Professionalism of teachers

Recently there has been much criticism of the free schools and academies programme for, among other problems, the way it has allowed unqualified teachers into classrooms.

Nick Clegg the deputy prime Minister said over a year ago that this together with the fact that the schools are not compelled to teach the national curriculum was something he would change. And recently Tristram Hunt, shadow Secretary of State for education has said that Labour will insist upon all teachers in state funded schools either having qualified teacher status (QTS) or working towards it.

The Labour position on free schools is examined in a recent blog post on education by a primary school teacher found here.

As mentioned before this requirement will create difficulties for Steiner schools who prefer to employ teachers with their own anthroposophical training, available at places like West of England Steiner Teacher Training (WESTT) or the London Waldorf Seminar.

These training courses are part time and do not even insist on A level passes in order to enrol. They consist of learning about Rudolf Steiner’s highly suspect theories on the spiritual development of children as part of their racial transformation, and how the teacher can guide this, whilst at the same time facilitating their own spiritual development. There is much time devoted to blackboard drawing and reading Steiner’s books.

QTS on the other hand requires academic qualifications, the most basic of which have proven an insurmountable obstacle for some would-be teachers – a minimum grade C in both English and mathematics, (and science for primary school teachers) no matter what higher levels of achievement may have been reached – reassuring is it not? In addition teachers must have a degree and have completed Initial Teacher Training (ITT).  This could be a tall order for many Steiner teachers who have few formal qualifications, especially if they themselves went to a Steiner school or have become interested as parents and decided to train, as Geoff, an early commenter here had done. (He had not completed the training, and this is a common situation, according to Grègoire Perra who describes Steiner teacher training as emotionally draining in the way it delves deeply into the psyche of the trainees.)

Some Steiner teachers do have QTS, but almost without exception have also been through the anthroposophical training, which in my opinion goes a long way towards negating all the professional values and methods instilled with ITT; a professional teacher would not consider the use of temperaments to classify children as in any way acceptable; their physical features, “gaze” and “gait”, their left or right handedness, would be irrelevant to a professionally trained teacher, and karma would not be a consideration; eurythmy would not be allowed on to the curriculum.

In short, Steiner teacher training introduces a shed-load of complete nonsense to replace anything that  has previously been learned.

In addition, ordinary teacher training includes guidance on lesson planning, evaluation, and meticulous record-keeping on each child’s progress. It does not permit unorthodox diagnoses of defects in children such as “having no skin” or “floating above his body”.

The requirements for QTS are many and detailed as found on the government website here. Many of them are what most of us would take for granted as part of a teacher’s responsibilities, but seem absent from a Steiner teacher’s job description, according to comments and reports from disillusioned former Steiner parents.

Steiner schools claim to promote freedom of the individual and child-centred learning with their use of anthroposophy, but this only corresponds with Steiner’s version of freedom; there is no freedom of thought for Steiner students or their parents. Those who question the doctrine become outcasts. Conformity to the mind control demanded by anthroposophy is the desired state of affairs in a Steiner school.

Qualified teachers on the other hand have the welfare and best interests of each child at the centre of their activities, with the added insurance of a system where no nutty ideas about imaginary higher beings and the effects of events from a previous incarnation are allowed to impact on how and what a child learns in the classroom.

Parents who would not dream of inculcating such ideas at home are unwittingly handing their children over to the care of unqualified random individuals who have been indoctrinated themselves with anthroposophy. All they have to recommend them in some cases is years of experience within the Steiner system.

The changes to teaching qualifications suggested recently will improve standards in some free schools where there is no preference for teachers to have been trained in a certain belief system, but it is hard to see how the Steiner system can ever ensure professional standards as long as they continue to train teachers in their own *unique* way, whether that is instead of QTS or as an “extra”.






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