. We are confident that we have the capacity to improve.…"






Waldorf Watch Footnotes:


[1] This is the lowest of four ratings used by Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education.

[2] This is the Wynstones School, a Steiner Waldorf school located in the Glouchestershire village of Whaddon.

[3] Approximately $13,000 US.

[4] Ofsted rates schools according to their performance in six areas: 

1. Effectiveness of leadership and management
2. Quality of teaching, learning and assessment
3. Personal development, behavior and welfare
4. Outcomes for pupils 
5. Early years provision [i.e., provisions for the youngest students]
6. Sixth form provision [i.e., provisions for the most senior students]

A rating of “overall effectiveness” is then given, based on assessments in the six areas.


[5] Assessments of overall effectiveness may change dramatically from inspection to inspection, as these news accounts suggest.

[6] While safeguarding has been the focus of much media attention, quality of education is also highly important. In various recent inspections, Steiner schools have been found to provide students with a poor education. Other failings, such as ineffective management, have also been identified at these schools. [See “Inadequate”.]

[7] Steiner or Waldorf schools are often highly attractive, thanks to their emphasis on the arts. [See, e.g., “Magical Arts”.] The question for parents becomes whether or not the attractions of these schools are misleading. Aside from relying on official inspection reports, assessing a Steiner or Waldorf school can be difficult. [See, e.g., “Non-Waldorf Waldorfs” and “Clues”.]

— R.R.






June 17, 2019


BRISTOL STEINER SCHOOL WILL 
SHELTER UNDER A HINDU WING 


Here is a further report about troubled Steiner schools in the United Kingdom (UK) turning to a Hindu association for protection. A previous report appeared here on June 14, 2019: "Threatened Steiner Schools Turn to Hindu Trust."

From BristolLive [Bristol, UK]:


Troubled Steiner Academy Bristol [1] 
has been taken over by a Hindu trust.

By Emma Grimshaw

Earlier this year, [Steiner Academy Bristol] was placed into special measures [2] following a damning Ofsted [3].

Inspectors said pupils were being put at avoidable risk of harm and school leaders were issued with a ‘termination warning notice’ forcing it [4] to join a multi-academy trust [5] or face being closed down.

Leaders [6] agreed to team up with Avanti Schools Trust which already runs five schools across the country [7].

It is still unclear at this stage how much of Waldorf Steiner's teaching the new academy will adopt [8]...

Other schools ran by the Hindu trust integrate yoga [9] and mindfulness [10] into lessons...

According to the Avanti Schools Trust's website they are looking at working with more non-denomination schools [11].... 

 




Waldorf Watch Footnotes:


[1] For previous coverage of the situation at this Steiner school, see "Inadequate".

[2] "Special measures" are urgent or emergency actions intended to produce rapid improvements in a failing school. A school placed in special measures should expect frequent official inspections conducted with little advance warning. Moreover, an appointed executive committee may remove teachers and managers at the school. In extreme cases, if a school fails to improve, it may be ordered to close.

[3] I.e., a highly critical inspection report from Ofsted, the UK government's Office for Standards in Education. Ofsted conducts inspections of various types of schools in the UK.

[4] I
.e., the school.

[5] Multi-academy trusts in the UK are organizations consisting of two or more schools that work together in an effort to attain high educational standards. Each multi-academy trust has a single set of directors who oversee all of the schools in the trust.

[6] I.e., leaders of the Steiner Academy Bristol.

[7] "Avanti Schools Trust is the sponsor of state-funded Hindu faith schools in the United Kingdom." — Wikipedia [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avanti_Schools_Trust]. The schools currently run by Avanti are all Hindu institutions: ◊ Avanti Fields All-through School, Leicester; ◊ Avanti Court Primary School, Redbridge; ◊ Avanti House Primary School, Harrow; ◊ Avanti House Secondary School, Harrow; ◊ Krishna Avanti Primary School, Croydon; ◊ Krishna Avanti Primary School, Harrow; and ◊ Krishna Avanti Primary School, Leicester. [See https://avanti.org.uk/our-schools/.]

