Graeme Whiting, headteacher at the Acorn School in Nailsworth commented on this blog in support of the Steiner free school bid but declined to answer our questions about exactly why he approves, apart from what he sees as a courageous “fight” for the tax-payer funded school they want.
Since he has used his position in support of the bid, here and in the local press, it seems fair to examine how he sees fit to use anthroposophical practices in his school – parents looking for a school should be aware of this, after all.
Those unfamiliar with anthroposophy could easily skim over phrases on the Acorn school website such as “the threefold human being”, the use of the words “upright” and “holistic”. It would be unfair if prospective parents are not told that many features of the school are entirely Steiner; found nowhere else in education.
“Threefold human being”, for instance, explained here on the Anthromed website, is the idea of spirit and soul in addition to the physical body. Parents should know that “thinking, feeling and willing” are key anthroposophical concepts.
School starts at 7 years old, as elsewhere in Steiner (seven Easters on earth…)
The Steiner “main lesson” idea is used and the children’s work is written up in a book which they “beautifully illustrate” as in all Steiner schools. I have read a comment by a Steiner student who complained that marks given for work (often copied from the blackboard) were awarded for the use of colour in the page decoration rather than the content of the work itself.
Fairies are in evidence in the photographs of the school. “Handwork” is a feature – there is a photo of a boy with a scarf he has knitted. There is nothing wrong with knitting, I have enjoyed it myself and taught a child to knit, but in Steiner schools it is done because of what Rudolf Steiner said in a lecture in 1921.
The use of the permanent class teacher, the crucifixes in the classrooms, the way the walls are painted, the Shepherds play at Christmas, the references to Goethe…there is much evidence of anthroposophy in the Acorn school, and yet the word itself is missing from the school website. If I were a parent considering a school for my child I would want to be given all the relevant information. Mr Whiting seems to be following the Waldorf Steiner tradition of giving only some information.
In addition to these hidden commonalities with the rest of the Steiner education system Graeme’s Blog also reveals he shares the Steiner view of the outside world as degenerate;
“Why do I see the entire western world dropping into a rapid moral decline?” he asks.
“I feel that the vast majority of people…, are losing their young, human identity…” Interestingly he blames this on education.
“What can be done to transform an outdated and sinking society?”, he asks. Presumably the answer is the Acorn school.
“Is the way ahead to become ever-more plugged in, to rely on a hyperactive and addictive system of cyber where the new gods are the Internet and the mobile telephone?“ This is shared with Steiner –tv and computers are ahrimanic and to be avoided where possible.
As I’ve said before I happen to agree about limiting children’s access to tv and the internet, as I am sure do many parents. We found this was achievable without the strict rules and agreements required by Mr Whiting.
The school has been highly rated by Ofsted, and the impressive reviews may be enough for some. Perhaps a visit to the school is enough to inform parents about the schools religious/spiritual ethos, and their questions are answered truthfully. But would it occur to parents to ask about anthroposophy?
We don’t know if Mr Whiting’s devotion to Steiner’s doctrine extends to teaching pseudoscience – “the heart is not a pump” etc – but even without this there is strong evidence of an anthroposophical influence. As the head of an independent school without the Steiner brand name, he is free from the requirements of the Steiner Waldorf Schools fellowship, yet he still includes aspects of anthroposophy.
“Have courage for the truth” is the motto of Acorn School.
If every Steiner school could have the courage to tell the truth about anthroposophy in their schools, what a tremendous benefit this would be to families all over the world.