RSSKL

Part 2



Here is further coverage of the unfolding drama at the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL).

For earlier coverage, see "RSSKL".

— Roger Rawlings












September 14, 2018



THE RETURN OF  

URIEL AND MICHAEL



Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley has apparently fixed its website. The school is again announcing the formation of two new kindergartens for the coming autumn:


Uriel and Michael Kindergartens will be open from the 17th of September and we are now taking applications for the Autumn Term.


[9/14/2018    http://rsskl.org]



Yesterday, we listed some questions that hover over the attempt to resuscitate RSSKL. [See "Curiouser and Curiouser - Return to the Prior", September 13, 2018.] Bear in mind, the UK government ordered RSSKL to close. And indeed the school closed. But now the school — which presumably does not exist anymore — seems to be forging ahead as if it still exists and can do as it pleases.

Of all the questions we listed yesterday, the most immediate is this: How will the UK government respond? Some fireworks may be in store.




The new kindergartens are to be named for Uriel and Michael. These names suggest some matters that may be worth contemplating, offering us insights into the beliefs embraced by fervent followers of Rudolf Steiner.

According to some Jewish and Gnostic Christian teachings, Uriel (who is not mentioned in the Bible) is an archangel. According to more orthodox Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions, Michael (who is mentioned in the Bible) is also an archangel. According Rudolf Steiner, archangels are gods. Steiner taught that overall there are nine ranks of gods. Archangels are fairly lowly gods, standing just two stages higher than humankind. [See "Polytheism".]

Steiner placed special emphasis on seven archangels. He taught that these seven gods serve to oversee the "cultural epochs" of human evolution.

"Of the many archangels, Rudolf Steiner mentions seven in particular who alternate as serving Epoch Spirits. These seven archangels are Oriphiel (200 BC-150 AD), Anael (150-500), Zachariel (500-850), Raphael (850-1190), Samael (1190-1510), Gabriel (1510-1879), Michael (1879-2300). This sequence should be understood as a repeating cycle." [1]

Michael and Oriphiel (i.e., Uriel) are especially important to us since one of them (Michael) currently presides over our evolution, and the other (Oriphiel) will preside a couple of centuries from now.


"Michael, the Sun Archangel...strides head of Christ [2] as his countenance ... [Michael's] rulership of 350 years as Time Archangel [3] began in 1879. But before that he was further elevated in 1841 to take over the role of Spirit of the Age [4] for the whole period until 3573....

"In 1899, soon after Michael took up his dual role, Kali Yuga, the Dark Age of 5000 years, came to an end." [5]




"By the start of the twenty-third century, when Michael's Sun-rulership as Time Archangel ends...great changes will obviously have taken place ... The incarnation of Ahriman, the prince of lies, will by now have taken place [6] ... Conflict and suffering are therefore inevitable. The Antichrist [7] will even by called 'Christ' by his followers ... This is the very real battle to replace Christ by Ahriman...." [8]





"From the early twenty-third century to the late twenty-sixth century the ruling Archangel is Oriphiel, the Archangel of the Saturn sphere. His last rulership from the second century BC to the second century AD was characterized by the decline of Greek culture and the rise of the Roman Empire, which was committed to the elimination of mystery wisdom.... [9] 

"Man has within him a fiery centre of destruction ... [In the future] many discoveries [will be] made the better to carry on war, and an endless amount of intelligence [will be] used to satisfy the lower impulses. The materialistic outlook continues to advance until 2300/2400 [AD] ... Giant machines, for example, [will] create demons that come alive and rage against the individual ... Through ever-increasing intellectualistic thoughts [10] the warmth-atmosophere of the earth, already under threat, can be ruined. Fiery volcanic (Saturn) outbursts [will be] put to use ... These terrible times [will be] far worse than today. They [will] produce no seed and no harvest, but may be regarded as a premature expression of divine wrath." [11]




That's a little of what lies ahead. Things will get better, of course, when reincarnating Anthroposophists — bearing Steiner's light — set things to right.

Children enrolled in the Micheal and Uriel Kindergartens will be told little if any of these things. But true-believing Anthroposophists among their teachers will hope to fortify the kids' souls, to strengthen them for the trials to come. [12]





[1] Henk van Oort, ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z (2011, Sophia Books, Rudolf Steiner Press), p. 9.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the terms of the Epoch Spirits' rule. Thus, Oriphiel ruled from 200 BC to 150 AD, Anael ruled from 150 AD to 500 AD, and so on.

In Anthroposophy, "Oriphiel" is an alternate name for Uriel. Because the cycle repeats, Oriphiel will serve again as Epoch Spirit beginning in 2300 AD.

[2] Steiner taught that Christ is the Sun God. [See "Sun God".] Hence, Michael — the Sun Archangel — is his servant.

[3] "Time Archangel" is another term for "Epoch Spirit" — these are titles for archangels who preside over 350-year-long phases of human evolution.

[4] The "Spirit of an Age" is a god who presides over longer stages of Earth evolution, much longer than 350 years. Usually, an Archon or Spirit of Personality — a god three stages higher than humankind — fulfills the task of Spirit of an Age.

For Michael — a mere archangel — to serve as Spirit of an Age shows his unusual importance, resulting from his close connection to the Sun God. Michael will be Spirit of an Age (that is, the spirit of our present age) from 1841 AD until 3573 AD.

[5] Richard Seddon, THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY AND THE EARTH AS FORESEEN BY RUDOLF STEINER (Temple Lodge Publishing, 2002), pp. 18-19.

For 5000 years, humanity wandered in spiritual darkness. [See the entry for "Kali Yuga" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.] Then, in 1899, Rudolf Steiner began delivering his spiritual lectures, bringing light back to humanity. [See "What a Guy".]

[6] In Anthroposophical belief, Ahriman is an arch-demon. [See "Ahriman".]

[7] In Anthroposophical texts, Ahriman is sometimes described as the Antichrist. However, Steiner also taught of a greater Antichrist: Sorat. [See "Evil Ones".]

[8] THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY AND THE EARTH AS FORESEEN BY RUDOLF STEINER, pp. 26-29.

[9] I.e., Oriphiel's previous term as Time Archangel saw the decline of occult or secret spiritual knowledge ("mystery wisdom"). This epitomized the darkness of Kali Yuga. A similar darkness will descend during Oriphiel's next rulership.

[10] According to Anthroposophy, intellect is a cold, deadly force — it stands in opposition to warm, intuitive mystery wisdom.

[11] THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY AND THE EARTH AS FORESEEN BY RUDOLF STEINER, pp. 29-33.


[12] We evolve, Steiner taught, as we reincarnate. [See "Reincarnation".] Children alive today will live again in future epochs if they evolve properly, gaining the strength and other qualities they will need during their successive lives. So Steiner said.

— R.R.









September 17, 2018

THE RETURN OF  

RSSKL, SORT OF  



From  The Watford Observer [Hertfordshire, UK]:



Kindergarten reopens at 

Rudolf Steiner School 

in Kings Langley


By Nathan Louis


The kindergarten at a school which was forced to close this summer has reopened today.


Seventeen children aged between three and six have enrolled at the kindergarten at Rudolf Steiner School in Kings Langley.


The main school was left with no option but to shut after no insurers were found to keep the site open. It came after a number of damning Ofsted [Office for Standards in Education] reports which said the school was failing in its safeguarding requirements.


However, the Department for Education has fully supported the reopening of the kindergarten. In July, all safeguarding requirements were met for the preschool.…


[9/17/2018   https://www.watfordobserver.co.uk/news/16882982.kindergarten-reopens-at-rudolf-steiner-school-in-kings-langley/]





Waldorf Watch Response:


Perhaps there will be no fireworks after all. [Cf. "The Return of Uriel and Michael", September 14, 2018.] Perhaps Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL) will successfully reconstitute itself, quietly and without explosive opposition, by following the standard Steiner approach. [See "Undead Again? RSSKL Tries to Rise, Again", September 11, 2018.]


Or perhaps the RSSKL story will have many more twists and turns. The sky may yet light up.


Has the UK Department for Education now, really and truly, given full support to the reopening of RSSKL? It seems a curious business, ordering a school to close, and then immediately allowing it — or a bit of it — to reopen. Perhaps this is what has happened. Or perhaps there is more to the story than that. We'll see.


