THE STEINER SCHOOL CRISIS




Here is a reprise of Waldorf Watch news coverage of the crisis in Steiner education 
— developing in the second decade of the 21st century — within the United Kingdom.















January 31, 2019


OFSTED MAY SEEK 
SYSTEMIC STEINER FLAWS 


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

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

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


Ofsted demands investigation 
into Steiner education 
following failures 

[By] Jess Staudenberg

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

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

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

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

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

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





Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— R.R.









February 1, 2019


OFSTED MAY SEEK 
SYSTEMIC STEINER FLAWS - II 


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

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


Spielman calls on DfE 
to shut down failing 
Steiner schools 

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

By John Roberts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

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

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

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

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

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



[See SomersetLive].


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

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

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

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

— R.R.









February 2, 2019


OFSTED MAY SEEK 
SYSTEMIC STEINER FLAWS - III 


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

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

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

Here are excerpts from The Times’ article: 


Improve or face closure, 
Steiner schools warned 

[By] Rosemary Bennett 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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









February 3, 2019


BRISTOL WILL FIGHT 
(CONTINUED) 


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

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


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

It could be months before the case goes before judges

By Emma Grimshaw

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

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

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

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

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

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




Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

[6] I.e., Ofsted.

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

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

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

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

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









February 4, 2019


UK STEINER SCHOOLS: 
MORE CRISIS COVERAGE 


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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






Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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









February 6, 2019


AMID CELEBRATIONS, 
PREPARATIONS FOR BATTLE 


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

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

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

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


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

[By] Eleanor Busby and Ewan Somerville

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






Waldorf Watch Footnotes:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[11] See "RSSKL".


— R.R.








February 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 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 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 February 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 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 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 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.








March 6, 2019


ANOTHER STEINER SCHOOL 
WILL CLOSE ITS DOORS 


Steiner education in the United Kingdom (UK) is currently in turmoil. Inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) have found deep faults in numerous UK Steiner schools.

Some of the schools blasted by Ofsted are recently created Steiner “academies” — that is, they are Steiner “free schools,” comparable to Waldorf charter schools in the USA. [1] But other Steiner schools criticized by Ofsted are long-established Steiner private schools. The institutions in this latter category represent the very heart and soul of Steiner education in the UK.


Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley was founded in 1949. Following a series of critical inspection reports from Ofsted, in 2017 the school was ordered to close. [2]

Wynstones School is a Steiner boarding school in Glouchestershire. It was founded in 1937. A recent “damning” report by Ofsted has imperiled the school. [3]

Now Michael House School [4], which was founded in 1934, has announced that it is closing. The proximate cause is the criticism the school has gotten from Ofsted.

Here are excerpts from a letter released released by the school:


Announcement to close the school at the end of this academic year.

On the 13th February we held a Whole School Meeting where we explained the two current crises facing the school.

The first is the consequence of the poor Ofsted inspection. [5] We have a limited time in which to write and submit a credible Action Plan [6] to the Department for Education (Dfe). [7] This must address each of the shortcomings identified by the inspectors…

[The first crisis came] against a backdrop of a poor financial situation where our income does not meet our monthly expenses [8]. We are slipping further into debt each month…and teachers are not being paid their salary in full on time….

At the time of the last meeting…we felt that on balance…we would just about be ok.

However, over the last couple of weeks we have had further blows to our finances. Additionally, now that the details of the Action Plan are being developed, it is becoming apparent that certain large changes are required that we simply don’t have the resources to achieve. [9]

With a heavy heart, trustees and the College of Teachers [10] have come to the conclusion that we should aim for a managed closure of the school at the end of this academic year [11]…

[W]e hope to re-establish a new school as soon as possible [12]….






Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] See “S. A. Exeter” and “Inadequate”. 

For an overview of the crisis confronting Steiner education in the UK now, see “Steiner School Crisis”.

[2]  See “RSSKL”. All parts of the school have shut down except for a kindergarten. But RSSKL is appealing the closure order and hopes to reopen.

