Any anthroposophical Tom, Dick or Harry may apply.

Bristol Steiner Academy are advertising for an English teacher.The school has just opened, and the information pack for applicants may be found here.

Along with all other Steiner schools including publicly funded Academies and free schools, this school is not required to teach the national curriculum, nor does it have to employ qualified teachers.

The English teacher application pack includes a person specification listing both essential and desirable qualities for applicants. After an “excellent track record ” the main requirements are for

“A commitment to the ethos of our school as a Steiner Academy” and

“An understanding of the Steiner-Waldorf approach to teaching” .

They also require applicants to be flexible as their “directed professional development …may require out of ‘normal hours’ and personal study which may be unpaid.”

For any unsuspecting non-Steiner people considering applying, it will be useful to point out that the personal study will in all likelihood involve becoming very familiar with the works of Rudolf Steiner on topics such as “Occult science”. The SWSF have stipulated that teachers should attend such events as Easter conferences on anthroposophy.

What the school really wants is a teacher who has been trained on one of the anthroposophical training courses, (no A levels required) and in all likelihood, that is what they will get. The post will be part-time as the children spend most of each morning with their class teacher for 8 years.

The funniest, but also the saddest part of the application pack is the following statement;

“Proof of all qualifications will be required prior to an appointment being offered.”

Why funny and sad? Because no qualifications are required at all.

How on earth do those politicians now calling for all teachers in stated-funded schools to be qualified propose to deal with the teachers in Steiner schools who have no qualifications? Some have a degree, and some are qualified, but for the others, “working towards QTS” would take many years.







  1. we escaped!

    Hi Helen

    Very good point you make here. Its common knowledge in the steiner community that there is poor uptake of teachers. The school we were at had no teacher for the class our son was due start in. We were told this by the school themselves. They are desperate to recruit teachers and even have to extend the applications overseas, as the response rate is dire. Hence why they will employee any Tom, Dick or Harry.

    The school we attended did actually recruit a teacher, however, they decided to decline the offer prior to starting. I wonder why! Im guessing they used good judgement and ran before they started. Thankfully, so did we!

    It needs to be made clear, that if you choose this kind of lifestyle and believe in anthroposophy, then that is a life choice. Because these schools are so shady and dishonest, the unsuspecting don’t have a clue until the damage has been done.

    No normal, rational minded person would put their children through this, if they were aware of the true nature of these institutions (unless they believe in anthroposophy). They take away choice by tuning in to parents pain points, using statements such as “child centred” as a sales pitch, to pull you in. We were daft enough to fall for it, its easy for unsuspecting parents to do the same. We all want the best for our kids and steiner have it nailed when it comes to praying on those that want just that. I must hand it to them, they are excellent at self promotion and dishonesty.

