.



FEBRUARY, 2019





Here is a collection of items that appeared on the Waldorf Watch "news" page in February, 2019. The items appear in reverse chronological order: newest first, oldest last. To find a specific item, scroll down the page.




I am the author of the Waldorf Watch commentaries, editorials, and explanatory notes you will find here. In them, I often generalize about Waldorf schools. There are fundamental similarities among Waldorf schools; describe the schools based on the evidence concerning their structure and operations in the past and — more importantly — in the present. But not all Waldorf schools, Waldorf charter schools, and Waldorf-inspired schools are wholly alike. To evaluate an individual school, you should carefully examine its stated purposes, its practices (which may or may not be consistent with its stated purposes), and the composition of its faculty. 
— Roger Rawlings




.







February 28, 2019


ANOTHER "DAMNING" INSPECTION 
OF ANOTHER STEINER SCHOOL 


The Steiner/Waldorf movement in the United Kingdom has been reeling after a series of severely critical official inspections. [1] Now the crisis for Steiner education has deepened as yet another Steiner school has received a blistering review. [2] 

In several of the recent cases, inspectors examined newly established Steiner "free schools". [3] In this instance, the school inspected is a long-established Steiner private school.

The following is from GloucestershireLive [Gloucester, England]:


Respected Wynstones Steiner Waldorf 
private school branded 'inadequate' [4]
in damning Ofsted report 

By John Hawkins

The respected Wynstones Steiner Waldorf private school on the outskirts of Gloucester has received an appalling Ofsted report [5].

The boarding provision [6] of the school…has been deemed inadequate by inspectors for its lack of safeguarding of pupils, using restraints on children and poor record keeping — leading to concerns over how the children are kept safe [7] …

The school, which charges fees between £6,700 and £9,800 a year [8], has been educating pupils from pre-school through to university entrance for nearly 80 years [9] and has a proven track record of providing an alternative to standard mainstream education [10]… 

The three day Oftsed inspection took place in November and the key points that have arisen are that the 'safeguarding culture in the school is weak and leaders and managers have failed to ensure effective management of safeguarding matters'...

The school was also criticised for its lack of record keeping and inability to hold leaders and managers to account.

All of these failures have meant that there are increased risks to the children who are educated there, the report says, and an action plan has been drawn up and submitted to the Department for Education [11]…

The school has, however, been praised in some areas. The report says inspectors were told children are provided with a good quality accommodation and boarders have talked positively about it…

But the report says the school does not meet national minimum standards for boarding schools and immediate action is required in order to comply with these standards…

A school spokeswoman said: "The Staff and Trustees of Wynstones School take the recent Ofsted Boarding Inspection report very seriously. 

"We welcome the recommendations which the inspectors have made for improvement and are working with Ofsted to make root and branch improvements which will restore the school’s boarding provision to the ‘Good’ status recorded in 2016 [12]…."





Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] See “Steiner School Crisis”.

[2] For reports on problems at other UK Steiner schools, see “RSSKL”, “S. A. Exeter”, and “Inadequate — Bristol, Frome, and…

[3] Free schools in the UK are equivalent to charter schools in the USA — they function essentially as independent schools, implementing their own curricula and methods, but they receive public financing. The Steiner academies in Bristol, Exeter, and Frome — all of which have gotten bad reviews from Ofsted — are free schools. A Steiner free school in Hereford has received a more positive review (getting a grade equivalent to a "C+" or "B").

The Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley, a Steiner private school, has been ordered to close. [See, again, RSSKL”.] Like Wynstones, RSSKL has been one of the premier Steiner schools in the UK.

[4] “Inadequate” is the lowest grade government inspectors can give to a school. This grade, equivalent to an “F”, means the school is failing.

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

[6] Wynstones is a boarding school — students live at the school. The term “boarding provision” refers to the arrangements made for boarding students.

[7] At most of the Steiner schools that have received negative reviews from Ofsted, failure to adequately ensure the safety of the students has been a prominent finding. But Ofsted inspectors have also pointed to other failings at the schools.

[8] At today’s exchange rates, these fees are the equivalent of $8,900 to $13,000 (US dollars).

[9] Wynstones was founded in 1937. [See 
http://www.wynstones.com/about-wynstones/our-history.]

[10] Steiner education undeniably provides an alternative to mainstream education. But whether Steiner schools provide an academically sound education is a different question. [See, e.g., “Academic Standards at Waldorf”.]

[11] “The Department for Education [DfE] is responsible for children’s services and education, including early years, schools, higher and further education policy, apprenticeships and wider skills in England. DfE is a ministerial department [of the UK government], supported by 19 agencies and public bodies." [https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-education]

[12] Some of the Steiner schools criticized by Ofsted have attempted to cooperate (or appear to cooperate) in efforts to make improvements. This entails acknowledging that at least some of the inspectors’ criticisms are valid. On the other hand, some of the criticized Steiner schools have taken a more defensive stance, challenging the inspectors’ criticisms. At least for now, Wynstones seems to be adopting the former approach.

— R.R.







February 25, 2019

◊ READINGS ◊

WARMING AND COOLING 
THE DEAD 


Rudolf Steiner Press has been releasing a series of books presenting meditations written by Steiner. Here is one of these volumes:




Connecting to Those Who Have Died
(Rudolf Steiner Press, June 2018)


According to Anthroposophical belief, death is illusory. We pass through a long series of lives and "deaths," alternating — through the process of reincarnation — between existence on the physical plane and existence on the spiritual plane. [1] “Death” on Earth merely means transitioning to life in the spirit realm, which is a preparation for one’s next life on Earth. The point of it all is to gradually evolve to higher and higher levels of consciousness, which means becoming a higher and higher spirit. [2] In the none-too-distant future, Steiner taught, we will evolve to become gods. Thereafter, we will evolve through higher and higher levels of divinity until we become the highest of gods. “[W]e shall have gradually achieved the transformation of our own being into what is called in Christianity ‘the Father.’” [3]

There have been numerous Anthroposophical publications focusing on the relationship between living souls (i.e., those dwelling now on Earth) and dead souls (i.e., those dwelling now in the spirit realm). Among these are STAYING CONNECTED - How to Continue Your Relationships with Those Who Have Died [4], OUR DEAD - Memorial, Funeral, and Cremation Addresses [5], and WORKING WITH THE DEAD [6]. The latter is intended for use by Waldorf teachers, helping them to acquaint their students with the continuing existence of dead people. [7]

As you might anticipate, many of Steiner’s meditations centering on death are meant give succor to individuals living on Earth who have lost loved ones (i.e., they have seen people they love pass through the portal to the great beyond). Perhaps more surprisingly, many other Steiner meditations are meant to comfort and buck up the dead themselves (even though they presumably now live in a more wonderful place, interacting directly with angels and gods). [8]

Here is an example of a meditation meant to hearten the dead, as presented in OUR DEAD:

I send you love
In the worlds where
Your soul’s essential nature
Now sojourns —
To cool your warmth
To warm your coolness.
If you find me there in feeling,
I shall always be near you. [9]


Steiner claimed to be able to communicate with the dead, and on occasion he brought back messages from them. So, for instance, he consoled the widow of Helmuth von Moltke the Younger, the Chief of the German General Staff during the opening stages of World War I. The essence of the messages from General von Moltke is that the spirit realm turns out to be almost exactly as Steiner described it. [11]

MEDITATIONS FOR THE DEAD is one of four volumes of Steiner mediations released recently by the Rudolf Steiner Press. [11] Others are MEDITATIONS FOR HARMONY AND HEALING - Finding the Greater Self [12], MEDITATIONS FOR COURAGE AND TRANQUILITY - The Heart of Peace [13], and MEDITATIONS FOR TIMES OF DAY AND SEASONS OF THE YEAR - Breathing the Spirit [14].




Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] See “Reincarnation”.

[2] See the entries for "evolution" and “evolution of consciousness” in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.

[3] Rudolf Steiner, THE LORD’S PRAYER (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2007), p. 17.

[4] Anthroposophic Press, 1999.

