Recruitment of senior staff does seem to provide a bit of a challenge for Steiner Academies and free schools.
The groups setting up the schools have chosen the Steiner Waldorf brand, so presumably they like the tenets of the Steiner belief system (at least the ones who “know”) and the brand is one that knows how to negotiate the process of opening a school. But choosing this brand brings with it certain baggage – provided by the SWSF.
The kind of stipulations the SWSF make about incorporating anthroposophy would be impossible to accommodate in a school without Steiner leadership, so the appointment of senior staff is important.
At Hereford Steiner academy there has been little continuity at the top since the original head left to take over at another Steiner free school. Since then there have been acting heads and the Academy is currently advertising for another Principal.
On its website the Bristol Steiner Academy, due to open in September, admits that there is a very small pool of competent candidates to pick from when it comes to Steiner people with the right qualities to run a large school.
They have appointed a Principal Designate, who, according to her bio has no Steiner experience, and are now looking for a Vice Principal and a School Business Manager.
The following is from the news page of their website “what is a Steiner academy?” where there is information about how they are recruiting staff;
“… we had to decide whether we should be open to mainstream candidates – Steiner schools don’t normally have head teachers, so there are very few people in Steiner education with the right experience to run a big, state-funded school. In the end we decided to be open to applications from candidates from a mainstream background; we will now recruit a Vice Principal with strong Steiner experience, to act as head of education. We hope that this might just give us the best of both worlds… “
So the Principal Designate herself has no experience of the Steiner world, and she will be working alongside a “head of education” who will be very experienced in Steiner and therefore in anthroposophy. According to the recruitment poster applicants should have
- In-depth knowledge of the Steiner ethos and curriculum, from Kindergarten through to Upper School
- Extensive Steiner teaching experience, preferably across multiple age- ranges, and be an excellent teacher.
The new Principal must presumably have done considerable research on anthroposophy, and found out about child study and eurythmy (insisted on in all Steiner schools by the Steiner Waldorf Schools fellowship) and about other aspects such as the anthroposophical festivals and rituals, for example the morning verse or prayer.
Steiner schools now say it is up to teachers to interpret anthroposophy for themselves (niftily excusing the school as a whole from responsibility for interpreting it) so if the Principal wanders into a classroom where the teacher and children are reciting Steiner’s “morning verse” (a prayer to the sun god), presumably it will not be for her to interfere.
Indeed it is not entirely clear what the Principal’s role will be; the “head of education” has a very long list of duties, and the business manager will be more than a school secretary – he or she will have a degree, and will oversee many aspects of running the school.
The Principal designate must realise that many staff will not have qualified teacher status, and that their “training” may have only consisted of some Saturdays learning about anthroposophy.
(Parents too should have this explained to them – as a matter of courtesy if nothing else.)
There is no publicly funded Steiner teacher training, and the training which does take place does not produce qualified teachers.
Class teacher applicants have been told on the website there will be support from experienced Steiner teachers and from “Steiner parents”. I wonder if they will be reassured by this – parents who “know” about Steiner education providing support for new teachers – an interesting scenario.
If the free school group here did not want to be Steiner school they could have chosen another name and had complete freedom to run the school as they wish, with no interference from the SWSF. No religious rituals, no anthro festivals, no child study based on the archaic idea of “humours”, no eurythmy. They would employ teachers who are qualified, and they could allow young children access to books.
Having made their decision to be an official Steiner school, the Stroud Steiner free school will have to submit to the SWSF and try to find a way to accommodate the outlandish demands it makes. Recruitment of senior staff must become a little more tricky for each new school which opens, as Bristol are finding out.