[8] This is the key issue. To what degree will Steiner Academy Bristol be able to continue functioning as a Steiner school once it is incorporated into the Avanti Schools Trust? For Steiner schools generally, the danger in joining a multi-academy trust is that they may be unable to maintain their distinctive Steiner/Waldorf character. In particular, their allegiance to Anthroposophy may be imperiled. Cooperation between Steiner schools and Avanti may be eased because Anthroposophy contains various elements derived from Hinduism, such as belief in karma and reincarnation. On the other hand, several central tenets of Anthroposophy — such as emphasis on Christ — are alien to Hinduism. The test will be whether Avanti will allow Anthroposophy to continue playing the central role in Steiner schools for which it takes responsibility.

[9] Yoga is a Hindu discipline involving various physical postures and conscious control of bodily functions. "The word Yoga comes from the root yuj, 'to yoke or join.' It is used to suggest the union of the individual self (atman). with the Highest Self (Brahman). Yoga is the means to integrate the body with the mind and the lower self with the higher self. Through yoga, one can achieve perfection of the physical, mental and lower selves and prepare ones [sic] journey into higher consciousness through the awakening of the Kundalini and other latent powers. Purely as a physical exercise, yoga can aid us in keeping our bodies and minds in perfect balance and at peace. Yoga is the most important contribution of Hinduism to the modern world. The practice of yoga is a sure way to hasten the process of our evolution into higher beings of the transcendental realms." — "The Yoga Homepage", Hinduwebsite.com [https://www.hinduwebsite.com/hinduism/yogaindex.asp]. Steiner identified yoga as a path leading to occult initiation. [See "Yoga".]

[10] 
Mindfulness is a concept from Buddhism that has been incorporated in Hinduism. "[The Buddha] advised his followers to cultivate the wonderful state of mindfulness to break themselves free from their ignorance and existential suffering ... The practice of mindfulness, tempered with compassion, detachment and understanding, is in tune with the teachings of the Buddha on the Eightfold Path [leading to enlightenment] ... Mindfulness means to be now and here and perceive with clarity what is going on in your mind, body and environment." — "The Meaning and Practice of Mindfulness", Hinduwebsite.com [https://www.hinduwebsite.com/buddhism/mindfulnesspractice.asp]. Mindfulness is potentially consistent with Anthroposophical spiritual objectives and practices. [See "Knowing the Worlds".]

[11] Avanti aims to expand beyond operating purely Hindu schools. "Non-denomination schools," in the sense used here by Avanti, are non-Hindu schools. Steiner schools usually claim to be non-denominational — they deny that they are tied to a specific religion. However, if Anthroposophy is recognized for what it actually is — a religion — then this claim is undercut. In reality, Steiner schools are disguised Anthroposophical religious institutions — and the disguise is usually easy to penetrate. [See, e.g., "Schools as Churches" and "Waldorf Worship".]

— R.R.






June 19, 2019


THREE OF FOUR FAILING STEINERS 
TURN TO A HINDU SCHOOLS TRUST 


Here is a follow-up to recent reports about the decision taken by several Steiner academies [1] to join the Avanti Schools Trust [2].

From Schools Week [London, UK]:


New trust found for 
failing Steiner schools 

[by] Pippa Allen-Kinross

An academy trust [3] that runs seven Hindu schools has been chosen to take over three of the country’s four Steiner state schools.

The three Steiner academies in Bristol, Exeter and Frome [4] will all join the Avanti Schools Trust after a turbulent year that has seen all three placed in special measures [5] after damning reports by the inspectorate [6]...

A spokesperson for the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship, the umbrella body for Steiner schools, said the schools would remain Steiner under the new trust [7]...