[5] SteinerBooks, 2011.

[6] Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America, 2003.

[7] See, e.g., Part II of "Waldorf Wisdom".

[8] Steiner taught that there are two "higher worlds" above us, the soul world and the spirit world. [See "Higher Worlds".] Steiner also taught that angels are, themselves, gods — they are members of the lowest rank of divinities. [See "Polytheism".]

[9] OUR DEAD, p. 331.


[11] These books are essentially repackaged reprints of earlier offerings from Rudolf Steiner Press. Thus, MEDITATIONS FOR THE DEAD was preceded by LIVING WITH THE DEAD - Meditations for Maintaining a Connection with Those Who Have Died (Sophia Press, Rudolf Steiner Press, 2002).



LIVING WITH THE DEAD 
(Rudolf Steiner Press, 2002) 


[12] Rudolf Steiner Press, June 2018.

[13] Rudolf Steiner Press, October 2018.

[14] Rudolf Steiner Press, October 2018.
— R.R.







February 23, 2019 


WALDORF AGAIN 
THE OUTLIER 


As reports of measles outbreaks come in from around the world, Waldorf schools continue to be identified as having exceptionally low numbers of vaccinated students. Waldorf spokespeople offer various explanations and denials, yet the pattern is persistent.

Here is the most recent example. From The Squamish Chief [British Columbia, Canada]:


BREAKING: Possible measles [1] exposure 
in Squamish and Whistler

Sea to Sky [2] school measles vaccination rates 
vary from 33 to 93 per cent

[By] Keili Bartlett

A week after Vancouver Coastal Health [3] confirmed nine cases of measles in Vancouver, the public health agency has confirmed two more cases and possible exposure in Squamish, Whistler, Vancouver, Richmond and Steveston [4]...

In the Howe Sound region [5] of the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, the reported minimum measles vaccination rate in Kindergarten is 80 per cent...

In Squamish, both Ecole Squamish Elementary and Ecole Les Aiglons had a minimum of 93 per cent measles vaccination rate … [At the other end of the spectrum] Stawamus School reported a minimum of 42 per cent, while Squamish Waldorf School had at least 33 per cent. [6]

"When we saw the 33 per cent, I have to say I was quite surprised," Gabriel Hull, the principal of Squamish Waldorf School, said. "We do collect vaccination records with our preschool students, and it tends to be 10 to 20 per cent of those students who are not vaccinated [7]"...

[Squamish health officer Geoff] McKee said the rates should be read as a minimum percentage, since VCH [8] nurses are not able to obtain immunization records for all students ... McKee said the rates could also be affected if the records are kept by another health authority, province or country. The number of students in each school also affects the overall percentage. [9]


Squamish schools:
Minimum measles vaccination rates

Ecole Squamish Elementary: 93%
Ecole Les Aiglons: 93%
Brackendale Elementary: 86%
Mamquam Elementary: 86%
Garibaldi Highlands Elementary: 78%
Valleycliffe Elementary: 76%
Squamish Montessori Elementary: 75%
Stawamus School: 42%
Squamish Waldorf School: 33%






Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] From the World Health Organization: "Measles is a highly infectious acute viral disease ... It is a leading cause of childhood mortality among the vaccine preventable diseases in [for example] India ... [M]easles can cause serious complications like ear infection, blindness, encephalitis, diarrhea, pneumonia and death due to these complications ...  Measles can be prevented by vaccination with a safe and effective vaccine." [http://www.searo.who.int/india/topics/measles/en/]

[2] I.e., school district #48 in British Columbia.

[3] This is the regional health authority.

[4] These are communities in southwestern Canada. Squamish — site of the Squamish Waldorf School — is a community about 40 miles north of the city of Vancouver.

[5] Squamish is located at the northern tip of Howe Sound, a body of water branching from the Pacific Ocean.

[6] The officially recorded rate for Squamish Waldorf students is 33%, but the school challenges this figure. A low vaccination rate at a school means children at the school are more likely to contract the targeted disease. [For a report on a recent measles outbreak in a Waldorf School, see "Measles, Vaccines, and Waldorf", February 20, 2019, below.]

[7] I.e., Hull claims that up to 90% of the students at Squamish Waldorf are vaccinated. The enormous difference between this claim and the official number is startling. In general, Waldorf schools do not have official anti-vaccination policies, but they tend to have very high percentages of unvaccinated students. Rudolf Steiner warned that some vaccines may destroy the soul's receptiveness to beneficial spiritual influences. [See Steiner’s Quackery.]

When evaluating claims made by Waldorf representatives, it can be helpful to recall that spokespeople for Waldorf schools have a longstanding reputation for deceit. [See, e.g., "Secrets" and "Our Experience".]

[8] VCH is Vancouver Coastal Health.

[9] Actually, the number of students at a school has little bearing on the percentage; if a third of the students at a school, large or small, have been vaccinated, then the rate in either case is 33%. Mr. McKee and The Squamish Chief seem to be bending over backward to be fair to all the schools in the area, as one would expect in a lightly populated, neighborly region. But, in fact, it would not be surprising if the great majority of students in a Waldorf school were unvaccinated. (A minimum 33% vaccination rate means that about two-thirds of the students at the school — a maximum of 67 percent — evidently have not received vaccinations.)
 
— R.R.







February 22, 2019 


STAYING TRUE 
TO THEIR SCHOOL 



To the dismay of Rudolf Steiner’s followers, their belief system — Anthroposophy [1] — is generally judged by scholars and critics to be a religion or, indeed, a cult. [2] 

Here are excerpts from an article posted recently at Cult News 101, reprinted from the site Religion Watch

The article deals with some of the challenges facing the Steiner movement as one of its most significant components — Steiner education, also called Waldorf education — observes its centenary. Steiner/Waldorf schools have spread from Germany to many nations around the world. But as newly founded Steiner/Waldorf schools adapt in order to attract, and serve the needs of, people in many diverse cultures, they have struggled with the challenge of remaining true to their Anthroposophical roots. [3] Some of the schools have morphed into forms that Steiner might well disown if he were still alive. 

Leading Anthroposophists today strive to promote fidelity to Steiner among Steiner/Waldorf faculties, but the task gets increasingly difficult as the schools spread. 


Steiner schools celebrate 
hundredth anniversary with 
emphasis on internationalization 

While the schools and educational movement inspired by Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) first spread in German-speaking countries and then in other areas of the Western world, they are now present in other cultural surroundings as well. But the success of Steiner’s educational principles at the 100th anniversary of the first school’s founding [4] may also lead to a dilution of the specific Anthroposophical legacy he pioneered…

…The global spread of the schools has been striking in recent decades. The first school in America opened as early as 1928 in New York City, but it was only in the second half of the 20th century that the global spread of Steiner’s educational system increased markedly, and even more so in recent decades, with 1,100 schools and 2,000 kindergartens currently established in some 80 countries, according to the movement’s own statistics [5] … [T]he noticeable presence of the Anthroposophical approach varies from one school to another [6]. From time to time, some Anthroposophical periodicals have been asking for a stronger emphasis on Steiner’s legacy and the Anthroposophical ethos in the schools [7].

[2/22/2019     https://www.cultnews101.com/search/label/Waldorf%20School   At Cult News 101, this article is dated February 14; it was drawn from Religion Watch Vol. 34 No. 4.




Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] Fundamentally, Anthroposophy is a version of Theosophy as developed by Steiner. [See the entries for "Anthroposophy" and "Theosophy" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]

[2] Steiner taught that Anthroposophy is a "spiritual science," but it clearly meets criteria for being deemed a religion. [See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?".]

[3] Steiner originally designed Waldorf education to meet the special needs of German children as bearers of the German national "mission." [See, e.g., "The Good Wars".]

[4] The first Waldorf school opened in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1919. Steiner created the school at the behest of Emil Molt, the owner of the Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Factory (Waldorf-Astoria-Zigarettenfabrik— hence the school's name, "Waldorf." 

