The Stroud Steiner free school group may decide to share the reasons for the failure of their bid, at least with parents who have supported it, but until we know more it is helpful to look at the guidance from the DfE on applying to open a free school .
There are special rules for “Faith free schools and free schools with a distinctive educational philosophy or world view (including Steiner, Montessori and Maharishi)”
The rules are clear, and the “faith” element referred to is particularly prominent in Steiner, as was pointed out in a comment here recently, on the “Anthroposophy is a religion” post. A parent said;
“When we complained to the steiner school that our child attended, regarding the fact that they made him chant and pray, (without our knowledge or consent) they told us that we had been mistaken and that they were in fact a christian school and deeply religious. If we didnt like that fact, then maybe it wasn’t the school for us!”
So families who do not subscribe to the so-called “Christian” (in fact anthroposophical) elements are labelled as disruptive and asked to leave.
The last two government requirements for opening a free school in this category are particularly relevant;
- Your school must provide a meaningful alternative for pupils whose parents wish to withdraw them from religious education, collective worship or other faith-related studies;
- We will not approve any application where we have any concerns about creationism being taught as a valid scientific theory, or about schools failing to teach evolution adequately as part of their science curricula.
My guess is that the group may have fallen down in these last two criteria. Steiner schools don’t want children opting out of the morning verse (Steiner’s prayer to the sun God) or the eurythmy or the anthroposophical medicine. Once parents ask for their child to be excused from participating in these activities, questions start to be asked about what is going on in the school. Questions that it may not have occurred to parents to ask before.
With regard to the teaching of creationism – this is woven through the Steiner curriculum in such a way as to be impossible to separate out for those who do not want their child taught bible stories or Steiner creation myths.
Steiner followers who have studied anthroposophy (including the teachers on their special anthroposophical training courses) have their own version of evolution which does not match everyone else’s. It assumes the aryan race at the top of the tree, with animals as by-products of human development.
The Steiner curriculum book, Richter and Rawson, used at Hereford Steiner Academy disparages Darwinian evolution as “reductionist”.
This certainly does not constitute “teaching evolution adequately”.
If as the group claim they have demonstrated a demand for the school, why haven’t they been successful? And why should they be given more financial help for another bid if they failed first time around?
The DfE does not encourage groups to reapply straight away, contrary to what the group are saying on their facebook page; here is what they say to unsuccessful applicants.
4.16 If your application is not successful, you will receive a feedback letter giving information about the judgement. Unless we tell you otherwise, we would not expect a group to reapply in the very next application window. Instead, groups should allow themselves enough time to address their weaknesses and strengthen their application.
4.17 If you are reapplying after being unsuccessful in a previous round, we expect you to demonstrate under the relevant section of your new application how you have changed your application in response to the written feedback you received. If this feedback is not addressed to our satisfaction, it is likely that your application will not be considered further, and you may not get full feedback on the application.
The defiant attitude on the part of “Ames and the Core group” who say “…we feel confident that we can get the school approved in the next round… we will get our school” is at odds with DfE advice.