All seven of Avanti’s current schools are Hindu schools and provide yoga and mindfulness lessons [8]. They are run with a focus on character formation and spiritual insight as well as education [9].

Avanti trust did not respond to a request for comment...

All three of the Steiner academies were placed in special measures by Ofsted after inspections in October and November 2018.

Snap inspections of nine state and private Steiner schools at the end of last year found six were “inadequate” and three “requires improvement” [10]...

The only other state Steiner school, Steiner Academy Hereford, was rated ‘good’ [11].

 




Waldorf Watch Footnotes:


[1] Steiner academies are "free schools" — what in the USA would be called charter schools. They are state schools in that they receive government financing, but they implement their own educational philosophy. (Other Steiner schools, not called "academies," are private schools, dependent on their own fundraising.)

[2] From the Avanti website: "The purpose of Avanti is to contribute to society through the systematic pursuit of human values and spiritual development ... Our vision was for a family of schools based upon our core principles of educational excellence, character formation and spiritual insight. We now have close to 2,700 students and 250 members of staff across our family of 7 schools ... Our current schools all have Hindu faith-designations and the next exciting phase for Avanti is to develop our group of non-denominational schools, underpinned by Avanti’s purpose to contribute to society through the systematic pursuit of human values and spiritual development." — https://avanti.org.uk/about/.

[3] Academy trusts — also called multi-academy trusts — are educational organizations that run two or more schools in coordination, under a single board of directors.

[4] For previous coverage of the situations at these schools, see "S. A. Exeter" and "Bristol, Frome, &".

[5] "Special measures" are urgent or emergency actions intended to produce rapid improvements in a failing school. A school placed in special measures should expect frequent official inspections conducted with little advance warning. Moreover, an appointed executive committee may remove teachers and managers at the school. In extreme cases, if a school fails to improve, it may be ordered to close.

[6] The "inspectorate" is the UK government's Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted).

[7] This is the central question: Will Avanti allow the Steiner academies to remain true to their Steiner beliefs and practices, or not? The Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (SWSF) clearly intends for the schools to remain faithful to their Steiner roots.

[8] Both yoga and mindfulness are potentially compatible with the Steiner approach. [See "Bristol Steiner School Will Shelter Under a Hindu Wing", June 17, 2019.]

[9] Like Avanti's Hindu schools, Steiner schools place great stress on spirituality. Indeed, these schools are essentially religious institutions, although they usually deny this. [See "Schools as Churches" and "Secrets".]

[10] "Inadequate" is the lowest grade issued by Ofsted; it is equivalent to an "F." "Requires Improvement" is equivalent to a "D" of "C-."

[11] "Good" is equivalent to a "B". (The highest grade issued by Ofsted, equivalent to an "A", is "Outstanding." None of the Steiner schools inspected received this grade.)

— R.R.










July 8, 2019


CONFIRMED: FROME STEINER TOO 
WILL JOIN HINDU-ATTACHED TRUST 


Steiner schools in the United Kingdom have been reeling after official inspections found serious problems at many of the schools. [1] Faced with possible closure, some of the schools have sought shelter within an educational trust that, to date, has run only Hindu schools. [2]

Today we have confirmation that a struggling Steiner academy in Frome will join the Avanti Schools Trust.

From SomersetLive [county of Somerset, England]:


Frome Steiner Academy to be 
taken over by Avanti trust 
which runs Hindu faith-based schools

Schools commissioner 'remains concerned' about education standards

By Michael Scanlan & Richard Mills

Frome Steiner Academy [3] will be taken over by a trust which operates several Hindu faith-based schools across the UK.

The Avanti Schools Trust [4] has been authorised to take over the academy, which was placed in special measures [5] after Ofsted [6] deemed it inadequate [7] in November 2018...

Lisa Mannall, Regional Schools Commissioner [8] for the South West wrote: "I remain concerned about the standard of education at the school, and the Regional Schools Commissioners office will be closely monitoring progress after the school transfers."