And we'll see what insurers have done. Is RSSKL now adequately insured?


And, assuming the new kindergarten stays in operation, we'll be interested to learn what inspectors find there in the coming weeks and months. RSSKL was indeed found to have serious safeguarding problems. [See "RSSKL".] No one will know whether these problems have really been solved until inspectors return to observe the reconstituted school in operation. Today is the first day of operation for the reconstituted school.





We should keep the latest developments in perspective. RSSKL has suffered a severe reversal. Having previously been a large, influential Steiner school offering instruction at all grade levels from kindergarten through high school, it has currently been reduced to a small preschool operation with fewer than two dozen students. 


Devout followers of Rudolf Steiner were always likely to make every possible effort to rescue and rebuild RSSKL. They are doing so now. But they are doing so under the cloud of official criticism and censure directed at RSSKL in recent months. Most of RSSKL — everything above the level of kindergarten — is gone, at least for now. This has been a major setback for the Steiner educational movement in Britain, and it may have wide repercussions in Britain and beyond.





Note, by the way, that RSSKL announced that it would open two new kindergartens — the Michael Kindergarten and the Uriel Kindergarten. The RSSKL website continues to display this intention, as of today. [See http://rsskl.org.] The Watford Observer article does not specify how many of the 17 enrollees have entered the Michael Kindergarten and how many are entering the Uriel Kindergarten.


In Anthroposophical belief, Michael is a warrior god, the Archangel of the Sun, and Uriel (or Oriphiel) is a god of wrath, the Archangel of Saturn. [See the entries "Michael", "Uriel," and "Oriphiel" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]  The choice of names for the RSSKL kindergartens suggests a certain militant tone, intentional or otherwise.


Anthroposophists believe they have special ties to Michael and Uriel — especially the former. "St Michael and anthroposophy are connected in a special way. As the custodian of cosmic intelligence, and as spirit of the age, Michael inspires all human beings who wish to connect the human spirit with the spirit of the cosmos. Anthroposophy is also called the School of Michael." — Henk van Oort, ANTHROPOSOPHY A-Z (Rudolf Steiner Press, 2011), p. 78. [See, e.g., "Michael".]





We will eagerly await further reports from across the pond about developments at or around RSSKL.


— R.R.









September 20-21, 2018


[Excerpt from]

◊ NEWS ROUNDUP ◊

 


From The Hemel Gazette [Johnson Publishing, UK]:


Man accused of child sexual offences 
features on Rudolf Steiner School video

A controversial school re-opened its doors this week – but with a relaunched website which featured a video of a man previously accused of child sex offences. 

Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL) was forced to close in June following a catalogue of problems with safeguarding, leadership, and an inability to get insurance. 

Nonetheless the school this week resumed running its kindergarten on the same premises. 

But the school’s website featured Eugene Schwartz, a man who taught at one of RSSKL’s sister schools in America before he left amid claims of possessing indecent images of children. 

Mr Schwartz has denied the offences. RSSKL removed the video after being contacted by the Gazette.… 





Waldorf Watch Response:


This returns us to the distressing subjects of pedophilia and sexual abuse as they may, allegedly, occur in or around Waldorf schools. [See, e.g., "Pedophilia at Waldorf?", August 1, 2018.]

Eugene Schwartz has long been a prominent advocate of Waldorf education, particularly in the United States. He is the founder of the website MillennialChild.com.

Schwartz lost his job as a teacher at an American Waldorf school after the school concluded that he possessed child pornography. [See "Extremity".] Schwartz denied the charges laid against him and took the school to court. [See "Ex-Waldorf Teacher sues Over Child Porn Report".] Schwartz and the school apparently reached an out-of-court settlement.

Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley doubtless wants to avoid any suggestion that it may, in any way, condone the mistreatment of children. One of the primary findings made by school inspectors was that RSSKL failed to adequately safeguard its students. [See "The Faults Found — Remembering RSSKL", July 7, 2018.]

School inspectors will almost certainly be extremely attentive to the issue of child safety when evaluating RSSKL in the future. Any evidence of sexual abuse of students would surely be disastrous for the school.




While it seems inconceivable that RSSKL will lower its guard against pedophilia and sexual abuse, it may be risking renewed official sanctions on a different score. According to the Hemel Gazette article quoted above, the school is permitting some unofficial instruction of older children to occur within the school's facilities. Despite the school's denials, this might well constitute a violation of the closure order issued by UK education officials.


The Gazette article describes the situation with these words:


Teaching of older children has also resumed at RSSKL – but the school say that this is not a sign that the school has re-opened. 


Instead they say that this is being done on a private scale in smaller group [sic]. 


A school spokesman said: “Some parents have asked to hire out some rooms so that they can employ their own tutors.


“They will all have to show public liability insurance and enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks.”



If the "tutors" include former or present Steiner teachers, and if the tutees are former Steiner students, and if the "tutoring" occurs in Steiner classrooms...


It will be interesting to see how of the UK Department for Education reacts to this new development.


— R.R.






Addendum

Here's a message I posted at the Waldorf Critics website on September 21, 2018. I wrote in response to a message from another participant, who was responding to a previous message of mine, which came in response to...

Well, you can look it up, if you like.



Hi, Margaret.

I think you’re right.

Here's my own take on the matter: The remaining faculty and staff at Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL) seem to be trying to wriggle through various loopholes and escape hatches, trying to squirm their way out of their present crisis. Whether their stratagems are lawful may have to be determined in a British court.




In attempting to wriggle, squirm, and perhaps even slither their way out of trouble, the gang at RSSKL are following (more or less) the advice Rudolf Steiner gave to faculty at the first Waldorf school.

In 1920, the German government passed a law that would have prevented the original Waldorf school from operating as Steiner wanted. Steiner's response? In a faculty meeting at the school, he told the teachers to worm their way out of the situation. Lie to the officials; deceive them; make fools of them. Practicing deceit would be all right as long as the teachers knew, in their hearts, that their actions were justified. (Be realistic, he said. This is how the world works. Be deceitful — not in the underhanded way Jesuits are, but in the upright way Anthroposophists can be.) Do whatever is necessary, he said:

"We must worm our way through. We have to be conscious of the fact that this is done in life — not through an inner provocation, then it would be the way the Jesuits work — but done with a certain mental reservation in response to external requirements. We have to be conscious that in order to do what we want to do, at least, it is necessary to talk with the people, not because we want to but because we have to, and inwardly make fools of them." — Rudolf Steiner, CONFERENCES WITH THE TEACHERS OF THE WALDORF SCHOOL IN STUTTGART, Vol. 1 (Steiner Schools Fellowship Publications, 1986), p. 125.

— Roger (Neither-a-Jesuit-Nor-an-Anthroposophist) Rawlings









October 19, 2018


FAILING 

YET HANGING ON 






From Schools Week [London, UK]:



Revealed: The private schools 
that remain open despite 
standards warnings

[by] Jess Staufenberg


A private school has been forced to close most classes after the government threatened to shut it down over poor standards – despite other failing schools remaining open....

Only the kindergarten is open at Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley, Hertfordshire after the Department for Education threatened to deregister the school following an ‘inadequate’ Ofsted [Office for Standards in Education] grade two years ago.

The school had also failed to meet the government’s independent school standards on six occasions, however on its most recent inspection it met the requirements.

But other failing schools don’t appear to have been hit with deregistration notices, Schools Week has found, with one faith school judged ‘inadequate’ four times in a row.…

The worst offender, Rabia Girls’ and Boys’ School, an independent Islamic school in Luton...has been graded ‘inadequate’ in four full inspections, and failed the independent school standards eight times since 2014.

The power to close down schools rests with the DfE [the Department for Education], but Ofsted has been increasingly outspoken about the [Department's] inaction….

Rudolf Steiner School, Kings Langley...was graded inadequate in 2016 over a lack of robust safeguarding systems and weak teaching.

Following monitoring visits, the school received a letter from the DfE in July 2017 saying it would be struck off the independent schools’ register.

Rudolf Steiner School, Kings Langley has appealed the DfE decision….

A spokesperson for the DfE said they cannot comment until the appeal process has concluded. They added all independent schools must meet the standards or face closure.