[3] See “Another ‘Damning’ Inspection of Another Steiner School”, February 28, 2019.

[4] Michael House School is located in Derbyshire. It should not be confused with the UK's oldest Steiner school, Michael Hall, which is located in Sussex and was founded in 1925.

Both Michael House School and Michael Hall are named for the Archangel Michael, with whom Steiner teachers believe they have a special bond. [See “Michael”.]

[5] See “Yet Another Steiner School Given Lowest Ofsted Grade”, February 7, 2019.

[6] This is a plan for rectifying the failings found by Ofsted. The plan would have to be accepted by the DfE, and thereafter implementation would be reviewed by Ofsted inspectors. Failure to fulfill the plan could lead to closure of the school.

[7] The Department for Education is the UK government's ministry overseeing "child protection, education, apprenticeships and wider skills." It is equivalent to the federal Department of Education in the USA, but with a wider ambit.

[8] Finances are an ongoing challenge for all private Steiner schools. Some Steiner proponents have opted to create Steiner free schools, instead of private Steiner schools, precisely in order to obtain state funding.

[9] The key question is whether a Steiner school can meet standards set by government education authorities and remain a real Steiner school. Whether or not a Steiner school has the necessary resources, the required changes could cause the school to violate its Anthroposophical beliefs — and the school might well balk for this reason. [See, e.g., "Steiner Academy Bristol Girds for a Fight", February 16, 2019.]

[10] When a Steiner or Waldorf school is organized according to Steiner/Waldorf tradition, this is the central administrative committee. [See the entry for “college of teachers at a Waldorf school” in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.]

[11] In the UK, academic years generally end early in April (the conclusion of the spring term).

[12] The shuttering of a Steiner or Waldorf school is traumatic for devoted supporters. Often, these schools provide the focal point for the spiritual and social lives of the faculty and many of the students and their parents. [See, e.g., “Schools as Churches” and “My Life Among the Anthroposophists”.] Accepting the closure of their school is almost unthinkable for the true-believing Anthroposophists who usually stand at the center of a Steiner/ Waldorf school — they consider themselves to be engaged in a spiritual mission of immense importance. [See, e.g., “Mission”.] For these reasons, plans to restore a failed Steiner/Waldorf school are almost always devised. (Thus, for instance, the skeleton staff at Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley is striving to resuscitate that school. [See "RSSKL 2".]) Implementing such plans may, however, prove difficult or even impossible in some instances. [To review some Steiner/Waldorf closures, see “Failure”.] This may be particularly true if state education authorities judge the proposed new school to be essentially the same at the failed school they ordered to close.

— R.R.








March 21, 2019


CLOSING A STEINER SCHOOL 
— AN UPDATE 



From DerbyshireLive, formerly The Derby Telegraph [county of Derbyshire, UK]:


Coronation Street star's old school 
in administration after it could not 
pay staff or suppliers

By Zena Hawley

An 85-year-old Derbyshire school has gone into administration [1] just weeks after being told it was "inadequate" in all areas [2] following an Ofsted inspection [3], which was ordered by the Department for Education [4].

Administrators are working to try to keep Michael House School [5]…open until the end of the summer term to allow pupils to complete their GCSEs [6].

[Michael House School] is a Steiner Waldorf School [7] ... Among [the school’s] former pupils is Coronation Street actor William Roache [8]…

Financial problems for the school were highlighted in a letter from the chair of trustees Ian Duffy, which was sent to parents [of the school’s current students]…

In the letter Mr Duffy explained that the school was facing two crises. One was as a result of the poor Ofsted report … The other was the financial situation where the monthly income was not meeting the school's expenditure [i.e., costs]…

Mr Duffy wrote: "This cannot continue … With a heavy heart, trustees and the College of teachers [9] have come to the conclusion that we should aim for a managed closure of the school…" [10]

In a further note to parents Mr Duffy said that the school needed to "borrow up to £150,000 in order to guarantee the orderly closure of the school…"

The Ofsted inspection of Michael House School followed a series of other high profile inspections of Steiner schools [11], where they were also found to be "inadequate", raising doubts about safeguarding in Steiner schools…

The Ofsted report on Michael House School highlighted safeguarding as "ineffective". The inspectors said that not all teachers "take timely or effective action to keep pupils safe" and "not all recruitment checks are undertaken" [12].

