The Stroud Steiner Free school group recently attended an interview at the Department for Education.
As a member of the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (SWSF) they have the backing of an organisation well-rehearsed in opening free schools. They know how to jump the hurdles.
Joe Evans, head of the initial steering group and newly appointed business manager at the Bristol Steiner Academy due to open this year, described his group’s experience of the interview in the anthroposophical publication “New View”.
He said one of the team who went to the interview was a “senior civil servant who outranked our interviewers”. Apparently, the person in question made sure they knew this.
So he or she effectively pulled rank.
One question they were asked was how they would respond if a parent did not want their child to do eurythymy for religious reasons. Apparently they all “gaped like fish”. He does not say what answer was given.
Clearly it had not occurred to the team that eurythmy would be seen by the interview panel as a dubious lesson in a state-funded school.
Bristol Steiner Academy make the usual claims about not teaching or promoting anthroposophy, and yet they were surprised to be asked about eurythmy!
One interesting fact to emerge from the article is that the Bristol group were concerned about Steiner critics, and most worried by the thought of them attending meetings to voice their objections.
He describes the feelings about anthroposophy among the group as varied; one believes in “Everything. Angels, the lot.” Another described himself as a humanist. (That was before the recent BHA statements about Steiner, I guess). Joe Evans himself is enamoured with Daoism, (a chinese belief system), he says.
“To this day I am not sure if we have redefined what it means to be a Steiner school or simply expressed what everyone was already thinking…”
They expressed “what everyone was already thinking”, yes. But is that a coherent policy on how to handle anthroposophy and the demands of the SWSF within the new school, or some wishy-washy, colourful but dodgy pseudoscience depending on the whims of individuals within the steering group (three of whom will be the “nucleus of the governing body”)?
Well, he will find out in September. The as yet unnamed vice-principal at Bristol Steiner Academy is intended to complement the non-Steiner Principal, and is required by the person specification to have
“In-depth knowledge of the Steiner ethos and curriculum, from Kindergarten through to Upper School” and “ Extensive Steiner teaching experience, preferably across multiple age ranges”
Redefining what it means to be a Steiner school. Does that mean it will be a Steiner school or it won’t?
If not, what will it be?