Waldorf Watch Response:

The current British government, under the Conservative Party, has been accommodating to various independent educational efforts. It has supported a free-enterprise approach, encouraging the formation of a wide range of alternative educational institutions. And it has been loathe to shutter schools even when they clearly serve their students badly. 


The Department for Education under this government has been anything but a fierce watchdog. Yet even in these lax circumstances, some British Steiner schools have found themselves imperiled. School inspectors have found many flaws in them.


We might ask why this has happened. Why, even in a favorable climate, have some Steiner schools found themselves threatened with official sanctions?


The answer lies deep in the nature of Steiner or Waldorf education.


Steiner or Waldorf schools often have serious difficulties meeting standard educational requirements. These schools do not generally offer students a good education, per se — their focus lies elsewhere. [See "Academic Standards at Waldorf", "Spiritual Agenda", and the Waldorf Watch for October 18, 2018: "Reforming a Steiner or Waldorf school is quite difficult...."


The low quality of Waldorf education, as judged by conventional standards, became apparent at the very first Waldorf school. When teachers at that school became concerned that they were not preparing students adequately for standard final examinations in the 12th grade, school founder Rudolf Steiner replied:


“The question of final examinations is purely a question of opportunity. It is a question of whether we dare tell those who come to us that we will not prepare them for the final examination at all....” — Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 712.


Later, when the students did poorly in the exams, Steiner said,

“We should have no illusions: The results gave a very unfavorable impression of our school to people outside.” — Ibid., p. 725.

Waldorf education is not designed to convey much knowledge to students nor to prepare the students for their lives in the real world after graduation. Hence, one of Steiner's followers has written this:

“The success of Waldorf Education...can be measured in the life force attained. Not acquisition of knowledge and qualifications, but the life force is the ultimate goal of this school.” — Anthroposophist Peter Selg, THE ESSENCE OF WALDORF EDUCATION (SteinerBooks, 2010)‚ p. 30.

The problem here is twofold. Waldorf education gives low priority to knowledge, and it gives high priority to a fantasy. "Life force" does not exist. It is a theoretical force postulated by some philosophers and scientists in the 19th century. The concept has been discredited subsequently, but — like many other old and even ancient fallacies — it is still affirmed in Waldorf education. As in so many ways, Waldorf is profoundly backward. [See, e.g., the entry for "life force" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]

As another of Steiner's followers has written, Waldorf education is not "fact-based" — it attaches little importance to factual knowledge.

“This is the obvious flaw in fact-based education. Whether we were taught about the solar system, the Soviet Union, or computers, much of what we had to learn in school [i.e., in non-Waldorf schools] is now outdated.” — Jack Petrash, UNDERSTANDING WALDORF EDUCATION (Nova Institute, 2002), p. 26.

Yes, facts change. But the proper response is not to devalue factual knowledge — it is to teach children how to ascertain factual knowledge and how to keep abreast of new developments, new discoveries. Waldorf schools do not, however, aim to do this. In fact, Waldorf education is not intended to be essentially rational:

"You will injure children if you educate them rationally....” — Rudolf Steiner, THE FOUNDATIONS OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE (Anthroposophic Press, 1996), p. 61. 

Steiner was speaking, here, primarily about young children. But the Waldorf aversion to rationality infects all levels of Waldorf schooling. Waldorf students are encouraged to have faith in their imaginations and intuitions, not primarily in their reasoning minds. The Waldorf approach discourages critical thinking. A Waldorf headmaster has expressed the matter this way:

"A youth whose childhood has been touched by the blight of 'critical thinking' will come to the moment of independent insight badly crippled ... Because skepticism has long since robbed him of part of his heart, he will now feel unable to embrace enthusiastically what he has come to understand." — John Fentress Gardner, THE EXPERIENCE OF KNOWLEDGE (Waldorf Press, 1975), pp. 127-128.

In the Waldorf view, we "understand" things — we reach "independent insight" — through our emotions and our imaginations. Ultimately, in the Waldorf view, we come to understand things by developing clairvoyance. Waldorf schools are frequently staffed by teachers who believe in clairvoyance. Many Waldorf teachers think they are clairvoyant; others credit the pronouncements of their colleagues who claim to be clairvoyant. Steiner commended this approach:

"Not every Waldorf teacher has the gift of clairvoyance, but every one of them has accepted wholeheartedly and with full understanding the results of spiritual-scientific investigation [i.e., the disciplined use of clairvoyance]." — Rudolf Steiner, WALDORF EDUCATION AND ANTHROPOSOPHY, Vol. 2 (Anthroposophic Press, 1995), p. 224.

Thus, we find Waldorf teachers making pronouncements such as this:

"Must teachers be clairvoyant in order to be certain that they are teaching in the proper way? Clairvoyance is needed...." — Eugene Schwartz, THE MILLENNIAL CHILD (Anthroposophic Press, 1999), pp. 157.

But clairvoyance is illusory. Like life force and so much else that Waldorf education affirms, clairvoyance does not exist. [See "Clairvoyance".] Yet clairvoyance is the central pillar of the Waldorf worldview. Clairvoyance constitutes what Steiner called "the Waldorf teacher's consciousness":

“[W]e must work to develop this consciousness, the Waldorf teacher’s consciousness, if I may so express it. This is only possible, however, when in the field of education we come to an actual experience of the spiritual. Such an experience of the spiritual is difficult to attain for modern humanity. We must realize that we really need something quite specific, something that is hardly present anywhere else in the world, if we are to be capable of mastering the task of the Waldorf school ... [We need] what humanity has lost in this respect, has lost just in the last three or four centuries. It is this that we must find again.” — Rudolf Steiner, DEEPER INSIGHTS INTO EDUCATION (Anthroposophical Press, 1983), p. 21. 


What we have lost, Steiner said, is instinctive clairvoyance:

“Essentially, people today have no inkling of how people looked out into the universe in ancient times when human beings still possessed an instinctive clairvoyance. Nowadays we believe that the different pictures or images or Imaginations [mental images produced by clairvoyance]...are the product of fantasy. They are not ... Human progress demanded that this living imaginative view fade away and be replaced by the intellectual view ... If we want to be fully human, however, we must struggle to regain a view of the cosmos that moves toward Imagination again.” — Rudolf Steiner, ART AS SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 256.

Note how, in statements such as this, "clairvoyance" and "imagination" are essentially interchangeable terms. When they advocate imagination, Waldorf schools are ultimately advocating clairvoyance.

This is the Waldorf view. It is unrealistic. It is irrational. It devalues knowledge. It devalues facts. It devalues critical thinking. It emphasizes fantasies such as life force and clairvoyance. It is fundamentally false.

The Waldorf worldview is the reason Waldorf schools have difficulty meeting standard educational requirements. It is the reason Waldorf schools have difficulty providing their students with a good education.

— R.R.









October 23, 2018



SELLING OFF PARTS OF 
A "CLOSED" STEINER SCHOOL 



From The Hemel Gazette [Hertfordshire, UK]: 


Rudolf Steiner School selling 
village houses in Kings Langley 

By Harry Cheesewright


A £9,857-a-year school which was forced to close earlier this year is in the process of selling its properties. 

Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL) is selling two homes in the village [Kings Langley]…. 

However the governors [of RSSKL] have denied rumours that they are planning to sell the cricket fields, or other land, for community housing.… 

Despite RSSKL closing in June the organisation is still operational with a kindergarten taking children aged between three and six years old. 17 children enrolled for September. 

That figure has since dropped to 15, but bosses [i.e., the school's leaders] say they expect there to be more than 20 “shortly”. 

RSSKL’s most recent accounts for 2016-17 show that the school ran at a £100,000 loss. 

However those debts are believed to have spiralled since then, with students numbers falling from 378 in November 2016 to 318 just 18 months later, and because of legal fees as RSSKL fought against government efforts to have the school closed.… 

Parents have been invited to a meeting tonight. Topics under discussion will include the immediate future of the site, and plans to have a new Steiner school on the site in due course.… 






Waldorf Watch Response:

At one point not long ago, Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley seemed to be dead and buried. But the school’s leaders, who fought the government’s closure order, continue working in apparent determination to revive their school in some form, perhaps under a new name. 

