What are we to make of the second Stroud Steiner free school application?
In November the group changed the name of their planned school. They had been a part of the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship as a “registered interest group” for over two years, and had happily gone along with the requirements and stipulations laid down.
Suddenly, secretly, after sending in their second application, the name changed from “Steiner Academy Five Valleys” to simply “Stroud Academy”.
The reason given to a journalist from Stroud Life was that the decision was made for financial reasons. Tarra Gilder Rai claimed that membership of the SWSF was not value for money, as it would cost them £30,000.
Strange they did not notice this for two years, and that other Steiner free schools seem to happily pay SWSF fees.
I spoke to someone at the SWSF this morning and this reason was described as “Rubbish”. They also said that the group should not be using the word Steiner in any written material, as they are now only a “Steiner inspired setting”.
A story in the Gloucester Citizen included the following;
“… the bid has attracted controversy, with the UK membership body for Steiner schools refusing to support the application.
Kevin Avison of The Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship said the bid by Stroud Academy did not meet its criteria for membership.
“We mutually agreed that they would submit the bid independently of the fellowship,” said Mr Avison.”
On their facebook page, called “Steiner Free School Initiative: Stroud Area” the group posted the following message, after being approached by the journalists, and several weeks after the second bid was formally made to the DfE.
“Hello! As you might have read in the Stroud Life this week, we have changed our name (again!). We are not at present part of the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship who own the rights to the word ‘Steiner’ so therefore we are not allowed to use the word in the title of our Steiner school. So, we’ve gone simply for Stroud Academy. We maintain the ethos, mission and curriculum of a Steiner Free School with no changes other than in our name!”
So the free school will not be free from Steiner.
The free school group will be accountable to the DfE, not fee paying parents. They say they will have an agreement with the DfE to teach the Steiner curriculum, yet the exemptions Steiner schools have been allowed from teaching young children reading, writing and numeracy only apply to official Steiner schools, not “Steiner inspired settings”. So how would an unofficial Steiner school fare in relation to the standards expected in state funded schools?
We were not allowed to know the contents of the rejection letter the group received last time, so it is unlikely we will ever know how the DfE react to this current situation. They have been informed.
In addition to this evidence of disarray within the Initiative Group, the revelations last year about what the department for Education have known for years concerning the unsuitability of Steiner education for state funding, thanks to the freedom of information request by the British Humanist association, mean that it is difficult to see how this second bid could be approved.
(*I can’t claim credit for this catchy phrase)