  2. Joe Evans

    Hi Helen,
    I’m the School Business Manager for Steiner Academy Bristol and I thought I’d just correct you on some of the things you write. I don’t expect to change your mind about our school but an informed debate is better for everyone.
    As a Free School, we are not compelled to employ teachers with QTS and as you say, many Steiner teachers from the independent sector have done training courses which are not QTS accredited. However, we’re very ambitious for our school to be a really outstanding school, both in Ofsted terms and in terms of the happiness and motivation of our pupils. So we want to employ the best teachers we can get, and in general this means teachers with an excellent track record in teaching larger classes with a very diverse intake – we are an urban school with a non-selective admissions policy, so we need teachers who can work well in that context.
    Our policy is to employ the best candidate for the job. In practice, that means teachers with both Steiner and mainstream experience. For example, our Class 6 teacher has a degree and a PGCE (and thus QTS); eight years experience in state schools in inner-city Birmingham; a Steiner teaching qualification; eight years teaching experience in independent Steiner schools; and PhD from Bristol University looking at modernising the Steiner geography curriculum. Across our teaching staff as a whole, the majority have QTS and mainstream experience; the only teachers without QTS were employed because they have extremely strong skills in their subject areas (eg woodwork).
    Within the Steiner Academies, we are aware that we will need lots of good teachers as we grow, and we also feel that it is likely that the next government will make it compulsory for schools to employ teachers with QTS. We’re quite happy with this as it’s in line with our current recruitment strategy anyway, but the numbers needed are a concern. So we are now working with the University of the West of England (UWE) to deliver a Steiner Education specialism within their B Ed degree course. This is running now, with 16 year 2 students taking the specialism. UWE are very keen to build this work and we are discussing a Steiner-specialism PGCE with them.
    We are not going to compel teachers to study Anthroposophy. In our school we are very clear that people’s spiritual beliefs are their own private business and that as a school, our commitment is to the practice of Steiner education not to the Anthroposophical underpinnings. Within our staff team there is a wide range of opinions and beliefs around religion, spirituality and Anthroposophy ‘s and we welcome this. You can read our school’s position on Anthroposophy and Education here:
    Finally, our subject teachers are currently part time because we are still a small school, with only 78 pupils across three year groups. Any school of this size would obviously need to employ part time subject teachers – we have four Spanish lessons a week for the school as a whole, for example. The post will grow to full time as the school expands.
    You (and anyone else who is interested) are very welcome to get in touch and ask more about the school, and to come and visit any of our future open days and public events.
    Best wishes,
    Joe Evans
    School Business Manager
    Steiner Academy Bristol
    0117 965 9150

    • Helen

      Joe – you have not corrected me on anything. Everything I said in my post is true – you do not ask for qualfications in your person specification. You prefer teachers to have spent time in Steiner schools and to have studied anthroposophy – whether this is on one of the training courses the Steiner movement runs, or as part of their own personal study, as outlined in the SWSF requirements.
      We have communicated before; I spoke to you on the telephone about your failure to recruit a vice principal; you said there were no suitable candidates and you had decided to do without. You also asked me if I knew anyone who might be interested in the job.
      Another Steiner free school initiative has been turned down recently because of their failure to recruit suitable staff. It is a problem, as you say.
      I also asked questions on your schools’s facebook page through the Stop Steiner facebook page. You removed my comments as you did not want to discuss the issues I raised.
      Yes, your team have a range of new age/anthroposophical/religious beliefs, as you mentioned in your article in “New View” where you described pulling rank on the DfE representatives you met in your interview. But as a Steiner school you are obliged to do as the SWSF says. I am intrigued; If, as you suggest, your school does not have anthroposophical underpinnings, why is it a Steiner school?
      Of course it has anthroposophy at its core. That is what Steiner education is. Without anthroposophy there would be no Steiner schools.

    • Helen

      Joe – here is your reply to my message on facebook , which you removed, along with a couple of others, after you had initially answered them. You say here you would like to have a debate, but that is not the impression I get.

      Hi Stop Steiner, just to let you know that I’m going to close the thread rather than get into a huge long debate – we’re genuinely keen to discuss what we’re up to, but we’ve found that these online debates don’t get anyone anywhere. I will leave your comments to date on the thread though.
      If you do have questions about our school please do email me – I would be happy to give you more information. We’re also about to publish our original application to DfE to open the school on our website so you might find that interesting.
      I don’t really expect to win over any die-hard critics such as yourself, to be honest, but it would be nice at least to be able to have a proper debate about the issues – what works and what doesn’t work in education – rather than just butting our heads together without really listening to one another.
      Best wishes,
      Joe Evans
      School Business Manager
      Steiner Academy Bristol