One small portion of the school continues to function: classes for kindergarteners. There have also been reports of unofficial tutoring sessions for older students held in the schools’ classrooms. [See Hemel Gazette, September 20, 2018.]

The decision to sell off some of the school’s properties apparently does not mean the school is giving up its efforts to survive. Rather, it seems to be a step the school is reluctantly taking to meet some of its immediate financial obligations. According to The Hemel Gazette, last year the school took out a £750,000 corporate loan. The school evidently also has other debts. 

The school’s difficulties reached a crisis when inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) identified numerous deficiencies at the school. In some ways, the situation as RSSKL is paralleled by problems inspectors have found at Steiner Academy Exeter. At both schools, the problem that has received the most notoriety is inadequate safeguarding of students. [See "RSSKL" and "S. A. Exeter”.] 

Steiner schools are usually inspected by the rather lenient School Inspection Service. However, when serious deficiencies become apparent, rigorous Ofsted inspections may be ordered. According to a recent article in The Telegraph: 

The majority of fee-paying Steiner schools in England are inspected by the School Inspection Service (SIS) … There is mounting concern about the suitability of the SIS to inspect Steiner schools and hold them to account on their shortcomings … RSSKL used to be inspected by the SIS but as safeguarding fears mounted, ministers [i.e., government officials] ordered Ofsted to take over. Ofsted can only inspect private Steiner schools when commissioned by the DfE [the Department for Education] to do so. 


Recently, there have been calls for all Steiner schools in the UK to be carefully inspected. [See "Safety, Karma, Gods, and Love", October 21, 2018.] 

The future of Steiner education in the UK — and perhaps beyond — may be significantly affected by the unfolding dramas at Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley and Steiner Academy Exeter. The stakes will be raised even higher if Ofsted inspections are ordered for all of the UK's Steiner schools.

— R.R.









October 25, 2018



NOW YOU DON'T SEE US; 

NOW YOU DO (MAYBE)

 



From The Hemel Gazette [Hertfordshire, UK]: 


“We hope to re-open in September,” 
say Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley 

By Ben Raza 


A school which closed for business in June is aiming to return in 2019.

Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL) was a £9,857-a-year private school which was forced to shut after a number of issues with safeguarding and insurance. 

But this week the Gazette met with Steffi Cook, a long-time employee who is now one of the new trustees, and she laid out the school’s vision. 

She said: “Our goal is to have a Steiner school again. We want Steiner education on this site in the future. 

“We’re working towards that as quickly and professionally as possible — but we’re also not rushing into anything.” 

Steffi laid out two possibilities — an outside group coming in and launching a new school, or the kindergarten which has remained open being allowed to grow by adding one extra year group until it can teach children until age 19.… 






Waldorf Watch Response:

In a sense, this is not news. The leaders of Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley have obviously intended all along to reopen their school, or to start a successor school, as soon as possible. They fought the UK government's order closing RSSKL, and they are currently fighting the consequences of the closing. [See "RSSKL".]

This is the attitude we should expect to find in any Waldorf or Steiner community. Fundamentally, Waldorf/Steiner enterprises are religious — they are rooted in the religion created by Rudolf Steiner: Anthroposophy. [See "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?"] Religious fervor infuses almost everything said and done in Waldorf/Steiner circles. [See, e.g., "Schools as Churches" and "Serving the Gods".]

Not all teachers at Waldorf/Steiner schools are adherents of the Waldorf/Steiner religion, and most parents who send their children to these schools are not fully-committed, Steiner-text-studying members of the faith. We should also recognize that some Waldorf/Steiner schools are more deeply invested in Anthroposophy than others are, and today some Waldorf/Steiner groups are apparently drifting away from devotion to Anthroposophy. And yet, at its core, the Waldorf/Steiner movement remains wedded to Rudolf Steiner's religious teachings. [See, e.g., "Waldorf Now", "Today", "Today 2", "Today 3", and the other pages in this sequence.]

Fervor, or zealotry, does not easily take "no" for an answer. We should expect Waldorf/Steiner groups to fight long and hard for their convictions.

The practical question, in the case of RSSKL, is whether the school's long list of accumulated difficulties can be overcome anytime soon, or ever.

The UK Department for Education and the Office for Standards in Education, having passed sentence on the school, may not permit RSSKL to reconstitute itself.

And there are other difficulties. 

◊ RSSKL is very deeply in debt. [See "Selling Off Parts of a 'Closed' School", October 23, 2018.] Digging out from under this debt may be extremely difficult.

◊ Insurers gave up on RSSKL — they were no longer will to underwrite the ongoing operations of the school. From the Watford Observer: "It was announced in June that the school was to close, and despite attempts to keep it open, they were unable to find any insurers to keep the school operating from September." [See "Closed Steiner School to Stay Closed — For Now", August 24, 2018.] 

◊ The school came under criticism for numerous serious failings, ranging from bad teaching to bad management. Perhaps most fundamental — and most disturbing to parents — was the failure to adequately safeguard students at the school. [See "The Faults Found — Remembering RSSKL", July 7, 2018.]

◊ RSSKL's reputation is currently in tatters, following a long series of devastating inspections by the Office for Standards in Education and the consequent coverage in the news media. Many families turned away from the school, and at least some of the faculty — who were no longer being paid — have dispersed. These problems may be repaired eventually, but the process may be long and difficult. (Note that one option mentioned by Ms. Cook — adding a new, higher grade each year as the kids currently in kindergarten gradually get older — would take more than a dozen years.)

If any ordinary school collapsed due to serious deficiencies such as those found at RSSKL, it would probably give up the ghost quickly and fade into history. It would bow to its seemingly inevitable fate. But we should not expect a Waldorf/Steiner school to do the same. The fervor of its most devoted champions will not allow RSSKL to surrender until absolutely every conceivable (and perhaps inconceivable) option has been tried and tried again.

So the story of RSSKL probably has many more chapters to come. They may be short, sad chapters — but we shouldn't expect RSSKL to vanish, completely and finally, anytime soon.


— R.R.









November 11, 2018


◊ NEWS ROUNDUP ◊

SAFEGUARDING




Humanists UK expresses alarm that 
inspections in some private schools 
are not being adequately monitored 


Humanists UK has expressed concern that the education regulator still lacks the relevant powers to properly monitor inspections in some private schools. These include Waldorf and Steiner schools, which have recently been reported for serious safeguarding problems…. 

Last year, the Daily Telegraph reported that, in the four years leading up to 2017, inspectors had raised safeguarding concerns at nearly half of all Steiner schools in the country. Additionally, last month, it was announced that The Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL) would shut permanently as the result of a slew of inadequate Ofsted [Office for Standards in Education] reports relating to safeguarding issues.... 

Humanists UK has a long history of campaigning against poorly regulated Steiner schools. Alongside increasing evidence of serious safeguarding problems, these schools are subject to longstanding concerns about the inclusion of pseudoscience on the curriculum. In the past, civil service briefings have also raised concerns about racism, systemic bullying, and a lack of academic rigour at Steiner institutions….

[11/11/2018    https://humanism.org.uk/2018/11/09/humanists-uk-expresses-alarm-that-inspections-in-some-private-schools-are-not-being-adequately-monitored/        Humanists UK originally posted this item on November 9.]





Formerly known as the British Humanist Association, Humanists UK is a charitable organization that promotes humanism.

Criticism of Steiner education has been growing louder and more frequent in the UK. The ultimate effect on the Steiner movement remains to be seen.

Here at Waldorf Watch, we have had extensive coverage of the problems found by inspectors at some British Steiner schools. See "RSSKL" and "S. A. Exeter.

Concerning pseudoscience in Anthroposophy and at Waldorf/Steiner schools, see "Pseudoscience", "Steiner's 'Science'", and "Science".

Concerning racism, see "Steiner's Racism". On the subject of "systemic bullying", see "Slaps". On the subject of "lack of academic rigour at Steiner institutions," see "Academic Standards at Waldorf".

On November 10, the Humanists UK news item was picked up at Cult News 101: See https://www.cultnews101.com/search/label/Waldorf%20School.










