Education 2015

A post on the local schools network explains how a group of people concerned about the way the current government is steering education would like to change things after the general election next year.

Top of the agenda for this group is the need for all schools to follow a national curriculum as a way of ensuring standards across the board. This of course conflicts with the free schools and academies programme under which Steiner schools are flourishing.

The current availability of this opportunity for schools to teach whatever alternative ideas they fancy has proved to be a perfect platform for extremist and creationist groups to promote their ideas to children in this country. At some point the groups setting up the schools must have convinced the department for education that they would offer a “broad and balanced curriculum” and that their school would be an asset to the community.

The Post on Education 2015 points out that within the last month alone, four free schools have been judged unsatisfactory, and there has been considerable concern about how free schools are operating.

Another concern on the list of priorities for improving education is the realisation that the percentage of unqualified teachers in classrooms is increasing thanks to another feature of the free schools idea, and that this should also be stopped if educational standards are to improve. Any unqualified teachers currently working in free schools or academies would be compelled to gain Qualified Teacher Status; this would be a long road for those Steiner teachers who have only a Steiner teaching qualification, as this is in no way comparative with a BEd degree or a PGCE. Indeed they would have to unlearn a lot of what they had experienced on an anthroposophical training course.

The Liberal Democrats and the shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt have already indicated their support for these changes so it is possible that under a different government they would be implemented.

The remoteness of the Department for Education from schools and the resulting difficulty in keeping tabs on their practices has already been shown to be a problem as was recently highlighted by the Birmingham schools debacle where a former M15 agent has been brought in to head up an inquiry into extremism. The need for local authorities to oversee education in a given area is considered a priority, if problems such as those in Birmingham are to be avoided in the future.

Subjecting children to the teachings of religious zealots and creationists with their own agenda with or without the knowledge of their parents seems wrong, but recently the free schools and academies programme has given oxygen to these groups, including Steiner.

A commenter on the post points out that it does not seem sufficient to rely on each party coming in to power to stick to its pledges in this important matter, and perhaps a new system of governance of education is required, where “tinkering” will be avoided, and policies are established in law.

The meeting was organised by several groups including the Socialist Education Association.

 

 

 

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9 comments

  1. alicia hamberg

    ‘Any unqualified teachers currently working in free schools or academies would be compelled to gain Qualified Teacher Status; this would be a long road for those Steiner teachers who have only a Steiner teaching qualification, as this is in no way comparative with a BEd degree or a PGCE. Indeed they would have to unlearn a lot of what they had experienced on an anthroposophical training course.’

    They would then argue that their teaching qualification IS comparative. Unfortunately. They’re trying to do this right now in Sweden (despite having already gained an exemption from having to hire qualified teachers, AND having gained state funding for their own teacher training, which doesn’t give any formal qualification or degree). This is the consequence. We’ve had state funded waldorf schools for decades now. Steiner schools in the UK will perhaps avoid asking for state funding and formal acceptance of Steiner teacher training for the moment being — but in the future, once people in general and politicians regard the schools as established (no matter how much they fail), they will surely ask for these things too if they think there’s even an infinitesimal chance they’ll get away with it.

    • Helen

      I hope the closure of the Plymouth course and the furore over Aberdeen University considering a chair funded by an anthroposophical medicine unit (and deciding against) shows that Universities would not tarnish their reputations by running Steiner teacher training courses, and would also make the DfE think twice about allowing such training to be state-funded.

      • alicia hamberg

        Don’t hope too much! Stockholm University tossed out Steiner teacher training in 2008 because of severe quality deficits, reading lists comprised almost completely of anthro material (I wrote an article about it, you’ll find it on Waldorf critics/PLANS’ website). No other universities have wanted to collaborate with the waldorf teachers college since then. (Although this is what politicians initially told them they should try accomplish.) Then there was begging and lying and deception and fanatically committed waldorf drones bombarding the department of education — and, hallelujah, last fall they got 10 million Swedish Krona per year by the government (that’s about 905 000 £ per year). One argument has been that because waldorf schools are available and state funded, they must be able to provide them with teachers. Apparently their tricks finally worked. They didn’t have to make any promises whatsover — as far as I’m aware — pertaining to the quality of their courses or the literature or anything (none of which has improved since they were tossed out from Stockholm Uni five years prior). They simply got the money.

        • Helen

          It’s a depressing tale.
          The courses here seem to consist of weekends doing anthroposophical art, singing, eurythmy and blackboard drawing.
          The idea of public money being spent on this kind of nonsense is shocking. If the “downgrading” of the teaching profession is, as some suggest, a risk the government is prepared to take, a move such as this would plunge it straight to the depths of the scale.

          • alicia hamberg

            Yeah. Interestingly, when the waldorf teacher college (then the Rudolf Steiner college) got a foot into public higher education (some time in the beginning of the milennium), lots of other reforms where also implemented that did in fact end up downgrading the teacher profession in the end. (To remedy this and to ensure higher quality, Stockholm university took over teacher training, and then dumped the Steiner program, which the slacker teachers’ college had allowed in. Of course, Steiner teacher training was and had always been only a small part.)

            I think that what you would see, if they’re moving in the same direction as here (it will take some years of state-funded Steiner free schools to exist first, I would assume), they’d start downplaying the anthroposophical elements in teacher training — at least publicly. They’d remove references to anthroposophy and other ‘dubious’ activities from websites. They’d hide program descriptions and reading lists. They’d start emphasizing how sciency they are, how serious, how much part of the regular school system, how they’re here to teach all and everyone everything about their successes and, well, teach everyone all they know, although, of course, it’s mostly buzzwords and pep talk, but apparently that’s enough to go quite far. They’d want to appear to be just a regular teacher training option, but superior.

  2. alicia hamberg

    And, re the curriculum, they will of course argue that their curriculum is comparable with the regular curriculum — or, of course, much better. They’ll argue that others have lots to learn from them. And too few people will be interested in finding out if this is true — they’ll just say, okay, have it your way, since it’s a question of so few pupils, after all, and choice is important and, oh, by the way, steiner schools are succeeding aren’t they (that’s what we’ve been told!).

  3. Helen

    I don’t know if this will work but here is an example of what was taught in an anthroposophy module at the now closed Steiner teacher training course at Plymouth

    [audio src="https://www.dropbox.com/s/2ovalgaxlypldjl/3_9%20Fold%20Human%20Being.mp3" /]

  4. Jim

    Given the reported problems with free schools, including today’s report in the Guardian suggesting they have a much higher level of unsatisfactory Ofsted reports than other state schools, one would like to think that the Steiner free school proposal for Stroud would at least be deferred. Unfortunately Mr Gove’s well known contempt for evidence makes it just as likely he will press on with as many as possible before facing the prospect of losing power.
    It’s the same scorched earth policy they are following in respect of the economy, health and welfare services.

    • Helen

      Yes, we would like to think that more thought will be given to what benefit such a school could possibly provide for the town as a whole, as opposed to a few enthusiasts and a number of families prepared to move here to follow a lifestyle choice at our expense.

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