[5] The numbers cited by Waldorf proponents tend to vary widely, from the evidently low to the obviously inflated. Coming as they do from within a crusading movement, all these numbers should be treated with at least mild skepticism. Avoiding specific numbers, The Encyclopedia Britannica says simply that Waldorf schools constitute "one of the most widespread independent educational movements in the world." [Feb. 22, 2019, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Waldorf-school.]

[6] I.e., the degree of fidelity to Anthroposophy varies from one school to another.

[7] Waldorf teacher-training programs generally try to steer new teachers toward embracing Steiner's occult vision. [See "Teacher Training".] Studying to become a Waldorf teacher is usually hard to distinguish from studying to become an Anthroposophist. Steiner repeatedly stressed the crucial bonds between Waldorf education and Anthroposophy, and leading Waldorf authorities have often echoed him on this key point.

◊ As Waldorf teachers, we must be true anthroposophists.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 118.

◊ "Waldorf education is a form of practical anthroposophy." — Waldorf teacher Keith Francis
, THE EDUCATION OF A WALDORF TEACHER (iUniverse, 2004), p. xii.

◊ "Every young person who is guided toward the path of spiritual development will surely receive great gifts ... Much is attempted in this sense by Waldorf schools working with the educational insights and methods suggested by [Rudolf] Steiner." — Waldorf teacher John F. Gardner, YOUTH LONGS TO KNOW (Anthroposophic Press, 1997), p. 37.

◊ "Waldorf teachers must be anthroposophists first and teachers second." — Waldorf teacher Gilbert Childs, STEINER EDUCATION IN THEORY AND PRACTICE (Floris Books, 1991), p. 166.
 
— R.R.







February 21, 2019


CARING FOR THE YOUNG 
AT A WALDORF SCHOOL 


Windsong School — a Waldorf school in the US — is currently facing allegations reminiscent of those faced by some Steiner schools in the UK. Windsong School denies wrongdoing.

The following is from The Spokesman-Review [Spokane, Washington]:


Spokane’s Windsong School 
disputes claims of negligence, 
bullying of students

By Chad Sokol

A lawsuit accuses a private school in Spokane of bullying kindergartners, encouraging them to bully each other [1] and evoking “negative karma from past lives” to justify it all [2].

Administrators at Windsong School have spent more than a year fighting the allegations, which they say are part of a smear campaign by disgruntled parents.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of six parents and six children who attended Windsong School in 2015 and 2016 … [It includes] claims of negligence, emotional distress, sexual harassment, disability discrimination and failure to report child abuse [3]…

“The families who have filed the lawsuit against Windsong School and their children were served with skill, compassion and generosity while they were enrolled at Windsong,” Lauren Bergstedt-Kohler, a kindergarten teacher and one of the school’s founders, said in a statement. “…The allegations they are now making in this lawsuit are simply not true”…

…Waldorf schools have a reputation as artsy and progressive. [4] The kindergarten classes at Windsong School have names like Sunbeam and Huckleberry…

Students aren’t taught the alphabet until first grade [5], and at some Waldorf schools that means they don’t read proficiently until age 9 or 10. Faceless dolls are the preferred toy [6], and classrooms are devoid of [modern] technology [7]…

Before they filed suit against Windsong, the parents filed complaints with several government agencies, including Child Protective Services, the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the state Department of Early Learning (now the Department of Children, Youth and Families). Bergstedt-Kohler said those agencies already have determined most of the allegations in the lawsuit are unfounded…

The lawsuit singles out [one] kindergarten teacher who…“justified bullying by stating that children must get rid of negative karma from past lives.”

Bergstedt-Kohler acknowledged that karma and reincarnation are themes of anthroposophy, but she said those ideas are not taught at Windsong [8].

The lawsuit also alleges that [a kindergarten teacher] and other Windsong employees mishandled several incidents in which girls were sexually assaulted by boys in their kindergarten class [9].…

Bergstedt-Kohler said she was particularly troubled by the sexual assault claims, adding that Child Protective Services found the allegations to be baseless.

“This is a reckless allegation designed to cause harm to Windsong, which has been these families’ goal from the outset,” she said [10].





Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] There have often been allegations that a culture of bullying exists in at least some Waldorf schools. Such a culture may condone bullying by students, or by teachers, or both. [See, e.g., “Slaps”.]

[2] Karma is a fundamental Anthrooposophical belief. [See “Karma”.] If teachers decide that some children have the karma to be bullied and other children (or adults) have the karma to be bullies, then the teachers may decide not to intervene when bullying occurs. (Anthroposophy is the occult religion behind Waldorf education. [See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?".])

[3] For similar allegations concerning some Steiner schools in the UK, see, e.g., “Steiner School Crisis”, “RSSKL”, and “S. A. Exeter”.


[5] In Waldorf belief, children are not ready for such instruction until their "etheric bodies" incarnate. [See "Incarnation".]

[6] See, e.g., "Coming Undone".

[7] See the entry for "technology" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.

[8] Waldorf schools generally do not explicitly teach Anthroposophical doctrines to the students. But the schools usually find ways to convey these doctrines indirectly. [See "Sneaking It In".]

[9] There have previously been accusations of a lax approach to sexual relations in Waldorf schools, including accusations of sexual abuse. [See "Extremity" and "Sexual Mores in Steiner-Waldorf Schools".]

[10] Why the families would have such a goal is unclear. But defenders of Waldorf education often reject all allegations categorically. Rudolf Steiner encouraged his followers to see themselves as engaged on a holy mission [see "Mission"], and he told them that they are surrounded by evil (perhaps demonic) enemies [see "Enemies"].
 
— R.R.







February 20, 2019


MEASLES, VACCINES, 
AND WALDORF 


Measles outbreaks in the USA, Europe, the Philippines, and elsewhere are being reported in the news media. [1] Measles had nearly been eradicated in many countries, thanks to the development of effective vaccines. But now this potentially fatal disease is making a comeback, in part because a widespread anti-vaccine movement has developed, spreading misinformation. [2] 

Many of the current outbreaks are associated with institutions, such as Waldorf schools, where large numbers of individuals are unvaccinated. The following item concerns a Waldorf school in Switzerland. From newsbeezer.com:


Measles outbreak at 
Steiner School in Biel


…In Biel [3], 12 children are now suffering from measles, according to information from CH Media [4].

All went to Rudolf Steiner school in Biel [5]. The cantonal health authority [6] reacted: in the beginning, it asked the unvaccinated children of the class concerned and their siblings to stay at home for three weeks ... [T]he directive was [later] extended to all classes of the school…

Measles is an extremely contagious disease … There is fear of inflammation of the brain (encephalitis). It occurs in one of 1000 cases of measles. One-third of patients are at risk of permanent mental damage. In extreme cases, measles encephalitis can result in death…

Anthroposophists Criticize Vaccination 

…[A]mong anthroposophists, opinion prevails on the fact that measles is conducive to the development of children [7]…





Waldorf Watch Response:

The Waldorf/Anthroposophical view of vaccination is complex. While Waldorf schools rarely have overt anti-vaccination policies, these schools generally lean against vaccination, and many parents who are leery of vaccines are drawn to the schools at least partly for this reason.

Rudolf Steiner's followers worry that vaccination can interfere with karma. [8] Steiner taught that your karma may require you to undergo certain illnesses, but vaccines can destroy the predisposition to contract the illnesses you need. This means you will need to contract the same illnesses, or similar ailments, in your next incarnation. In other words, your upward spiritual evolution can be delayed or even derailed by vaccination. [9]

Steiner's followers also believe that vaccination can prevent children from incarnating properly. So, instead of protecting children from various diseases, we should welcome these diseases as blessings. "[W]e should consider [childhood illnesses] as the greatest blessings, because through them man is able to strengthen his personal form by conquering a predisposition, enabling him to incarnate better [10]." — L.F.C. Mees, BLESSED BY ILLNESS (Anthroposophic Press, 1983), p. 192.