December 10, 2018


U.K. STEINER SCHOOLS 
TO RECEIVE SPECIAL SCRUTINY


The implications of the crises at a pair of Steiner schools in the United Kingdom may be dire. Steiner education as a whole, in the UK and beyond, may be adversely affected. The following is from The Daily Telegraph [London, UK]:


Urgent inspections of Steiner Schools 
ordered by Education Secretary 
in wake of Telegraph investigation

By Camilla Turner


Urgent inspections of Steiner schools have been ordered by the Education Secretary….

Damian Hinds has written to the chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, demanding that Steiner schools — both private and state funded [1] — are subjected to “additional scrutiny” by Ofsted. [2]

The move follows mounting concern from Ofsted about child safety in some Steiner institutions, with two schools threatened with closure by ministers after inspectors discovered serious failures in safeguarding…. [3]

This week, Department for Education (DfE) officials published a memo they sent to the Steiner Academy Exeter, warning that they are “minded” to cut off the school’s funding…. [4]

Last year, the fee-paying Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL) was ordered to shut down, following a series of damning inspections which uncovered a raft of safeguarding failings. The school is now appealing the order…. [5]

An investigation by this newspaper revealed how when parents at RSSKL had tried to raise the alarm about safeguarding lapses at the school, they were sent gagging letters…. [6]

Ofsted can only inspect private Steiner schools when commissioned by the Secretary of State to do so. In the past, this has happened where ministers [7] have concerns about a particular institution.

But Mr Hinds has taken the unusual step of asked Ofsted to conduct a “series” of inspections of Steiner schools in England and report directly to him on their findings….

A source close to the Steiner movement said: “There is no point in having Steiner schools if children are not safe in them. There is no point in having beeswax crayons, lots of singing, climbing trees and grinding flour to make bread, if there is not proper safeguarding.”

“There may be elements of Steiner education that Ofsted don’t understand [8], but when it comes to safeguarding, Ofsted are way ahead.”

[12/10/2018    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/12/09/urgent-inspections-steiner-schools-ordered-education-secretary/    This article originally appeared on December 9.]





Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] Waldorf or Steiner schools in the UK and in various other countries have typically been private schools, financed primarily though the tuition payments made by the students’ families. But some Waldorf/Steiner schools have been incorporated into state or public school systems — they receive the bulk of their financing from the governments in the lands where they operate.

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

[3] In addition to problems with safeguarding, the two Steiner schools have been found to have many other deficiencies, including poor teaching and poor leadership. [See S. A. Exeter and RSSKL.]

Children attending Waldorf/Steiner schools can be harmed in various ways. The schools are often badly managed. One result is that ordinary safeguarding precautions may be ignored or inadequately implemented. Moreover, many teachers at Waldorf/Steiner schools are far more interested in the spirit realm than in the ordinary, physical world in which flesh-and-blood humans dwell. This may make the teachers inattentive and distracted. One otherworldly belief held by many Waldorf/Steiner teachers is the doctrine of karma. If a student at a Waldorf/Steiner school is victimized by bullies, the teachers may conclude that enduring the attentions of bullies is the child’s karma and thus must be allowed. Likewise, Waldorf teachers often think that all children have guardian angels. If a child needs protection, her/his angel will handle the matter — adult humans (parents or teachers) need not particularly concern themselves. [For more on these matters, see, e.g., “Who Gets Hurt”, “Karma”, "Slaps", and "Serving the Gods".]

[4] Steiner Academy Exeter is a Steiner free school, what in the US would be called a charter school. The Academy operates as part of the state or public school system, and it receives the bulk of its financing from the government. Students can, therefore, attend the school for free. 

For information about the unfolding drama at Steiner Academy Exeter, see S. A. Exeter.

[5] RSSKL is a "fee-paying" school in that it is a private school, financed by the fees paid by students' families.

For information about the travails of Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley and its students, see RSSKL.

[6] “Gagging letters” are missives that instruct the recipients to remain silent on certain matters — they attempt to “gag” the recipients.

The Telegraph is one of several UK publications that have made disturbing revelations about Steiner schools in the UK. The use of gagging letters by RSSKL is just one of numerous allegations lodged against the schools.

[7] I.e., members of parliament who are in the Government (they preside over departments or ministries).

[8] The methods, curricula, and objectives of Waldorf/Steiner schools are indeed often difficult for outsiders to comprehend. The schools are rooted in Anthroposophy, a gnostic religion pieced together by the Austrian occultist Rudolf Steiner. [See, e.g., “Here’s the Answer”, “Spiritual Agenda”, “Oh Humanity - The Key to Waldorf”, "Is Anthroposophy a Religion?", “Gnosis”, and “Occultism”.]

— R.R.









December 12, 2018


A CLOSED STEINER SCHOOL -
STILL INADEQUATE 


In recent weeks, UK education officials have expressed serious concerns about Steiner schools. Most recently, these concerns have centered on Steiner Academy Exeter. But before that, Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley had been in the searchlight’s beam. Today the beam has swung back to Kings Langley.


From The Hemel Gazette [Hertfordshire, England]:



[Hemel Gazette]


Rudolf Steiner School receive
‘extremely upsetting’ Ofsted report

By Ben Raza

A controversial school in Kings Langley has had another highly critical Ofsted report [1] — but bosses [2] say that inspectors have simply not been fair. [3]

Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL) was deemed Inadequate after Ofsted visited from November 6-9. ‘Leadership’ was deemed Inadequate, while ‘Quality of teaching’, ‘Personal development’, and ‘Outcomes for pupils’ were all deemed Requires Improvement. [4]

But in an exclusive interview with the Gazette, school bosses said that Ofsted showed a “clear lack of sensitivity” and that the visit had been “an extremely upsetting experience of staff”….

One of the main criticisms made in the report was the turnover of leadership, and the failure of trustees to hold the school’s leaders to account. [5]

Inspectors pointed to five different leaders of the school and five different chairmen of the board of trustees since the 2016 inspection….

[12/12/2018    https://www.hemeltoday.co.uk/news/education/rudolf-steiner-school-receive-extremely-upsetting-ofsted-report-1-8736938]





Waldorf Watch Footnotes:


[1] Ofsted is the UK government’s Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills. Ofsted's "parent department" is the Department for Education.

[2] I.e., the current leaders of the school.

[3] Technically, RSSKL is closed. The government ordered the school to shut down after a series of Ofsted inspections found serious problems at the school. However, RSSKL is appealing the closure order.

[4] Although the school is technically closed, a skeleton staff evidently remains in place, as does a board of trustees. 

Ofsted inspectors apparently inquired into the school’s tentative intentions and plans. A teacher quoted in The Hemel Gazette said this:


“The Department for Education knew we were closed to all of the pupils in the lower and upper parts of the school.

“Yet inspectors insisted on knowing what we had put in place between May and July of the last academic year and asked what we intended to put in place for the new academic year.” 


It may seem strange for Ofsted to inspect a school that is "closed." But RSSKL has not given up the ghost; its leaders still intend to reopen the school if and when they can. So Ofsted is right to inquire whether the school, if it reopened, would have resolved its many deficiencies. To date, the answer appears to be no. (Whether RSSKL teachers find the process "upsetting" is surely beside the point.)

[5] Leaders and teachers at RSSKL seem to have resisted Ofsted at almost every step along the way. This recalcitrance (stemming from an apparent determination to persist in Steiner principles and practices) contributed to the school’s official demise. 

The current faculty and staff apparently remain devoted to the Steiner approach, but a high rate of turnover seems to have undercut the school’s ability to formulate and implement plans for the future.




For previous coverage of the evolving situation at Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley, see "RSSKL”.

For coverage of matters at Steiner Academy Exeter, see S. A. Exeter.


— R.R.









December 21, 2018


ONE LAST 
SILENT NIGHT?



From The Watford Observer [Hertfordshire, UK]:






[Watford Observer]


Kings Langley school’s 
last ever Christmas


By Alex Alley


People have contributed their time to a festive market at a closed down school. The Rudolf Steiner School in Langley Hill, Kings Langley, has hosted the Christmas Market on December 2.

The school which has been closed since the summer was decorated in a festive spirit and seasonal food was on offer for attendees.

A spokesperson for the market said: “Many thanks to everyone who contributed to the great success of the Christmas Market at the Kings Langley [school] on December 2….”