  3. Joe Evans

    Hi Helen,.
    We haven’t had any problems recruiting teachers this year – we had 50 applicants for teachers to teach 8 subjects, and we had over 200 applications for classroom assistants, many of whom were QTS-qualified teachers who were keen to find a way to move into the Steiner Academies. So it’s not that we have problems getting teachers; the challenge is to get the best teachers. We don’t feel that teachers who have only taught in independent Steiner schools are necessarily the best people to work in a large class with a diverse intake, which is why we are working with UWE on new teacher training courses that will combine QTS, mainstream and Steiner theory and practice. In the longer term I think that has to be the way to go – an opening up between Steiner and mainstream schools, sharing ideas and people in both directions. That’s certainly what we’re seeing here, with most of our current teaching staff having mainstream qualifications and experience but being very keen to move into the Steiner Academies sector because they support our educational approach.
    We’re a Steiner school because we work with the practical system of Steiner education, as evolved in Steiner schools over the last hundred years. It’s also possible to be inspired by Steiner without having any belief in Anthroposophy – for example, in an era in which it was considered the crowning glory of a young man’s education to acquire a livid and disfiguring duelling scar, Steiner had the boys knitting and the girls forging steel! This still feels radical for some people today…
    I should also say that we are not obliged to do what the SWSF says – they are a membership organisation not a top-down management organisation, so as a Steiner school we will have a representative on the SWSF trustee board.
    I can only apologise again for the removal of your Facebook posts. I wanted to close discussion on that thread but leave all comments visible, but the only option I could find seems to have deleted your posts while leaving the thread open, which wasn’t at all what I wanted.

    • Helen

      Your “only option” to close our discussion was to delete my comments, so there is now no trace of my perfectly polite and highly relevant questions on your page. That was in case parents read them, I suppose. You have also blocked me from posting on your facebook page on any other thread.

      So you have had lots of applicants, but not the right ones. When you are not asking for qualifications that is the danger.
      I feel I should warn you about the teachers from Aberdeen Steiner school who are probably looking for jobs right now, since that school closed down rather than change its anthroposophical practices as advised by the inspectors. They may appear to fit the bill at interview, but bearing in mind what you say about teachers’ spiritual beliefs being their own business, it will not be easy to ascertain at an early stage how deeply held their beliefs about karma, reincarnation, and medieval temperaments are; this will only became clear as parents start finding out how their children are being “guided” in the classroom.
      How many staff do you have at the moment by the way, since you only have 3, including yourself, listed on the website?
      You say
      “We’re a Steiner school because we work with the practical system of Steiner education, as evolved in Steiner schools over the last hundred years.”
      Using the word “evolved” makes it sound like there have been developments since Steiner’s original teachings on education. This is not true, is it? It remains pretty much as it was 100 years ago. The knitting and the forging still go on, don’t they, at the expense of other more relevant skills such as ICT. Why? because “Steiner said”. Even the colour of the paint on the walls, not to mention the child study, the eurythmy, the verses etc etc remain the same.
      As for the SWSF being just a membership organisation; no. Why are you saying that? Do you believe it or are you trying to mislead? Have another look at the criteria listed on the SWSF website and the threats of “disbarring” for schools that do not comply with the rules. Admittedly you do have to look rather hard, they are not easily found by the casual visitor to the site.

  4. Joe Evans

    Hi Helen,
    As I say, if FB had let me do so, I would have closed the thread but left the comments up. Parents and supporters of the school are well aware of the online criticism of Steiner schools, they’ve all read it to differing degrees and we discuss it regularly at events etc. We’re happy with that open debate, it’s just that I need to manage our FB page so that we don’t get endless threads all spiralling on forever with arguments in which no-one really listens to each other. It’s a waste of everyone’s time.
    We had lots of great applicants for teaching posts and we now have 12 full and part-time teachers, a SENCO, 6 classroom assistants, 3 admin staff, myself and Angie Browne, our Principal. I do need to update those website pages!
    We will always simply employ the best person for the job. We want to run an outstanding school and that means that we need experienced professional teaching staff who can be part of the development of the Steiner Academies, still a relatively new educational sector.
    There have been all sorts of developments in Steiner education and they go on. We’re currently reviewing our ICT curriculum, for example; we will be teaching coding and programming, 3d design, CNC machining and digital arts including film and photo editing, animation and music production. But knitting and forging are still excellent things for children to do, to build concentration, dexterity and an understanding of the qualities of materials.
    SWSF is run by its trustee group, which consists of a representative from each Steiner school. So the schools run the SWSF, not the other way around. Obviously the SWSF have to confirm that a school will be run in keeping with the practices of Steiner education before they can join, but that has always been a very broad and flexible set of ideas.