In November, Inspectors...told the school it must improve 'immediately' in a number of areas, including where governors hold senior leaders to account for poor standards and keeping pupils safe [9]...

The Avanti Schools [Trust] describes its ethos on its website: "Avanti Schools support each person’s life journey along three parallel paths: educational excellence; character formation; and spiritual insight.

"In those of our schools which are specifically Hindu faith-designated, this means to awaken each person’s unique and loving relationship with Krishna (God) [10].

"In all Avanti schools, spirituality is made relevant and accessible to all, irrespective of faith or belief."

It is understood that Frome Steiner Academy will not become a faith designated school and will remain non-denominational [11]...

It is still unclear at this stage how much of Waldorf Steiner’s teaching the new academy will adopt and what it will inherit from the...Avanti Trust [12]....

[7/8/2019   https://www.somersetlive.co.uk/news/somerset-news/frome-steiner-academy-taken-over-3063279   This article originally appeared on July 7.]





Waldorf Watch Footnotes:


[1] See "The Steiner School Crisis".

[2] See "Three of Four Steiner Academies Turn to a Hindu Schools Trust", June 19, 2019.

[3] For previous coverage of the situation at this school, see "Inadequate: Bristol, Frome, &..."

Steiner "academies" are free schools (comparable to American charter schools): They receive public financing, but they largely go their own way, implementing their own curricula and methodologies.

[4] From the Avanti website: "The purpose of Avanti is to contribute to society through the systematic pursuit of human values and spiritual development ... Our vision was for a family of schools based upon our core principles of educational excellence, character formation and spiritual insight. We now have close to 2,700 students and 250 members of staff across our family of 7 schools ... Our current schools all have Hindu faith-designations and the next exciting phase for Avanti is to develop our group of non-denominational schools, underpinned by Avanti’s purpose to contribute to society through the systematic pursuit of human values and spiritual development." — https://avanti.org.uk/about/.

[5] "Special measures" are emergency provisions meant to quickly improve a subpar school.

[6] Ofsted is the UK government's Office for Standards in Education.

[7] "Inadequate" is the lowest rating issued by Ofsted: It is a failing grade.

[8] From the web page for the Schools Commissioners Group: "The National Schools Commissioner and regional schools commissioners work with school leaders to take action in underperforming schools ... Regional schools commissioners (RSCs) act on behalf of the Secretary of State for Education and are accountable to the National Schools Commissioner." — https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/schools-commissioners-group/about.

[9] As reported by The Guardian, "The Frome report accuses leaders and governors [at Steiner Academy Frome] of failing to provide pupils with a safe and effective education...." [See "More Inspections, More Failures", January 17, 2019.]

[10] Hinduism is polytheistic — there is no One and Only God as in monotheistic faiths. "Krishna...[is] one of the most widely revered and most popular of all Indian divinities, worshipped as the eighth incarnation (avatar, or avatara) of the Hindu god Vishnu and also as a supreme god in his own right." — ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA, July 8, 2019. Note that Krishna is "a" supreme god, not the supreme god.

Anthroposophy, too, is polytheistic. [See "Polytheism".] This is one indication that a meeting of the minds may be possible between Steiner proponents and Avanti's leaders.

[11] While generally proclaiming their interest in spirituality, Steiner schools almost always deny that they are religious or denominational institutions. But their ties to Anthroposophy belie this denial. Anthroposophy is in fact a religion (although Anthroposophists usually prefer to call their belief system a "spiritual science"). [See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"]

[12] This will almost certainly be the key issue. The faculty of Steiner Academy Exeter will presumably want to remain true to Steiner education, but the leaders of the Avanti Schools Trust may want to move in a different direction. If so, considerable strife may ensue. Unfortunately for the Steiner group, the Avanti group will be — at least formally — in charge.

— R.R.

















To Be Continued (?)