Not accredited by SWSF

Finally, yesterday in “Stroud Life” the Stroud Steiner free school Initiative group confirmed that they have changed the name of their proposed school from “Steiner academy Stroud Valleys” to “Stroud Academy”, and that the school will not be an official Steiner school overseen by the SWSF.

The only reason given is that the SWSF would need to be paid “up to £30,000 a year” for the privilege of accreditation, and that this would “not be in the best interests of the school.”

If this is true it is odd that the group have come to this decision after such a long time – it is over two years since the project began, and to change their minds two weeks after the second application, seems strange. Bristol, Hereford, Exeter and Frome did not find finances to be a problem, Stroud, however think it is.

The second application was submitted before the closing date of October the 14th, and the name change was made on October 28th. We must assume therefore that at the time the application was submitted the school was still intended to be an official Steiner school.

The website and facebook page for this initiative remain as “Steiner Academy Five valleys”.

To apply to open a specific type of school with the support of parents and then change the way it will run does not seem a professional or democratic way to behave. How on earth will the application be assessed if not on the status of the school at the time of the application; accredited to the SWSF?

For instance, inspections and assessments by Ofsted will no longer be carried out as they are for “Steiner settings” which have exemptions for standards in literacy for the early years.

The spokesperson for the group is quoted as saying that they specified in their latest application that the school will teach the Steiner curriculum, so presumably there will be still be eurythmy and Bothmer Gymnastics.

When a school is not affiliated to an organisation like the SWSF it is difficult to tell exactly what it will be and how it will operate. This will depend on the governors and their individual preferences, about which we know very little. The Acorn school, a local fee-paying school with Steiner elements is a case in point; it is run entirely at the whim of the head teacher, with some very unusual rules parents must abide by.

It is possible that there has been some disagreement within the group of directors of this company, who include the head teacher of a local primary school who appears to know very little about anthroposophy or Steiner education, alongside one individual who has lived her whole life immersed in anthroposophy, and one, Joe Evans who has written for an anthroposophical publication. Those on the fringes of anthroposophy have recently been finding out some of the more unpleasant aspects of the belief system on which they will be required to base the school, and my feeling is that this could have resulted in some hostility to the SWSF and its requirements.

In the same Stroud Life report a local conservative councillor explains why she voted in favour of the motion carried last week for Stroud District council to oppose the free school application; she says that although she supports the concept of free schools she feels the proposal would damage existing schools.

The spokesperson in the news report defended the application by saying that although there are hundreds of surplus school places in Stroud, this is because they are in the “wrong location”. This argument makes no sense because she has no idea where in the Stroud area the new school would be, and how many supporters would find it convenient to reach such a school.

 

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3 comments

  1. Dan Dugan

    Perhaps they are taking a page from the U.S. publicly-funded Waldorf school playbook. Here the publicly-funded Waldorf schools are not affiliated with the national Waldorf school organization, and claim only to be “Waldorf-inspired.” Under that cover they are as Steiner as they can be.

  2. Nick Nakorn

    Indeed Dan, the lack of clarity displayed by many Steiner ‘inspired’ and official Steiner schools is truly dishonest. I hope the UK schools inspectorate starts to get more specific about what they need to know and pin policies down to written statements by the schools.

  3. MarkHayes

    Interestingly, the Hereford Steiner Academy had to renegotiate their financial contribution to the SWSF after their auditors advised that this couldn’t be justified in 2014-15. (Source: board of governors meetings 31/1/14 and 7/7/14 from https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/minutes_and_agenda_of_governing?nocache=incoming-567822 )

    Hard won concessions for Steiner education, such as exemption from large parts of the EYFS curriculum were negotiated with the DfE under the umbrella of the SWSF. I wonder if the Stroud Academy will now need to negotiate their own exemptions.

    All in all, the lack of SWSF affiliation does not help clarity around their plans and it’ll be more important than ever for parents to be sure of what kind of education would be in store for their families.

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