    • MarkHayes

      Hello Joe,

      You said above: “as a school, our commitment is to the practice of Steiner education not to the Anthroposophical underpinnings.” The problem is that you really cannot separate the two.

      To quote your class 6 teacher (Dr. Philip Wright) in his PhD thesis:

      “Steiner school practices are integrated with their guiding philosophy, or anthroposophy, which Steiner intended to lead man to an understanding of the spiritual in the universe… Any study of practice in Steiner schools will therefore lead the inquirer to the impulse at the heart of its educational philosophy, which is grounded in anthroposophy’s spiritual knowledge… The rationale for the Steiner approach to teaching and learning can only be understood in the wider context of the anthroposophical view of human development.”

      You might say that this is Dr. Wright’s personal opinion, although it seems uncontroversial and common enough among people who share his high level of experience and background in Steiner education.

      By the way, it’s an interesting thesis which explores the way that anthroposophy translates into classroom practice. I hope to publish a blog post on it soon.

      • Helen

        I shall look out for that blog post with interest.
        How interesting to know what importance state-funded Steiner class teachers attach to anthroposophy and its *unusual* take on human development – and what a pity they do not share their views and the impact this has on their teaching methods with prospective parents. I am sure most would be extremely grateful to have the benefit of this information before they sign up.

        • Rain17

          The Bay Area Center for Waldorf Teacher Training (BACWTT) basically gives away the farm on this on their website, with a report on a conference they had last year.

          On the second morning, Dorit [Winter, Director of BACWTT, and author of that Michael/Chariot piece referenced in Helen’s “Michaelmas time again.” post – R17] built a “thought ladder” from where we are in the here and now, upward to the world beyond the senses. Through education we, ourselves, are continuing the work of the spiritual world. Picking up on the previous day’s theme, Dorit invited us to engage in some “soul eurythmy”, and ultimately some very living thinking, by taking us on a journey from our experience of relating to children as adults, to discovering that part of ourselves that can actually become an even more awakened individuality. She described how humanity is on its way from philosophy to a living spiritual knowledge, and how the onus of authority has shifted from spiritual leaders to us as individuals who seek our own relationship to the spiritual world out of freedom. We can understand through this that the spiritual event of the Christ Impulse is how Rudolf Steiner refers to the means by which individuals can grow towards their own relationship to the spiritual world. By awakening to this higher self, we gain, among other things, more objectivity in relating to the world. In the classroom this can inspire us to provide the appropriate scaffolding for the children to express themselves, which in turn helps them to each incarnate into their true self.

          After reaching towards a relationship with the spiritual world through the movement of feeling with Stefanie, and the faculty of living thinking with Dorit, our experience on Saturday with Ken brought us some images of archetypal artwork, made through the will of the artists, that also reach towards spiritual reality. By first invoking our capacity to build pictures, he offered us the exercise to picture, in the way children do naturally, the teacher we would like to become, and find a way to move our individual nature towards that archetype. Furthering the use of our capacity to form and relate to images, Ken showed three images that Rudolf Steiner had indicated as being pedagogically inspiring: for the world of early childhood, the Sistine Madonna by Raphael; for the grades, the image of Tobias with his Angel, by Verrochio; and for the upper grades, Rembrandt’s Polish Rider. Ken spent some time helping us to understand how these images work with archetypal gestures. He invited the idea that schools could display them side by side to keep all three phases of the developing child in view. In a world that is filled with the encroachment of both retarding and accelerating agents, Steiner’s sculpture The Representative of Humanity could be considered as a model for how a teacher can hold the space for the children’s natural development.