They said that some of the same concerns were also evident at the school's previous standard inspection...

They also criticised senior leaders and trustees of the school for not making sure that all areas of the school, including the kindergarten, are safe...

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

At the time of the inspection, a DfE spokesman said: "Where any independent school fails to meet the independent school standards, we will take robust action.

"We will continue our work with Ofsted to act quickly to ensure no pupil experiences a substandard education."





Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] I.e., the school is effectively bankrupt. Its assets have been taken over by an officially appointed administrator.

[2] I.e., it received a failing grade in all of its operations, including teaching and management. "Inadequate" is the lowest grade issued by UK education inspectors.

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

[4] The Department for Education (DfE) is the UK government’s ministry in charge of “child protection, education, apprenticeships and wider skills in England.” Its predecessor agency was The Department for Children, Schools and Families.

[5] Michael House School, in the town of Shipley, Derbyshire, should not be confused with the UK's oldest Steiner school, Michael Hall, which is located in Sussex. Both Michael House School (founded in 1934) and Michael Hall (founded in 1925) are named for the Archangel Michael, with whom Steiner teachers believe they have a special bond. [See “Michael”.]

[6] I.e., the General Certificate of Secondary Education, indicating a student’s educational attainment at the secondary school level.

[7] The designations "Waldorf school," "Steiner school," and "Steiner Waldorf school" are essentially synonymous — all apply to schools that seek to implement Rudolf Steiner's educational principles and directives.

[8] Coronation Street is a long-running British TV soap opera.

[9] I.e., the central leadership committee within the school.

[10] For previous coverage of the situation at Michael House School, see “Another Steiner School Will Close Its Doors”, March 6, 2019.

[11] See, e.g., “The Steiner School Crisis”.

[12] I.e., new teachers were not adequately vetted before being hired.

— R.R.



















April 9, 2019


ANOTHER STEINER SCHOOL 
WILL CLOSE ITS DOORS 
(CONTINUED) 


Here is an update on one of the Steiner schools in the United Kingdom (UK) that has run into severe difficulties in recent months. [1]

From BusinessDesk.com [Birmingham, England]:

Controversial Derbyshire school 
to be scaled back 

[by] Sam Metcalf

The kindergarten and day nursery at [a] Derbyshire independent school...are set to be wound up [2].

Siann Huntley and Andy Beckingham [3]...were appointed as joint administrators to the Derbyshire‐based independent school Michael House and Rowans Day Nursery last month [4].

Since then, the administrators say a number of parents have removed their children from the school, making it an unviable business…

Steiner schools base their curriculum…on the spiritual philosophy of Rudolf Steiner [5]. The Department for Education [began] expressing concerns going back to 2014 after it emerged that the founder [i.e., Steiner] had held controversial views on race, saying that black people were a “nuisance” to Europe [6].

The Derbyshire school and day nursery [had] around 80 pupils…

Huntley said: “The actions of these parents are completely understandable in the circumstances. It is regrettable that this difficult decision has had to be taken … We are committed to ensuring that the remaining pupils…continue to receive the expected standards of education until the end of the school year.”





Waldorf Watch Footnotes:

[1] For an overview of Steiner school travails in the UK recently, see "Steiner School Crisis".

[2] This is Michael House School, which will be reduced ("scaled back") and then closed. (The school is “unviable.” The kindergarten and nursery will close soon; the rest of the school will attempt to continue operating until the end of the school year.)

[3] They represent Leonard Curtis Business Rescue & Recovery, a consultancy that assists directors of struggling and failing businesses.