Past pupils were...present at the market, a brother and sister from Germany had been guest students at the school 10 and 13 years ago….

A spokesperson said: “We are coming to terms with the recent closure; seeing so many happy faces at the Christmas Market was all the more wonderful.”

[12/21/2018    https://www.watfordobserver.co.uk/news/17311812.kings-langley-schools-last-ever-christmas/    This story originally appeared on December 20.]






Waldorf Watch Response:

Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley, having failed a series of official inspections, has been ordered closed by UK education authorities.

But saying that Christmas will never again be celebrated at the school may be premature. Most of the school is now shuttered, but school leaders are appealing the closure order, and a kindergarten apparently remains open at the school.

The school had numerous serous defects, inspectors found. News accounts referred to poor teaching, poor management, faulty leadership, and practices that endangered the safety of the students at the school. 

So, for instance, a newspaper article in April, 2018, included the following:


Ofsted [the Office for Standards in Education]...stated standards were not met in ‘Quality of education’, and in ‘Quality of leadership in and management of schools’.

About quality of education, the report says “Work was frequently unchallenging and teachers’ assessment of the progress made by pupils was still in its infancy”....

The section about ‘Welfare, health and safety of pupils’ adds: “Leaders have failed to ensure that all new employees have been thoroughly vetted prior to taking up their post.

“They have accepted applications that fall far short of a professional standard….”



An article in May, 2018, added this:


The [inspectors'] report says the school has failed to meet the necessary standards for safeguarding, handling of complaints, and quality of leadership.

And it says that the school’s leaders have “potentially put pupils at risk” with their recruitment policies.

Criticisms include: “The lack of rigour and inaccurate recording amount to more than administrative errors.

“They are indicative of leaders’ continuing failure to take their responsibilities seriously”....





The results of the school’s appeal have not yet been announced.

Meanwhile, another Steiner school in the UK — the Steiner Academy Exeter — appears to be in danger of receiving a closure order, for reasons similar to the problems found at King Langley.

[For coverage of events at Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley, see “RSSKL”. For coverage of events at Steiner Academy Exeter, see “S. A. Exeter”.]


— R.R.








January 20, 2019


SKELETAL SCHOOL 
ASKS FOR FUNDS 


School inspectors have found numerous problems at Steiner schools in the UK. In one case, critical inspections led education authorities to order the closure of a private Steiner school — Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley. Whether other Steiner schools will also be shuttered remains to be seen.

And here’s a wrinkle: Leaders of the defunct Steiner school in Kings Langley are attempting to breathe new life into their school — they plan to establish a new Steiner kindergarten at the site of the old school. If they succeed, then a full-fledged Steiner school — with grades spanning the entire spectrum from pre-school through high school — may ultimately evolve. This is the pattern often enacted in the development of Steiner and Waldorf schools: A group of Anthroposophists and their allies start a Steiner kindergarten, and then they expand their school, grade by grade, as the students grow older.

No one should be surprised that Steiner leaders at Kings Langley are attempting to fight on. [1] Steiner schools are intimately linked to the religion created by Waldorf founder Rudolf Steiner: Anthroposophy. [2] Steiner/Waldorf teachers are often devout Anthroposophists, deeming their work to be a priestly calling. [3] Allowing secular education officials to terminate a Steiner school is almost unthinkable to deeply devoted adherents of the Anthroposophical faith. To outsiders, the attitude of Steiner’s followers may seem fanatical. But to insiders, fighting on is likely seen as a valiant crusade.

Here are excerpts from a recent newspaper article about the current situation at Kings Langely. 
From The Hemel Gazette [Hertfordshire, UK]:


Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley: 
Staff and parents asking for cash 
so that troubled school can re-open

By Ben Raza

Bosses [4] at a school which has had to close twice since last summer are asking for donations so that they can re-open it for a THIRD time.

A group of parents and teachers at Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL) want to set up a new nursery [5] on the site of the school which shut its doors in June. [6]

Although bosses had managed to re-open the RSSKL nursery in September, that too shut its doors in December. The fundraising website says: “We need funds in order to open as an independent kindergarten in the spring term 2019…”

…The fundraising page has a target of £5,000, and almost a third of that has been raised so far.

A private company has also been set up for the new nursery…

RSSKL is currently not teaching students of any age and exists with a skeleton staff.

The main school closed in June following a number of highly critical Ofsted reports [7] and problems gaining insurance. [8]

The nursery also received a critical Ofsted report in November after the main school had closed. Inspectors rated it as Inadequate, although staff told the Gazette that they thought the rating was unfair [9]…






Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] Efforts to reopen the school have been ongoing. [See, e.g., “Dead Steiner School Will Attempt Reincarnation", July 21, 2018.]

[2] See the entry for "Anthroposophy" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia. Also see “Is Anthroposophy a Religion?

[3] See “Here’s the Answer” and “Schools as Churches”.

[4] I.e., leaders among the faculty and some students’ parents.

[5] I.e., a nursery school. Actually, the plan is to open a kindergarten. [See https://www.gofundme.com/secret-garden-kindergarten.] Sometimes a distinction is made between nursery schools and kindergartens, sometimes it is not. When a distinction is made, a nursery school may said to serve very young children (ages 3 to 5, approximately), while a kindergarten may serve somewhat older children (ages 5 to 6, generally). 

As of today, Jan. 20, 2019, eight people have — during the last three months — donated a total of £1,639 toward the establishment of the "Secret Garden Kindergarten".  

[6] For a review of events leading to the closure order, see "RSSKL".

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

[8] Refusal by insurance companies to extend coverage to the school was one of the final blows endured by RSSKL. [See, e.g., “Ramifications of Failure”, June 20, 2018.]

[9] See “A Closed Steiner School - Still Inadequate”, December 12, 2018.

Steiner leaders almost always claim that inspections of Steiner/Waldorf schools conducted by outsiders are uninformed and unfair, due in large part to the unusual nature of these schools. [See, for instance, the reactions of Steiner representatives to recent negative reviews of Steiner free schools: "More Inspections, More Failures - Part 2", and "More Inspections, More Failures - Part 3", January 18 and 19, 2019.]


— 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.

Dennis 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 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.







March 5, 2019


TEACHER’S ACTIONS “INAPPROPRIATE” —
HE IS BARRED FOR 3+ YEARS 


The disciplinary hearing for a prominent Steiner/Waldorf teacher in the United Kingdom (UK) has wrapped up. The teacher has been found to have acted inappropriately with his students, although the disciplinary panel stopped short of concluding that his actions were sexual in nature. He has been barred from teaching for at least three years. (News reports vary on the length of his suspension.)

The matter has received wide media coverage in the UK. McCarthy's behavior contributed to the collapse of the long-established Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley. In turn, the closing of that school has fed into the crisis currently confronting Steiner education throughout the UK. Here are excerpts from some of the most recent news articles about McCarthy's difficulties.

From the BBC [London, England]:


Steiner teacher banned 
for 'grandfatherly' behaviour

A former teacher who claimed he had acted in a "grandfatherly" way by hugging pupils and letting them sit on his lap has been banned from teaching.

Denis McCarthy, 66, who taught at a Rudolf Steiner School in Hertfordshire [the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley] for 33 years, was found to have acted "inappropriately" with six children.

However, a professional conduct panel was not persuaded that his actions were sexually motivated...

[The] panel looked at allegations relating to six pupils between 2009-2016, in the classroom, at a school summer fair and on a camping trip…

The school closed last summer after a number of Ofsted [Office for Standards in Education] inspection reports said it was failing in its safeguarding requirements….

[3/5/2019    https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-beds-bucks-herts-47441374    This item originally appeared on March 4.]




From The Daily Mail [London, England]:


Teacher, 66, at £10,000-a-year 
Rudolf Steiner school who said 
he was being 'grandfatherly' 
when he allowed children to 
sit in his lap and massage his head 
is struck off

By Sophie Law

A teacher at a £10,000-a-year Steiner school who allowed children to sit on his lap and massage him has been struck off.

Denis McCarthy...shocked parent when he said he 'could make a lot money' by charging pupils to sit on him.

The 66-year-old also chased a girl around a playground, allowed students to massage his head and drew letters with his finger on another pupil's back. 