          Providing this conference was a deed that inspired enthusiasm for renewing commitment to practice and development of anthroposophy within the Waldorf schools.

          Oh wait but Steiner schools like Bristol Steiner Academy “will neither teach nor promote Anthroposophy”. It even says so, right on their website!

          These institutions say all manner of things, right on their websites.

  5. Helen

    “Obviously the SWSF have to confirm that a school will be run in keeping with the practices of Steiner education before they can join, but that has always been a very broad and flexible set of ideas.”
    Do you know who is the Executive officer and senior advisor at the SWSF Joe? It is Kevin Avison, the compiler of the Handbook for Waldorf Class Teachers“. He is an anthroposophist who talks about the post Atlantean epochs in the handbook as though they are perfectly normal. He also advises teachers which of Steiner’s books to read and describes in detail how to incorporate anthroposophy into each subject they teach.
    This post on UK Anthroposophy explains how new schools wishing to use the Steiner name became recognised and accredited.
    The “ideas” you describe as broad and flexible are anything but. They adhere strictly to Rudolf Steiner’s dictats and set out exactly how schools are expected to demonstrate their Steiner credentials. If they don’t they can’t be called Steiner schools.
    Does Angie Browne know that?
    Yes, you really should update your website. You are not giving accurate information to parents. Recently a school was subjected to a snap inspection and judged “requiring improvement” for failing to give sufficient information on its website.

    Re facebook you say
    “We’re happy with that open debate, it’s just that I need to manage our FB page so that we don’t get endless threads all spiralling on forever ”
    You have closed down debate there althogether haven’t you, by blocking my comments? That is not open. It is a denial of information to the parents who trust you. Why don’t you want them to read my comments? Even the Stroud Steiner group have not blocked my comments [addendum – they have now! (October 2014)]

  6. Nick Nakorn

    Joe, you say;

    “We’re a Steiner school because we work with the practical system of Steiner education, as evolved in Steiner schools over the last hundred years. It’s also possible to be inspired by Steiner without having any belief in Anthroposophy – for example, in an era in which it was considered the crowning glory of a young man’s education to acquire a livid and disfiguring duelling scar, Steiner had the boys knitting and the girls forging steel! This still feels radical for some people today…”

    Apart from the fact that not having a dueling scar is not radical these days (though piercing is popular !) I agree that boys knitting and girls forging steel still is radical in some very conservative, sexist and misogynist social spheres. But, if you do not require Anthroposophy to teach in a non-sexist way then you do not need ‘Steiner’ or ‘Waldorf’ as a label. As I have pointed out here and elsewhere many, many, times, Steiner’s racist hierarchy should be a deal-breaker for you in terms of even associating yourself with Steiner. If you want to have dance, fine but it does not have to be Eurythmy, a very limiting dance form anyway (if it is not limiting then it does not need a label); if you want a seven-year cycle of learning, fine – use any evidence you have that it’s a good idea (or not) to decide; if you want to promote wet-on-wet painting, fine, I’m sure many art-teachers would have reservations about those limitations but you don’t need Steiner’s racist woo to make a case – you can make your own case. For critics of Anthroposophy and Steiner organisations it’s very hard to see why you slavishly follow a system of education so steeped in racism and woo that you claim not to agree with. If you don’t agree with it then don’t do it and don’t use the label. Would you like to support a school labelled BNP, or EDL or NF? No, one would hope not. But looking at your position from the outside it seems you are happy to promote those values under another name; Steiner, with all the vile racist and divisive baggage that goes with it.

    • Helen

      Well put, Nick.
      Joe has not come back – I thought maybe he had gone to update the Bristol Steiner Academy website, since he is “business manager” – but no, there are still only three members of staff there according to the site.
      It is really important to provide up to date comprehensive information for parents, as the DfE have said. Many parents will rely on this for all their information, and clearly information is limited for parents in Bristol. I can’t find anything about the “coding and programming” Joe says they “will be” including.

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