The British Humanist Association has expressed alarm at creationist and alleged extremist nurseries gaining state funding.
Following concern last month about the nature of Steiner education, the BHA have looked into creationist, Charedi, Steiner and Muslim nurseries, and question how the government can justify providing funding for such organisations, when they appear to contravene the regulations for qualification.
Last year the BHA identified 17 nurseries causing concern, but after recent analysis of Ofsted reports, now say there are 67 such groups, and 27 are Steiner.
Two of the nurseries are in Stroud; The children of One End Street, and Sunlands Kindergarten
The BHA said that initially Steiner kindergartens were not eligible because they did not teach the Early Years curriculum;
“The BHA responded to [last year’s] consultation to point out that the conditions of the funding include that it goes to nurseries that haven’t exempted themselves from teaching the early years foundation stage (EYFS) – which Steiner nurseries invariably have. However, instead of stopping the nurseries from getting funding, the BHA was alarmed to see that the new regulations, which came into force in December, instead resolved the problem by removing the prohibition on funding for EYFS-exempted nurseries – thus allowing the Steiner schools to get funding without any legal issues.”
Perhaps the government has decided that the rules that were initially put in place to prevent unsuitable education for young children are no longer important, and that it doesn’t matter what is taught to pre-school children. In the case of Steiner education, nursery includes children up to the age of 7.
All parents know how much children are capable of learning at a very young age however, and many faiths and belief systems – including Steiner – begin teaching their creed from the start, to make the most impact on the development of young minds. So to decide that content is unimportant is surely mistaken.
According to the BHA, Some schools receiving state funding for nurseries have told parents that because the money comes with few strings attached, they have been able to reduce fees for the whole school because of the money they receive for their nursery places.
For many families, a nursery or kindergarten proves to be a way in to a certain type of education. With Steiner, the aesthetics and the kinds of activities on offer are an attraction that can prove irresistible, and by continually claiming that anthroposophy is not “taught”, they effectively deceive parents about the kind of education children will receive in the schools.
By providing state funding the government is assisting the kinds of groups highlighted by the BHA, increasing the numbers of families signing up at school age. It appears the checks on what type of education is provided are becoming less effective, and many groups promoting questionable ideology, not just Steiner, are slipping through the net.