Steiner did not absolutely oppose vaccination in all cases; thus his followers have some leeway. Steiner said vaccination can be safe if it is accompanied by spiritual education — meaning education in Steiner's own spiritual teachings. Thus, his stand on vaccination became essentially an argument for the promotion of Anthroposophy. [11]




Waldorf Watch Footnotes:


[2] For a summary of reliable information about measles and measles vaccination, see "Measles Outbreak: Your Questions Answered", The New York Times, February 20, 2019 [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/20/us/measles-outbreak.html].

[3] Biel/Bienne is a town in northwestern Switzerland, near the city of Bern.

[4] See https://chmedia.ch.

[5] The Rudolf Steiner Schule Biel [https://www.steinerschule-biel.ch].

[6] A "canton" is a Swiss state. Switzerland consists of 26 cantons.

[7] I.e., according to NewsBeezer, Anthroposophists believe that children should be allowed to contract measles; they believe the disease helps children to develop properly.

[8] Belief in karma is a central Waldorf/Anthroposophical article of faith. [See “Karma”.]

[9] We evolve upward through a series of reincarnations, Steiner taught. [See "Reincarnation".]

[10] I.e., childhood diseases can help burn away faulty predispositions that might prevent children from developing their own correct incarnated bodily forms. 

[11] See “Steiner’s Quackery” and the entry for “vaccination” in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.

— R.R.






February 19, 2019


OFSTED VS. STEINER: 
THE SHOWDOWN 


The contentious relationship between education authorities and Steiner schools in the United Kingdom (UK) is evidently worsening. The values and procedures of mainstream education — generally promoted by the UK’s Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) — stand in stark contrast to the values and procedures found in Steiner education. Holding Steiner schools to mainstream standards may force these schools to change so fundamentally that they would no longer be Steiner schools in anything but name. Seeing this danger, proponents of Steiner education are striving — sometimes gently, sometimes fiercely — to fend off Ofsted.

Here are excerpts from a letter written by a former Steiner teacher, published in the British newspaper The Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard:


It’s now public knowledge that Ofsted is saying that what they deem to be “failing” Steiner schools could be shut down. [1]

This will horrify families across the region who have deliberately chosen a Steiner school for their children, to escape the creative desert that is the testing-obsessed mainstream schooling [2] for which both main political parties are responsible.

Ofsted head Amanda Spielman says that ministers must examine ‘the underlying principles of Steiner education and consider the extent to which they may have contributed to common failures’ [3]. This is beginning to sound like an all-out assault on an education that has the audacity to produce free-thinking young people [4]…

Steiner schools have a fundamentally different ethos that Ofsted’s punitive bean-counter approach…just doesn’t comprehend [5]…

Hundreds of parents and families across the region [6] are relying on Ofsted being held to account, and its biased bullying practices being flushed out [7].…

[12/19/2019    Letter from Dr Richard House, former Steiner kindergarten teacher, Stroud    https://www.wiltsglosstandard.co.uk/news/17440188.ofsteds-biased-bullying-practices-need-to-be-flushed-out-writes-a-reader/    The letter originally appeared in the newspaper on February 18.]




Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] Ofsted has inspected a number of Steiner schools in the UK, and it has found several of them to be severely deficient. One Steiner school has been closed as a result, and others are currently on the brink of being closed. [See “RSSKL” and “The Steiner School Crisis”.]

[2] There are undoubtedly problems in the UK’s mainstream schools, much as there are in American public schools. But not all alternatives to mainstream schools are better. Steiner or Waldorf schools are arguably worse. [See, e.g., “Academic Standards in Waldorf Schools” and "Waldorf Now".]

[3] Ms. Spielman has recommended such an investigation, but evidently the Department for Education has not yet approved it.

[4] Graduates of Steiner schools often think differently from graduates of other schools, but this generally does not mean they are “free-thinking.” Rather, it reflects the unusual instruction (some would say indoctrination) they have received. [See “Indoctrination”.]

[5] This is the core issue. The Steiner “ethos” is certainly different from, and almost certainly incompatible with, standard educational values and practices. The Steiner approach is based on a mystical, anti-scientific, anti-rational spiritual belief system: Anthroposophy. [See, e.g., “Here’s the Answer” and “Oh Humanity - The Key to Waldorf”.] Indeed, the Steiner approach may be incompatible with modern thought in general. [See, e.g., “The Waldorf Teacher’s Consciousness” and “The Ancients”.] Steiner education downplays rationality, thought, and use of the brain. [See, e.g., "Thinking" and "Steiner's Specific".]

[6] Many families have indeed been drawn to Steiner education, but in numerous cases this may be attributable to the attractive trappings of these Steiner schools [see, e.g., “Glory”], not acceptance or even recognition of the occult convictions at the core of the Steiner approach [see, e.g., “Spiritual Agenda”]. Indeed, Steiner and Waldorf schools have a tradition — initiated by Rudolf Steiner — of concealing their real purposes from outsiders, among whom they generally count the parents of students in these schools. [See, e.g., “Secrets” and “Our Experience”.] 

[7] The "bias" is Ofsted's affirmation of rational education; the "bullying" is Ofsted's insistence that Steiner schools improve as educational institutions. Overall, Ofsted may be seen as opposing such Steiner premises as these: 

◊ "As Waldorf teachers, we must be true [i.e., devout] anthroposophists in the deepest sense of the word in our innermost feeling.” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 118.

◊ "Within the brain there is absolutely no thought [i.e., the brain does not produce thoughts]; there is no more of thought in the brain than there is of you in the mirror in which you see yourself. [Real, "living" thoughts are implanted in us by the gods.]" — Rudolf Steiner, WONDERS OF THE WORLD, ORDEALS OF THE SOUL, REVELATIONS OF THE SPIRIT (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1983), p. 119.

◊ “[T]he brain and nerve system have nothing at all to do with actual cognition. [Real cognition is clairvoyance.]” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996)p. 60.


◊ “If you particularly emphasize the development of thinking, you actually direct the entire human being back to prenatal life [i.e., life before earthly incarnation]. You will injure children if you educate them rationally....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE, p. 61. 

— R.R.







February 17, 2019


STEINER ABUSE HEARING 
CONTINUES AND WIDENS 


In the UK, the disciplinary hearing for a former Steiner teacher continues. Denis McCarthy has been accused of sexually abusing students. Allegations of other types of misconduct have also been raised. McCarthy has denied all the charges made against him.

This matter, centering on the alleged behavior of a single individual, might not usually merit wide coverage. But the implications of the issues raised in the hearing extend beyond that individual and his purported victims. Some critics have alleged that the culture of Steiner or Waldorf schools contributes to — and unintentionally encourages — sexual predation. [1]

Moreover, there have been some allegations of a general culture of sexual and romantic licentiousness within the Steiner/Waldorf movement. This purportedly includes unchecked sexual activity among students, affairs between teachers and students, and the “grooming" of students by their teachers. The effort by Steiner or Waldorf schools to create a "loving" spirit may allegedly misfire badly. [2]

Here are excerpts from three recent articles in the British news media.


From The Hemel Gazette 
[Hertfordshire, UK]:


Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley: 
Teacher tells of his unblemished record 
at misconduct hearing

By Ben Raza

A teacher who is accused of inappropriate behaviour, including sexual assaulting a pupil, began giving his testimony this week at a professional conduct panel. 

Denis McCarthy, who taught at Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL) [3] for almost 34 years…said the various accusations were a mixture of the untrue, incidents which had been misconstrued, and things which he could not remember…

The accusations against Mr McCarthy…include acting inappropriately by touching young female students and having them sit on his lap…

Last week the Gazette reported the testimony of [a former student of McCarthy’s].

She claimed that, when she was 10 years old, Mr McCarthy had called her into an empty classroom, where he took her up against a wall before pulling her underwear and leggings down to her knees. [4]

This was not reported to the police until several years later…

Mr McCarthy denies [the assault on the student] happened.…






Also from The Hemel Gazette:


Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley: 
Mother tells how her son was forced 
to read a “very racial” poem about 
a gay monkey every week for a year

By Ben Raza

Denis McCarthy was accused of victimising a student from an ethnic minority background by making him read out a poem about a gay monkey every week for a year, the hearing was told on Monday…

Speaking on Monday [the boy’s mother] said: “It was very racial. [5]

“He was the monkey, a gay monkey. A lot of the children used to laugh…”

[The mother] told the panel of various other things which had been witnessed in the classroom by her son, such as Mr McCarthy getting young girls to sit on his lap…

She said how she had raised various issues with the school but was not happy with their response. RSSKL had said Mr McCarthy would withdraw his physical attention from certain girls in the class “gradually” to avoid distressing them…





Some reports indicate concerns that a general culture of “sexualized” behavior is found at some Steiner schools.