The ex-teacher was known to stroke pupil's face and hair and defended giving hugs to pupils as 'wholesome' and ‘grandfatherly'.

The Robert [sic: Rudolf] Steiner school was closed down last year over pupil safety fears and a string of damning Ofsted reports.…





From The Hemel Gazette [Hertfordshire, UK]:


Rudolf Steiner teacher 
banned indefinitely 

By Ben Raza

A teacher has been handed a lifelong ban from his profession, after it was found his behaviour “amounted to misconduct of a serious nature which fell significantly short of the standards expected”. 

Denis McCarthy taught at Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL) for 34 years. 

But following a three-week professional misconduct hearing it was found that he “failed to maintain appropriate professional boundaries and/or professional standards”. 

And the Secretary of State for Education has decided Mr McCarthy must be banned from teaching indefinitely. Mr McCarthy cannot apply for the order to be removed until March 2022. 

The minister said: “I have taken into account the panel’s comments on insight and remorse … In my judgement, the lack of complete and unambiguous insight means that there is some risk of the repetition of [McCarthy’s] behaviour and this puts at risk the future wellbeing of pupils….”

[3/5/2019    https://www.hemeltoday.co.uk/news/rudolf-steiner-teacher-banned-indefinitely-1-8834008    This item originally appeared on March 4.]




Media attention to the McCarthy hearing may have been excessive, but we should take note of it. And the larger issues now swirling around Steiner schools in the UK are certainly noteworthy. The future of Steiner education in the UK and perhaps beyond may be significantly affected.

The most sensational charge against McCarthy came from a former student who alleged that, years ago, he sexually assaulted her. The panel evidently decided they could not establish the truth or falsity of this charge.

For previous reports on McCarthy’s disciplinary hearing, see Waldorf Watch coverage for February 5, 8, 12, and 17, 2019.

For reports about the general situation at Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley, see “RSSKL”.

For coverage of the Steiner crisis overall, see “Steiner School Crisis”.

— R.R.








May 4, 2019


CONTINUING TRAVAILS 
OF A STEINER SCHOOL 


A British newspaper, The Hemel Gazette, has assiduously followed developments at the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL), which education officials in the United Kingdom ordered to close several months ago. [1]

The Gazette has now published a spate of new articles, bringing the story up to date. All of these articles deserve to be read in their entirety. You can begin by using this link: https://www.hemeltoday.co.uk/education/steiner-school-exclusive-what-is-happening-now-at-the-rudolf-steiner-school-1-8913435.

Here are excerpts from some of the articles:

1.

Steiner School exclusive: 
What is happening now 
at the Rudolf Steiner school?

By Ben Raza

Although RSSKL closed 11 months ago, this was far from the end of the story.

Just weeks after it shut its doors, trustees announced plans to re-open a ‘new’ school on the same site…

This would have been as part of a link-up with the Alpha Schools group [2]…

However in late August…that deal collapsed amid mutual recriminations.

The nursery element of the school [3] lasted for a few months at the end of 2018 … In that time it received a highly critical Ofsted report [4], which gave it the lowest-possible rating…

Nonetheless bosses [5] were still telling the Gazette in October that they had plans to re-open the entire school [6]…

RSSKL declined to comment this week.





2.


Waldorf or Steiner schools often present a lovely face to the world. But hidden from public view, there can often be dysfunction at these institutions. The Steiner school in Kings Langley was one of the foremost Steiner schools in the United Kingdom (UK), but inspectors determined that RSSKL had serious faults, including a culture that failed to adequately ensure the safety of the students.


The background of how 
and why the school closed

By Ben Raza

Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley shut its doors last May 2018…

The story began in December 2016, when Ofsted inspectors graded the school as Inadequate [7] and urged bosses to “urgently address” safeguarding issues [8].

This was followed by a series of additional Ofsted visits, each critical of the school. While RSSKL did make a series of changes…the Secretary of State for Education nonetheless began moves to remove the school from the Register of Independent Schools, which would effectively close RSSKL.

The school continued its fight to remain open, and in April 2018 announced that parents [9] had offered to loan RSSKL £750,000...almost the precise figure (£791,511) which the school’s most recent accounts say had been spent on legal fees in 2017-18.

But the curtain finally fell in the summer ... On May 10 the school failed its final Ofsted inspection…

[T]he new council [of trustees] voted to close the school.






3.


The inspectors found that the management of RSSKL was lax. Too often, proper procedures were not followed, the inspectors found. Thus, on the subject of safeguarding, adequate records evidently were not maintained. Moreover, the school evidently did not handle complaints properly. 


Safeguarding records deleted

By Ben Raza

While safeguarding was first raised as a problem at RSSKL by Ofsted inspectors two-and-a-half years ago, the investigation found that school bosses “failed to keep records appropriately” until its final 12 months.

And the School Inspection Service [10] had described the lack of one person [responsible for] updating records as a “major weakness”…

The report says: “Parents are of the view that records may have been deleted…

“[I]n some cases information relating to safeguarding and other matters was deleted when staff left the school…”

The school’s understanding of how to deal with safeguarding concerns is also criticised.

The report describes “the mistaken view that, because a complaint did not meet the criminal threshold, no further investigation…was required.…”






4.


Parents often choose Waldorf or Steiner schools for their children at least in part because the schools seem to offer a safe refuge from the bustle and turmoil of modern life. That these schools might fail to protect the students was a shocking revelation. Even more shocking was the almost-unthinkable evidence that sexual abuse might occur in these schools.


The untold story of the sex abuse 
allegations at a £9,857-a-year 
private school in Hertfordshire 

By Ben Raza

A controversial private school was subject to allegations of sexual abuse going back more than a decade — and the scale of the problem may have been even greater.

Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKL), which charged up to £9,857 per year, was forced to close last year, following a series of problems with safeguarding students, leadership, finances, and insurance.

But with a new school [11] expected to open later this year…the Gazette can exclusively reveal that a report has found:

Numerous accusations of sexual misconduct by staff against students were reported over the last 15 years;

Historic accusations and records about staff have disappeared;

Parents who raised complaints were subject to anonymous threats;

Staff who acted as whistle-blowers felt forced out of the school….





5.


Inspectors found failings in virtually all parts of school life at RSSKL: there were "problems with safeguarding students, leadership, finances, and insurance" — and quality of teaching. But, naturally, the issue of student safety — epitomized by allegations of sexual abuse at the school — resonated most strongly. Of course, isolated incidents of sexual abuse may occur anywhere, and they may not reflect particular institutional failings. But evidence suggests that sexual abuse may have occurred over a long period at RSSKL.


History of sexual allegations 
at £9,857-a-year school

By Ben Raza

While [RSSKL's] recordkeeping is strongly criticised in the [SIS] report, at least two previous incidents [of alleged sexual abuse] are believed to have occurred over the past 15 years.

In one case a teacher left after less than a year at the school “following a sexual allegation”.

The report states: “We found no evidence that this was reported to the authorities.”

Another incident involved a parent reporting a sexual approach made by a teacher to a child — and the teacher being allowed to continue teaching the class…

The report adds that just months later the teacher admitted the allegation.






6.


RSSKL has its defenders, who have sometimes behaved in ways that bring little credit to themselves. Indeed, evidence suggests that efforts have been made to silence the school's critics. Just as records may have been destroyed, other steps may also have been taken to cover up RSSKL's problems. But as often happens, attempts at a cover-up can backfire, creating a negative impression of an institution's culture.


Threats to whistle-blowers 
and complainants?

By Ben Raza

Following the suspension of one teacher at RSSKL, parents who were believed to have complained were sent anonymous threats.

The report says that this came when “the reason for (the) suspension...(was) divulged by a staff member”.

It adds: “An anonymous threatening letter suggested that they and their children were targets.
Although this was not orchestrated by the school, with the likely suspects being children, responsibility for the leak lies with them.

One family who complained were sent a letter by the school’s solicitors...

It told them: “You agree not to make further allegations...but [if] allegations are made or continued then the School will give notice for the immediate removal of your child…”

Two teachers who raised safeguarding concerns said they had been subject to bullying.

In the report one of them said: “I would be happy to meet and detail the abuse, bullying and harassment I and my family have had to endure since our names were released into the community as a result of making a child protection report.”






