Having it All

It is not surprising that Steiner schools have had to request special exemption form the normal government requirements for the introduction of literacy, numeracy and technology – it is one of their selling points – the idea of children having freedom from academic studies, spending time running in the woods and knitting hats (yes, really) instead.

But knowing this does bring home the reality of how these schools differ in their approach to academic subjects. They claim to know better than everyone else how best to educate children. The reason for their methods was mentioned in the post “delayed reading”; not an educational reason, but a spiritual reason.

Ok, that is how Steiner believe children should be “educated”. But what is also sold to parents is the notion that the children come out at the end with academic grades comparable to those of their mainstream-educated peers. Parents are choosing Steiner in the belief that their child will not only have learned to make bread and do crafts, spend hours outdoors, (all of which they can do at home) and avoid the “ordeal” of learning reading and maths at the same age as other children, but will emerge at 16 or 18 with equally good grades.

There may be a few parents who do not believe this and place little value on exam results. I would be interested to know how many, and how they think their children will feel about this decision when they look back on their school days. (After all, this could rule out certain careers choices and further education.)

But to be sure Steiner are not telling parents that their child will probably not achieve as well academically; they claim families can have it all.

As far as statistics go, academic claims by Steiner Waldorf do not seem to stand up to scrutiny. Statistics are bandied around but can be picked apart and found to mean nothing.

A commenter stated yesterday that state- funded schools “doctor” results, by only entering students they know will pass.

This is not my experience of state-funded education; indeed much time and effort, in a large SEN department, is spent making sure all children achieve their potential. This is a comprehensive school where many children achieve outstanding grades.

The claim of a high pass rate in a Steiner school would indeed be impressive if the percentage applied to the number of children in the year group, but this is not the case.

It is difficult to assess the exam results of a school when they are not given as a percentage. A Steiner school in this area does not share with us the number of students in a year group, only the grades achieved. How can we decide how good or bad the grades are? Crucial information is missing from the school website – pages are “under construction”.

Mainstream schools near Steiner schools are asked to take on the job of helping students who have transferred because parents have realised their child is not reaching expected targets for their age -group. This happens here in Stroud and in the US, to my knowledge, and there are similar accounts on the internet.

At the end of a Steiner education, some children, especially those who have had extra coaching, emerge with good grades. But those who do not achieve what their families expected– well the way to deal with this is to decide they didn’t want or need to do well academically anyway. No point crying over spilt milk.

The parents must feel they have spilt the milk themselves, and this would make it even harder when it comes to the mopping up.



  1. Helen

    Ah yes “rounded” (from the article above) another buzzword from Steiner. One prominent Stroud citizen (a former mayor in fact) when asked why he approved of anthroposophy, said Steiner students are “well-rounded”. According to him this meant that they would shake hands when meeting people. Hmm, we know about shaking hands in Steiner schools (post on seduction).
    Apart from that it seems to mean educated in many areas. It depends which areas are important; if calligraphy is more important to you than IT a look at requirements for job applicants may be advisable.

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