From The Telegraph [formerly the daily Telegraph, London, UK]:


Teachers at a Steiner school 
'thought it appropriate for pupils 
to sit on a teacher's lap’

By Camilla Turner

Teachers at a Steiner school thought it “appropriate” for pupils to sit on a teacher’s lap, a tribunal has heard, as the [Steiner] schools are accused of allowing a sexualised culture among pupils to prevail [6]. 

Inappropriate teacher-student relationships went unchallenged at Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL) and people felt “at ease about touch”, the hearing into the conduct of a former teacher was told.

The case follows Ofsted concerns [7] about a failure to respond effectively to incidents of “sexualised behaviour” between children in Steiner schools…

The tribunal…comes as a time of deepening crisis for Steiner schools [8]…

Parents at one [Steiner] school contacted The Sunday Telegraph to say that teachers’ “inability” to address sexualised behaviour was a serious worry among families, who are considering taking legal action...

The professional conduct panel...heard that Mr McCarthy pushed a 10-year-old pupil against a wall and pulled her underwear down, and that on a school camping trip he was seen “going in and out of the girls’ tents”.

He would also pick pupils up by the waist, sit them on his lap and put his arms around them while they played with his hair … Some [of McCarthy’s colleagues] “thought it was appropriate for girls up to the age of 14 to sit on a teacher’s knees”…

Sue Peat, a trustee at the school from 2006 to 2016, said [other] teachers felt “threatened” and “intimidated” by Mr McCarthy and were scared to raise the alarm…

[McCarthy] was sacked for gross misconduct in 2017 and the school has since been ordered to close [9].…

[2/17/2019    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/02/16/teachers-steiner-school-thought-appropriate-pupils-sit-teachers/    This article originally appeared on February 16.]




For more on the alleged abuse of students in Steiner or Waldorf schools, see "Slaps".

For accounts of sexual and romantic entanglements between Waldorf teachers and their students, see "Extremity".

We should remember that individuals and institutions are legally innocent until and unless they are formally charged and found guilty in a court of law.




Waldorf Watch Footnotes:


[2] See, e.g., “Extremity”, Section III of "My Life Among the Anthroposophists”, and “Appendix X and Grooming the Kids”, July 8, 2018.


[3] For previous coverage of developments at Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley, see “RSSKL”.

[4] See “Former Steiner Student and Teacher Give Their Accounts of Alleged Abuse”, February 8, 2019.

[5] This allegation almost strains credulity. But if a colored child was required to identify with a monkey (gay or otherwise), it would certainly seem to be, at a minimum, a case of racial insensitivity. And we should remember that there have been other instances of apparent racism, expressed in stories or verses, arising in Steiner schools. [See, e.g., “N-Word” and "Embedded Racism".]

To know whether the poem was really about a "gay" monkey, we would need to see the text. But short of that, we can imagine a hypothetical situation. Rudolf Steiner taught that blacks are the least evolved humans — they are closest to the monkeys. [See "Steiner's Racism".] A Waldorf teacher might think a black child would be helped by being given a poem such as the following to recite: "I am a happy little monkey/ Swinging through the trees./ I love my fellow monkeys,/ Hear us chatter, if you please." The mother of a black child might well be horrified by the implicit racism in this scenario (a black child is forced to say he is a monkey). Outraged, she might then misconstrue other parts of the poem as referring to homosexuality, whereas the poet actually meant to endorse blameless happiness, love, and fellowship. (The poem's reference to loving one's "fellows" might seem gay, but it also might also be seen as a universal affirmation of love.) Of course, the real poem — unlike my hypothetical example — might have contained clear allusions to homosexuality, but we would need to see the poem to know.

[6] “Steiner schools have been warned that they could be shut down after their first Ofsted inspections revealed staff were manhandling children and turning a blind eye to ‘sexualised’ behaviour … At Wynstones, a private boarding Steiner school in Gloucester, inspectors found there was a ‘failure to respond effectively to incidents of sexualised behaviour between children’.…” — "Steiner schools warned of closure after first Ofsted inspections reveal 'deep concerns' over child safety”, The Telegraph, January 31, 2019 [https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2019/01/31/steiner-schools-warned-closure-first-ofsted-inspections-reveal/]

[7] Ofsted, which reports to Parliament, is the UK government's Office for Standards in Education. It inspects and grades various schools (but not all schools) in the UK.

[9] RSSKL is seeking ways to reopen. [See “RSSKL - 2”.]

— 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.







February 15, 2019


THE T. (of L.) RETURNS ATTENTION 
TO FAILING STEINER SCHOOLS 


Major news organizations are turning their eyes to the crisis confronting Steiner schools in the United Kingdom (UK). Yesterday we heard from the BBC. Today let’s hear from The Times (of London):


Troubled Steiner schools 
handed notice of closure

[By] Nichola Woolcock


Two troubled free schools have received termination notices after Ofsted [1] found “unnecessary physical intervention” and bullying [2].

The Department for Education [3] published warning notices on the Steiner Academy schools in Frome…and Bristol [4]. Ofsted reports published last month rated them as inadequate [5]…

Government officials said that Ofsted’s conclusions about pupil safety and welfare, leadership and governance, and support for pupils with special needs were of serious concern. The schools’ funding agreements [6] will be terminated unless they can provide evidence of improvement by Wednesday…

After the inadequate ratings were published, a spokesman for the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship said that it had appointed a team of advisers to carry out its own checks on schools….

[2/15/2019   https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/steiner-schools-given-a-week-to-shape-up-or-ship-out-rtl23sl88   This article originally appeared on February 14.]




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

For previous Times coverage of Steiner schools, see, e.g., "Ofsted May Seek Systemic Steiner Flaws - III", February 2, 2019.




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] The schools’ failure to protect students adequately is, perhaps, their greatest failing. But Ofsted also found many other failings at the schools (as The Times’ article proceeds to mention).

For previous reports of abuse suffered by children in Steiner or Waldorf schools, see "Slaps" and "Extremity".

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

[4] The notices indicate that the government may order the schools to close unless they quickly improve.

For previous Waldorf Watch coverage of the situation at these schools, see “Inadequate: Bristol, Frome, &…

[5] “Inadequate” is the lowest grade issued by Ofsted. Equivalent to an “F”, it means a school is failing.

[6] The Steiner academies are “free schools” — they function essentially as independent schools, but they receive funding from the government. 

— R.R.







February 14, 2019


THE BEEB RETURNS ATTENTION 
TO FAILING STEINER SCHOOLS 


The crisis for Steiner schools in the United Kingdom (UK) is receiving intensified attention from major news organizations. Here is an account from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC - the fabled “Beeb”):


Steiner schools in Bristol 
and Frome in closure threat

Two schools in the West Country [1] have been issued with termination notices [2] by the government after being put into special measures [3] by Ofsted [4].

In January the Steiner Academy Frome and the Steiner Academy Bristol both received the lowest Ofsted rating by inspectors [5]…

Both schools have until 20 February to hand over an action plan for improvement to the government.

The Department for Education [6] has advised the schools to convert to a multi-academy trust and said it would help them each find a sponsor [7].

Once this happens, funding from the Department for Education will terminate as they 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….

[2/14/2019   https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-47225535    This article appeared on the BBC on January 13.]




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

For previous BBC coverage of Steiner schools, see, e.g., "BBC & SWSF".




Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] I.e., southwestern England.

[2] The notices indicate that the government may close the schools unless they improve significantly and soon.

[3] Special measures are emergency provisions intended to produce rapid improvement in failing schools.