[4] See “Another Steiner School Will Close Its Doors”, March 6, 2019. (When a UK school is placed "in administration," it is put in the hands of outside authorities who attempt to rectify the school's faults. If these efforts prove fruitless, they close the school.)

[5] See the entry for “Anthroposophy” in The Brief Waldorf / Steiner Encyclopedia.

[6] See “Steiner’s Racism”.

— R.R.




























May 15, 2019


WYNSTONES WALDORF - 
ANOTHER ACCOUNT


Steiner schools in the United Kingdom (UK) are in crisis [1]. During recent months, several of the schools have received blistering inspection reports. 

Other UK Steiner schools have fared better, and some of the criticized schools have evidently improved. But the overall crisis continues.

Here is a follow-up report on the situation at a long-established Steiner school in Glouchestershire [2].

From The Stroud News and Journal [Stroud, UK]:


Wynstones Steiner school given 
the worst possible rating 
by Ofsted inspectors 

By Miranda Airey

OFSTED [3] inspectors have rated Wynstones School [4] as 'inadequate' after uncovering a catalogue of failings, including concerns over pupil safeguarding.

The Steiner Waldorf school…was found to be inadequate – the lowest of four grades [5] – in every single category [6]…

Ofsted's damning report, following an inspection in March, came after an inspection into boarding provision at the school in November which raised concerns [7]…

In the latest report, the inspectors have noted: "The trustees and managers have failed to ensure that the independent school standards (ISS) are met in full [8].

"They have not ensured that the quality of teaching and learning is of an acceptable standard.

"Nor have they assured themselves that the arrangements to keep pupils safe are robust enough [9]"…

The school, which opened in 1937 [10] and follows the Steiner Waldorf principles of education, was rated as 'good' at its last inspection in 2007.

But in the intervening years, standards have slipped, with management tasked with "too many responsibilities to ensure that the school provides a good quality of education and carry out effective child protection arrangements", the inspectors said…

[T]he inspectors also noted that "standards across the school are too low" and that "many pupils are working several years behind where they should be"…

[The report] says younger pupils with special educational needs do not receive the support they need to prepare them for upper school and other pupils, particularly the most able, make slow progress and do not reach the standards they are capable of.

The necessary leadership and support to help staff improve pupils’ outcomes was found to be lacking, and the inspectors noted low standards of behaviour and poor attendance amongst the pupils.

A spokesman for Wynstones said the school was deeply disappointed with the inspectors' findings, but accepted its conclusions and was "working to rectify every weakness as a matter of urgency and restore the school to its 'good' rating…."






Waldorf Watch Footnotes:



[2] See "Inspections: Win Some, Lose Some", Part 2, May 11, 2019.

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

[4] Wynstones is a Steiner or Waldorf school serving day students as well as boarding students. The school is located in the village of Whaddon, on the edge of the city of Glouchester.

[5] The four grades given by Ofsted are, from lowest to highest, • Unsatisfactory, • Requires Improvement, • Good, and • Outstanding.

[6] The six categories on which schools are graded are • Effectiveness of leadership and management, • Quality of teaching, learning and assessment, • Personal development, behavior and welfare, • Outcomes for pupils, • Early years provision [i.e., provisions for the youngest students], and • Sixth form provision [i.e., provisions for the most senior students].

[7] See, e.g., "Another 'Damning' Inspection of Another Steiner School", February 28, 2019. "Boarding provision" refers to the provisions made for boarding students.

[8] The Parliament has established standards that independent schools in the UK are expected meet. These standards are revised as Parliament sees fit. [See, e.g., "The Independent School Standards - Advice for Independent Schools".] 

[9] The failure of various Steiner schools to make sufficient "arrangements to keep students safe" — also called "safeguarding" the students — has been the focus of much attention in the media and elsewhere. But inspectors have found serious failings in many other parts of Steiner school operations, including teaching and management.

[10] Wynstones is thus one of the oldest Steiner schools in the UK. The oldest is Michael Hall, which was founded in 1925.

— R.R.













To Be Continued (?)