Etc.

To review other Hemel Gazette article in this series — articles not excerpted here — see


What was the Denis McCarthy case? 


and


Drug dealing at £9,857-a-year school -
but no action recorded 






Waldorf Watch Footnotes:


[1] For reports from the Hemel Gazetts and other news outlets, see “RSSKL” and “RSSKL 2”.

[2] Alpha Schools is a private limited company; its chief business is running private primary schools. Alpha would have assumed overall management of RSSKL, but RSSKL's staff evidently intended to retain as much control as possible. This was apparently the cause of friction between Alpha and RSSKL. [See, e.g., "Dead Again: Revival Efforts Fail,", September 1, 2018.]

[3] I.e., RSSKL's nursery school(s).

[4] Ofsted is the UK government’s Office for Standards in Education. [See https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/ofsted.]

[5] I.e., RSSKL leaders.

[6] The plan evidently entails forming an alliance with the Avanti schools trust. Avanti’s primary focus is sponsoring Hindu schools in the UK. [See https://avanti.org.uk.] But RSSKL is not, of course, a Hindu school.

[7] "Inadequate" is the lowest grade Ofsted issues; it is a failing grade, effectively an F.

[8] I.e., protecting the safety of students at the school. Poor safeguarding practices have been an issue at several UK Steiner schools. While this issue has been emphasized in most news reports, in fact inspectors found many and varied failings in the schools, including poor teaching and lax management. [See “Steiner School Crisis”.]

[9] I.e., parents of students in the school.

[10] “The School Inspection Service (SIS) is an independent body established to carry out inspections of independent school in England under Section 109(1) and (2) of the Education and Skills Act 2008.” [See https://www.schoolinspectionservice.co.uk/who-we-are/.]

[11] Situated on the same grounds, and run in a similar manner — perhaps with many of the same staff — the “new” school would apparently be, in effect, a continuation of the old school.

— R.R.









June 22, 2019


SEEKING SILVER 
AMID THE GLOOM


The Anthroposophical news service NNA — Nexus News Agency — has posted an article about the current travails of Steiner schools in the United Kingdom (UK). While suggesting that some good may emerge from the crisis, the article strives to present a reasonably balanced, accurate account of the events that have transpired thus far.


Every cloud has a silver lining – 
the future of Steiner Schools in England

By Sylvie Sklan

As the school year draws to a close, it is a good time to take stock of the situation regarding the English Steiner schools. The bright light of the schools inspectorate Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills) has been scrutinising all of the schools in England [1] over the past months and now many of them find themselves having to confront an unfavourable judgment...

This whole episode began in November 2018 with an Ofsted inspection of the Steiner Academy Exeter [2]. Academies are publicly funded independent schools which can follow their own curriculum [3]. Inspectors were alarmed by what they found and this resulted in the school being closed for a few days...

There was an explosion of media interest ... It didn’t take long for inspectors to turn up unannounced at the three other Steiner academies, as well as at five independent Steiner schools [4]. The outcome was that a further four schools (two academies and two independent schools) were judged “inadequate” and three “require improvement” [5]. Only one school (Steiner Academy Hereford) was judged “good” [6].

This sudden spate of inspections caused serious alarm [7]. There was much speculation about whether the anti-Waldorf lobby [8] had had a hand in what some saw as a witch-hunt. It also triggered a debate about why so many of the schools seem to be in such a poor state of health.

On the one hand, there are those who see it as the failure of Ofsted inspectors to understand properly what they are judging [9]...

On the other hand, there are those who are broadly in agreement with Ofsted’s findings...

Since [the initial inspections], all the other Steiner schools in England have been inspected. A further five have been judged inadequate, including two of our longest established schools, and further three “require improvement”. There is some good news though: four have been judged to be good. Two more reports are still to be published...

As regards the independent Steiner schools that are funded by parents, with nine having been judged inadequate and seven that “require improvement”, these schools urgently need to demonstrate that they do have the capacity to turn themselves around...

As regards the three Steiner academies, they will be taken into a multi-academy trust (MAT) [10].. The hope is that this MAT will be the Avanti Trust [11], the same Trust that is opening a new Waldorf-inspired school, Langley Hill, on the site of the former Kings Langley Rudolf Steiner School [12]...

[T]hese three Steiner academies would be likely to become “Waldorf-inspired” schools [13], like Langley Hill...

The jury is out as to how authentic a Steiner school a “Waldorf-inspired” school can be under Avanti ... What is certain is that without Avanti the future of these three state-funded schools would be very bleak.

So at this moment we don’t know what the future holds for the English Steiner schools; but there is always a silver lining to every dark cloud, even if right now that silver lining it is not entirely obvious. [14]

 




Waldorf Watch Footnotes:


[1] I.e., all Steiner schools in the UK. [See "Steiner School Crisis".] Saying that Ofsted shines a "bright light" on Seiner schools is, from an Anthroposophical perspective, generous. Many proponents of Steiner (Waldorf) education consider outsiders incapable of understanding the Steiner/Waldorf approach or the Anthroposophical underpinnings of Waldorf education. Some, indeed, suspect cold-eyed inspectors and critics of Steiner/Waldorf education to have nefarious — possibly even demonic — motives. [See, e.g., "demonization of opponents by Anthroposophists" in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia (BW/SE).]

[2] For coverage of events at that school, see "S. A. Exeter". 

[3] These academies are, according to British terminology, "free schools." Operating almost like private schools, free schools follow their own educational philosophies. But free schools receive government financing, which enables students can attend for free. In The USA, such schools are called charter schools.

[4] These are private Steiner schools, institutions that follow their own educational philosophy and depend on their own fund-raising efforts.

[5] "Inadequate" and "Requires Improvement" are the two lowest assessments issued by Ofsted. They are equivalent to failing and near-failing grades (F and D/C-).

[6] An Ofsted assessment of "Good" is equivalent to a grade of B. (The highest assessment issued by Ofsted is "Outstanding" — equivalent to a grade of A. None of the Steiner schools received this assessment.)

[7] I.e., alarm in the Steiner/Anthroposophical community.

[8] Rudolf Steiner urged his followers to believe that they are surrounded by pitiless, conspiratorial enemies. [See "Enemies".] The NNA article seems to confirm such a belief, referring to "the anti-Waldorf lobby," as if such a lobby unquestionably exists.

[9] This is, perhaps, the prevalent view from within the Steiner movement: Outsiders cannot properly understand or judge Anthroposophical thoughts or actions. (Thus, for instance, many Anthroposophical publications have carried this prefatory note: “No person is held qualified to form a judgment on the contents of this work, who has not acquired — through the School of Spiritual Science itself or in an equivalent manner recognized by the School of Spiritual Science — the requisite preliminary knowledge. Other opinions will be disregarded....”) The School of Spiritual Science is the esoteric institution, trafficking in secretive spiritual teachings, created by Rudolf Steiner for his devout followers. [See "School of Spiritual Science" in the BW/SE.]

[10] Multi-academy trusts are educational organizations that run two or more schools in coordination, under a single board of directors. When a struggling school enters such a trust, the directors work to improve that school.

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

[12] For coverage of the events at the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley, see "RSSKL". 

[13] "Waldorf-inspired" schools emulate Waldorf schools. Whether they also adopt the underlying Waldorf belief system, Anthroposophy, varies from school to school. When non-Anthroposophists run a school that simply adopts certain Waldorf methods [see "Methods"], the school should not be considered representative of Waldorf schools generally — it is not a real Waldorf school. But when Steiner's devoted followers run a "Waldorf-inspired" school, Anthroposophy will be central to their thinking, and the school will likely be in all ways except official designation a thoroughgoing Waldorf school.

[14] Writing from an Anthroposophical perspective, and aiming to boost Anthroposophists' spirits, NNA works hard to find a glint of silver in all this. ("There is some good news though: four have been judged to be good." Four Steiner schools got grades of B.) Take what comfort you can from that. In the end, though, the truth is less than spirit-boosting. If these events hold a silver lining for Anthroposophists — and for supporters of Steiner/Waldorf education — it is difficult if not impossible to spot. "[R]ight now that silver lining it is not entirely obvious." No, not entirely.
— R.R.














For further coverage of this developing story,