[4] Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills. A department of the UK government, Ofsted inspects a variety of schools and other institutions serving children in the UK. Ofsted reports to Parliament.

[5] The lowest Ofsted rating is “inadequate” — it means a school is failing.

For more about the situation at the two named Steiner academies, see “Inadequate: Bristol, Frome, &…

[6] "The Department for Education is responsible for children’s services and education, including early years, schools, higher and further education policy, apprenticeships and wider skills in England. DfE is a ministerial department, supported by 18 agencies and public bodies." [See https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-education.]

[7] I.e., the schools must each find a new administrative partner that will help the school to improve. Ofsted has specified that the new partners must be “multi-academy trusts” — i.e., organizations consisting of two or more schools that work together to attain high educational standards. In the UK, a multi-academy trust has a single set of directors who oversee all of the schools in the trust. For Steiner schools, the danger to being folded into a multi-academy trust is that the schools may be unable to maintain their distinctive Steiner/Waldorf character. In particular, their allegiance to Anthroposophy may be imperiled.

[8] A free school in the UK is equivalent to a charter school in the USA. Free schools operate as independent schools within the public school system, receiving state funding but implementing their own educational systems.

— R.R.







February 13, 2019


FAILING STEINER SCHOOLS 
MUST IMPROVE OR, POSSIBLY, CLOSE 


The crisis for Steiner schools in the United Kingdgom (UK) shows no signs of abating. The UK government is threatening to close two more Steiner schools. [1] In the meantime, the government is moving to place these two schools under new, more conventional leadership.

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


Government moves to rebroker 
failing Steiner free schools [2] 

[by] Jess Staufenberg

Two Steiner schools criticised by Ofsted [3] over safeguarding failures [4] have been warned they face being moved to new sponsors [5].

Steiner Academy Bristol…and Steiner Academy Frome have been issued with termination warning notices [6]…

The schools, which follow the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, were placed in special measures [7] following unannounced Ofsted inspections last November. It means three of the four state-funded Steiner free schools in England are now rated inadequate [8].

Inspectors said the schools did not have high enough expectations of pupils and warned safeguarding was “not effective”…

The damning reports, published last month, along with “deeply concerning” findings [about] other Steiner institutions…prompted the education secretary Damian Hinds to grant Ofsted special powers to inspect all Steiner schools in England, including 21 private schools [9]…

Ofsted inspectors found pupils at Steiner Academy Bristol were “exposed to avoidable risk of harm” and [the school's] leaders had an “over-generous view of the school’s effectiveness”. Pupils made “basic errors” in writing and bullying is “too frequent”, [inspectors] said.

However, governors at the academy [10] pledged to fight their ‘inadequate’ judgment...

Meanwhile at Steiner Academy Frome, pupils with special educational needs were found to have made “insufficient progress”, teachers’ expectations of all pupils were “too low”, and essential safeguarding systems were not in place....





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




Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] One Steiner school — the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley — was ordered to close in 2017. [See “RSSKL”.]

[2] Steiner Academy Bristol and Steiner Academy Frome are “free schools” — what in the USA would be called charter schools. They are essential independent schools that receive state funding. (Families who send their kids to free schools pay no tuition fees — the education is largely cost-free.)

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

[4] Ofsted's most worrisome finding is that the schools fail to protect their students adequately. However, Ofsted also found other problems at the schools, as the Schools Week article goes on to say.

[5] I.e., they have been warned that the government may order them to close.

[6] I.e., the schools will be placed under the control of new administrative organizations (new “sponsors”) thought to have more educational expertise than the schools’ current (largely Anthroposophical) sponsors. The process of assigning a school to a new sponsor is called “rebrokering.” For Steiner schools, rebrokering may mean the schools will be steered away from their Anthroposophical foundations.

[7] “Special measures” are emergency arrangements meant to produce rapid improvement. If the special measures fail to produce improvement, a school may be ordered to close.

[8] “Inadequate” is the lowest grade Ofsted can give a school. It amounts to an F — a failing grade. "Inadequate" schools are failing schools.

[9] Most Steiner schools in the UK are private or independent institutions that rely on their own fund-raising efforts.

[10] I.e., the school's leaders, especially members of the board of governors (in effect, the board of trustees).

— R.R.








February 12, 2019


◊ EDITORIAL ◊

REFLECTIONS ON FORMER STEINER STUDENT'S 
ACCOUNT OF ABUSE BY HER TEACHER 


At the Waldorf Critics discussion site now,  there is a conversation concerning news accounts of alleged sexual misconduct by a former Steiner school teacher in Britain. The conversation has touched on the question of "recovered" memories. One charge against the former teacher has been leveled by a young woman who says she has regained memories of abuse she suffered at the teacher's hands when she was 10 years old.

Here is a message I posted as part of the discussion:

Hi, Dan.

Yes, "recovered" memories are unreliable. Some therapists apparently have led people to "recover" memories of events that never occurred. The therapists effectively implanted these memories in the minds of the people they claimed to be helping.

If that is what happened in this case, then the account given by the young woman is untrustworthy. But, at this point, we don't know. The news story in The Hemel Gazette says that, several years after the alleged incident, the young woman "began to regain her memories of what happened." There is no indication — as yet, anyway — that she was led or coached to "regain" these memories.

(The subject is complex. See, e.g., "Recovered and False Memories", British Psychological Society (BPS), https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-19/edition-6/recovered-and-false-memories.)

To be fair to the young woman, we should bear in mind that children who are sexually abused are often bewildered by the events they experienced. They may not have understood what was happening, so they may have been unable to describe the episode(s) well even to themselves, and their memories may thus be extremely vague. And, of course, people do have a capacity to repress some unwanted memories. But years later, having learned about human sexual practices, victims of childhood sexual abuse may start to put two and two together and finally realize what happened to them.

When memories have been implanted, they are almost by definition false or unusable. But, by contrast, memories that return to us in a natural manner may very well be true, more or less, within the limits of human mental capability. All of us have had this experience, I think: Someone mentions something, or we hear a song on the radio, or we read a news account of something — and a memory comes back. A recollection that had been buried in the unconscious for a long time emerges into rational consciousness.

Of course, the human faculty of memory is imperfect. We can never place total reliance on our memories. We must always question our memories and maintain rational skepticism about them. But, nevertheless, we necessarily wind up relying on our memories most of the time — everything that we "know" resides in our memories. Sometimes we are justified in thinking we "know" something, and sometimes we aren't. These are deep epistemological waters.

According to the BPS report I mentioned above, "[W]hat appear to be newly remembered (i.e. recovered) memories of past trauma are sometimes accurate, sometimes inaccurate, and sometimes a mixture of accuracy and inaccuracy ... [R]eports of past trauma based on such recovered memories are not reliable enough to be the sole basis for legal decisions."

The crucial point, I think, is that recovered memories need to be substantiated or supported by other evidence. They "are not reliable enough to be the sole basis for legal decisions." But they may have value if other substantiation can be produced. So I think Margaret is right to point out that "the 10-year-old's allegation is just one on a list of allegations against the teacher." If the case against McCarthy rested solely on one young woman's "regained" memory, it would probably not warrant a conviction. But if there is additional evidence of sexual misconduct by McCarthy, then a guilty verdict may well be warranted.

At this point, we are waiting for more information to be developed. While we wait, we should keep open minds about McCarthy's guilt or innocence — and we also should extend to the young woman the presumption that her account may well be true.

- Roger Rawlings

[2/12/2019   https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/waldorf-critics/conversations/messages/32000   For previous Waldorf Watch coverage of this matter, see "Panel Begins Hearing on Alleged RSSKL Abuse", February 5, 2019, and "Former Steiner Student and Teacher Gives Their Accounts of Alleged Abuse, February 8, 2019.]







