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.