Earlier in the week an article in the Guardian analysed the government’s attitude to the schools involved in the ”Trojan Horse” inquiry in Birmingham, where 21 schools were investigated for alleged religious extremism, and their “support for, and secrecy over, Steiner schools”.
The reporter, Laura McInerny has been campaigning for some time for the right to see information relating to free school bids (I wrote about this before). She pointed out that decisions on local authority schools were made openly in the days before free schools.
This recent Guardian article seems to question the seriousness of the claims against the Birmingham schools and contrasts the way these schools have been investigated with the way the approval of Steiner schools has been kept secret.
McInerny reminds us that the British Humanist Association made a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to have the documents relating to state-funding for Steiner schools released, but that this has been refused. A tribunal was held last week but the results will not be known for another few weeks.
She is critical of Steiner education for its promotion of the idea of reincarnation, the eurythmy lessons, the way some Steiner schools do not offer vaccinations, and the narrow range of GCSEs offered.
All these criticisms are valid. However she states that Steiner schools “are now distanced from Steiner himself”. This is indeed the claim put out by those in charge of Steiner education, but the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship and the Steiner teacher training *qualification* desired by the schools make sure that there will never be a distance from Steiner. Any school wishing to distance itself from anthroposophy will not be allowed to use the name Steiner.
It is good to see the problems with Steiner education highlighted in the national press, but what a shame this appears to have been combined with an effort to minimise those detected in the Birmingham schools. There are plenty of concerns with the way decisions are made about which schools should be approved, and the monitoring of those schools once open; a transparent and clear policy should be in place.
The more the Steiner movement is put under the spotlight the better, as fewer parents and children will suffer through signing up to a system they know little about, and this article should help to inform those who may be deciding on a school.
McInerny says on extremism “…the line of acceptability is not only blurred but purposely hidden behind legal lines.” She hopes that the judge will rule in the right way on the FOI request, and if so we will soon know a lot more about how the DfE decides what kind of state-funded education is acceptable.