February 10, 2019


WALDORF BELIEF SYSTEM: 
CURRENT BESTSELLER 


Currently listed as the #1 bestseller at the Anthroposophical publishing enterprise SteinerBooks:





Rudolf Steiner, START NOW! 
A Book of Soul and Spiritual Exercises 
(2004, SteinerBooks)




The cover page summarizes the book’s contents: 

START NOW!
A BOOK OF SOUL AND SPIRITUAL EXERCISES
Meditation Instructions, Meditations, Exercises,
Verses for Living a Spiritual Year, Prayers for the Dead 
& Other Practices for Beginning and
Experienced Practitioners


Most of these materials were written by Rudolf Steiner. The “practitioners” are Steiner’s followers, both neophytes and long-timers.

Here is a sample of the book’s contents. It is a revision of The Lord’s Prayer.

According to the Bible, Jesus prescribed this prayer for use by his disciples:


Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: 
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

[See Matthew 6:9-13; I have quoted the King James version.]


According to the editors of START NOW!, Steiner's "spiritual research — i.e., his claimed clairvoyant explorations of the spirit realm — produced the following revision of Jesus' prayer. The revision reverses the order of the prayer, starting at the end and working its way toward the beginning. (This is an example of what Steiner called “reversed ritual,” a spiritual practice he highly recommended.) Virtually every line is alerted, making it consistent with Anthroposophy (and making it much more opaque). 

Most dramatically, Steiner changes the prayer from a monotheistic verse addressed to the one and only God of the universe (“Our Father”), to a polytheistic verse addressed to a legion of gods (“Ye Fathers in the Heavens”). Christianity is monotheistic; Anthroposophy is polytheistic.

Here is the revision, titled "The macrocosmic 'Our Father'":


AUM.
AMEN. 

Evils reign

Bearing witness to I-being
Separating itself
and to selfhood's guilt —
Incurred through others,
Experienced in the daily bread
Wherein the will of heaven
Does not reign,
Because humanity
Has separated itself
From Your Kingdom
And forgot your names

Ye Fathers in the heavens.

[See START NOW!, p. 221.]


Outsiders sometimes wonder what Anthroposophists believe and what spiritual practices — including prayers — they employ. This is an example from an Anthroposophical bestseller.

— R.R.






February 9, 2019


CHILDREN SUFFERING NEEDLESSLY — 
WALDORF SCHOOLS IMPLICATED 


Steiner schools in the United Kingdom are struggling to restore their reputations after enduring a series of extremely critical school inspections [1]. Meanwhile, Waldorf schools in the US confront a similar challenge as press reports link them more and more often to waves of infectious diseases sweeping across the land.

At present, a serious measles outbreak has erupted in the American northwest, particularly in the states of Washington and Oregon. Although the outbreak did not begin at a Waldorf school, news coverage has pointed to these schools at places where the health of children may be seriously imperiled.

From Willamette Week [Portland, Oregon]:


The Schools With the Lowest 
Measles Immunization Rates 
in Portland? Religious and 
Waldorf Schools [2]

By Anna Del Savio

The measles are back.

An outbreak that began in Clark County, Wash., continues to grow this week, with 51 confirmed cases at press deadline. (That number rose to 54 on Wednesday.) The majority of cases were in children under age 10 who had not received the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine.

The outbreak has been fueled by low vaccination rates...

Here are the schools with the lowest immunization rates in the county:

   …Cedarwood Waldorf School — 38% [unvaccinated]

   Shining Star [Waldorf] School — 37% [unvaccinated]…. [3]




Some of the recent coverage refers to a chickenpox epidemic that originated in a Waldorf school in North Carolina. [4] Even in media that might otherwise be sympathethic to Waldorf as an alternative to traditional public schools, Waldorf is taking a beating.

From The Federalist [a conservative online magazine and podcast]:


Washington Measles Outbreak 
Shows Anti-Vaxxers Care About 
Their Liberty, But Not Yours

By Ian Haworth

Health officials in Washington state have declared a state of emergency as they struggle to contain a measles outbreak, with one new case diagnosed each day. Forty-eight new cases of measles have been found this year in Washington alone. In addition to this, measles cases have been reported in Hawaii, Oregon, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Colorado, California, and Georgia…

In Washington, 41 of the 48 people who have come down with measles were not vaccinated…

Time and time again, we are seeing that reduced vaccination rates are a driving force behind vaccine-preventable outbreaks. Last year, the Asheville Waldorf School in North Carolina experienced a widespread chickenpox outbreak, because 110 of the 152 students had not received a a chickenpox vaccine….





Some of the commentary — even in countercultural publications that might ordinarily admire Waldorf education — has become pointedly critical of Waldorf schools.

From The Stranger [Seattle, Washington]:


Completely Preventable 
Measles Outbreak Is Up to 
50 Cases and Counting

By Katie Herzog

Just how foolish are your children's friend's parents? On Wednesday, the Seattle Times's Gene Balk…published a new tool that will tell you just that by tracking vaccination rates at area schools … You’ll find out exactly the percentage of parents in your kids' schools who take health advice from yoga teachers instead of pediatricians. And prepare yourself to be appalled: Washington, as Balk reports, has among the highest rates of vaccine exemptions in the U.S. …

Seattle schools area do much better [than the average in Washington], with the [exception of] local Waldorf Schools, which have 22.5 MMR exemption rate [5]. This is zero percent surprising if you've ever been to a Waldorf School, where things like imagination and creativity [6] are prioritized over reading, writing, and contemporary medicine [7]….




The damage being done to the reputation of Waldorf education is far less important than the harm being endured by children who contract potentially serious diseases that could easily have been prevented. 

Still, this has become a trying period for the Waldorf movement.





Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] See, e.g., "The Steiner Crisis".

[2] Followers of various faiths have theological reasons for opposing vaccination. Followers of the Waldorf belief system, Anthroposophy, are similarly motivated — Anthroposophy is, itself, a religion. [See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?".]

[3] Cedarwoods Waldorf is fifth on the list; Shining Star is sixth.


[5] I.e., students who have been exempted from receiving measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. 

[6] "Imagination and creativity" sound good, but they shouldn't come at the expense of a genuine education ("reading, writing"). At Waldorf schools, they often do. In the Waldorf belief system, imagination and creativity are linked to belief in clairvoyance and other fallacies. [See "Steiner's 'Science'" and "Clairvoyance".]

[7] Waldorf schools generally have low academic standards. [See "Academic Standards at Waldorf".] They tend to prefer ancient traditions — and ancient ignorance — to modern knowledge. [See "The Ancients".] The medicine practiced in and around the schools is often at odds with mainstream contemporary medicine. [See "Steiner's Quackery".]

— R.R.






February 8, 2019


FORMER STEINER STUDENT AND TEACHER   
GIVE THEIR ACCOUNTS OF ALLEGED ABUSE 


An investigation continues into sexual abuse allegedly committed, some years ago, by a teacher at a British Steiner school. The teacher, who had worked at the school for more than three decades, was dismissed in January, 2017.

The following items are from The Hemel Gazette [Hertfordshire, UK]:

Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley: 
Former student tells hearing she was 
sexually assaulted in classroom

By Ben Raza

A teenage girl broke down in tears on Monday when she told a hearing how her teacher had sexually assaulted her when she was 10 years old. 

The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was a witness at the professional conduct panel which is hearing a series of allegations against Denis McCarthy…

The girl told how the incident occurred at break time after a lesson. 

She said that Mr McCarthy had called her back into the classroom and the two of them were alone. 

He took her to the back of the classroom, where they were out of view from the windows… 

The girl then described how Mr McCarthy had his hands on her shoulders before taking her up against a wall where he pulled her underwear and leggings down to her knees. 

She said she struggled to remember precisely what happened then, but she pulled her leggings up and fled from the classroom into an empty corridor in a “stumble-run”…

She said Mr McCarthy had called to her not to tell anyone what had happened… 

Breaking down in tears several times, she said: “Mr McCarthy gave the image that he was the only person that you could trust.” He would also regularly pick her up in the playground from a young age.

The girl told how several years later she was “self-harming regularly” and began to regain her memories of what happened.…





Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley: 
Former teacher denies 
sexual assault in classroom

A private school teacher has denied inappropriate behaviour including a sexual assault on a pupil, at a professional hearing this week. 

Denis McCarthy appeared before a professional conduct panel for a hearing which is expected to last 18 days. 

Mr McCarthy, who is representing himself and denies all of the allegations, was a senior member of staff at Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL)…

When the hearing began on Monday the panel was told of a list of allegations which went back almost a decade. 

These include pushing a 10-year-old girl up against a wall and pulling her underwear and leggings down to her knees when they were alone in a classroom. 

In addition Mr McCarthy is said to have acted inappropriately by touching young female students and having them sit on his lap, ignoring instructions not to do so…and holding a lesson where he told students to list all of the swear words that they knew — many of which were of a sexual nature.

It is alleged that Mr McCarthy was acting with the intention of deriving “immediate sexual gratification” from his actions.…






Waldorf Watch Response:

The significance of articles like these can be difficult to ascertain. In particular, the relevance to our understanding of Steiner or Waldorf education is questionable.

It is important to acknowledge that the accused teacher has denied the allegations, and to date he has not been judged guilty.

We also should remember that accusations of sexual abuse may arise in all sorts of schools and other institutions. Misconduct by a single employee does not necessarily tell us anything about the employing institution.

On the other hand, there have been numerous reports over time alleging abusive mistreatment of students in Steiner or Waldorf schools. [See, e.g., “Slaps”.] Sexual abuse, in particular, has been alleged and, in some instances, established to have occurred. [See “Extremity”.] And there have been claims that the Steiner/Waldorf culture may make such abuse more likely. [See, e.g., “Mistreating Kids Lovingly”.]

Mr. McCarthy's alleged "gross misconduct" was a factor in raising concerns about the culture within RSSKL, concerns that ultimately led to the school being ordered to close. [See “RSSKL”.] 

For previous coverage of the current hearing, see "Panel Begins Hearing on Alleged RSSKL Abuse", February 5, 2019.

— R.R.






February 7, 2019


YET ANOTHER STEINER SCHOOL 
GIVEN LOWEST OFSTED GRADE 


Several public Steiner schools [1] have recently received harsh inspection reports from education authorities in the United Kingdom. [2] But most Steiner schools in the UK are private institutions, and as such they have generally been spared the intense scrutiny under which their state-sector counterparts have been suffering.

Not all private Steiner schools have been spared, however. One prominent private Steiner school has been closed after failing a series of official inspections. [3] And today comes word that another private Steiner school has been found seriously deficient. This school has been judged “inadequate” according to all five criteria used by the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted). “Inadequate” is the lowest grade issued by Ofsted — it means a school has severe shortcomings. [4]

Expressing concern that Steiner schools may have systemic flaws that run throughout the Steiner system, public and private, Ofsted officials have recently recommended inspecting every Steiner school in the UK. [5]

The following news item is from Derbyshire Live, formerly The Derby Telegraph [county of Derbyshire, UK]:


Coronation Street actor’s 
old £7k-a-year school rated 
‘inadequate’ by Ofsted

Michael House School needs to improve 'rapidly'

By Zena Hawley

An independent Derbyshire school has been ruled as "inadequate" in all areas following an inspection by Ofsted and carried out at the specific request of the Department for Education (DfE).

Michael House School, in Shipley, is a Steiner Waldorf School [6]…

Among its former pupils is Coronation Street actor William Roache [7]…

The recently-published Ofsted report on the Michael House School inspection highlights safeguarding [of students] as “ineffective" [8]… 

The report is also critical of the school's quality of teaching, learning and assessment and [the report finds] that "too many pupils make insufficient progress across a range of subjects”…

Other areas criticised included too low attainment at GCSE [9], not meeting statutory obligations for children with special educational needs, children in the kindergarten making poor progress and limited opportunities for staff to receive training to improve their teaching and subject knowledge.

The inspectors did praise the school for giving pupils "effective careers advice and guidance" and for "[students] behaving well and showing respect to other pupils and their teachers”.

Fees at the school range from £2,560…to £7,000 [per year]…

A school spokesman said: "In light of its recent Ofsted inspection in December, Michael House School recognises the standard expected of Steiner Waldorf schools was not met … We welcome the honest and informed feedback and will be using it to guide our school’s improvement” [10]…

The DfE is the regulator for independent schools in England … Schools that do not meet [DfE’s] standards must improve so that they do meet them, or close….






Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] Some Steiner schools in the UK receive state funding. These are “free schools,” equivalent to charter schools in the USA.

[2] See, e.g., "Inadequate - Bristol, Frome, and…".

[3] This is the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL). The school intends to continue functioning in some form, if possible. [See “RSSKL”.]

[4] 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. Michael House School was judged inadequate in all five areas.

[5] See "UK Steiner Schools: More Crisis Coverage", February 4, 2019.

[6] According to Antroposophical belief, Michael in the Archangel of the Sun, who fights on behalf of the Sun God. [See "Michael".] Several Steiner schools are named for Michael.

[7] Some celebrities have graduated from Steiner or Waldorf schools (e.g., actress Jennifer Anniston, credit card executive Kenneth Chenault, etc.). This is sometimes used as an argument (dubious at best) in favor of these schools. “Coronation Street” is a long-running British soap opera.

[8] The failure of some schools to protect their students is usually given prominence in critical reports about these schools. However, the schools often are found to have many other serious deficiencies as well, including bad teaching.

[9] I.e., the General Certificate of Secondary Education, meant to assess the educational attainment of students at approximately 16 years of age.

[10] Some Steiner schools have apparently accepted Ofsted’s findings about their shortcomings. But other Steiner schools have strenuously denied the accuracy of Ofsted assessments. [See, e.g., "Amid Celebrations, Preparations for Battle", February 6, 2019.


— 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 5, 2019


PANEL BEGINS HEARING 
ON ALLEGED RSSKL ABUSE 


From The Hemel Gazette [Hertfordshire, UK]:


Teacher accused of inappropriate behaviour 
involving girl, 10, at 
Rudolf Steiner School in Kings Langley

By Ben Raza

A teacher who has been accused of pushing a 10-year-old girl up against a classroom wall, and pulling her underwear and leggings when they were alone in a classroom, appeared before a professional conduct panel this week.

Dennis McCarthy taught at the £9,857-a-year Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL) for 34 years, and was a leading figure in the Waldorf education movement. 


But at a three-week hearing which began today (Monday) he was accused of a range of inappropriate behaviour which Hannah Eales, presenting officer for the Teaching Regulation Agency, said was sexually motivated. 

Mr McCarthy, who is understood to still live in Kings Langley, denies the accusations….






Waldorf Watch Response:

The significance of a story like this can be difficult to ascertain. In particular, the relevance to our understanding of Steiner or Waldorf education is questionable.

It is important, from the start, to acknowledge that the accused teacher has denied the allegations, and to date he has not been judged guilty.

We also should remember that accusations of sexual abuse may arise in all sorts of schools and other institutions. Misconduct by a single employee does not necessarily tell us anything about the employing institution.

On the other hand, there have been numerous reports over time alleging abusive mistreatment of students in Steiner or Waldorf schools. [See, e.g., “Slaps”.] Sexual abuse, in particular, has been alleged and, in some instances, established to have occurred. [See “Extremity”.] And there have been claims that the Steiner/Waldorf culture may make such abuse more likely. [See, e.g., “Mistreating Kids Lovingly”.]

The Hemel Gazette promises to provide more coverage of the current situation involving Mr. McCarthy. We will relay such coverage.

In the meantime, the charges against Mr. McCarthy can only complicate the efforts by Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley to reopen. [See “RSSKL”.] This is a terrible time for the school to receive more adverse publicity.

Mr. McCarthy was a senior member of the RSSKL faculty. According to a school inspector, McCarthy’s alleged misbehavior may have reflected a worrisome culture at the school. From The Stroud News and Journal, September 7, 2017:

The closeness between staff and students [at RSSKL] was also an issue for inspectors with a senior member of staff Dennis McCarthy being dismissed in January for gross misconduct.

"Professional boundaries between staff, parents and pupils are not maintained [at the school]," said [lead inspector Phiippa] Darley... 


— 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 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 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 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 January 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.