Academies are different?

My e mail to Joe Evans (Business Manager) and Angela Browne (Principal) at Bristol Steiner Academy.

Joe told me this week  that there was no danger of  horrible experiences similar to those documented on mumsnet happening at their Academy, because they have a “different approach” and their teacher, Phillip Wright, is “in favour of a critical discussion about Steiner’s work and of creating a more outward-looking and forward-facing ethos within Steiner education generally”. 


 Dear Joe and Angela

It is interesting that you mention Philip Wright and his PhD.

You say “within the Academies we are taking a different approach in many ways to the independent schools” – and yet your first class teacher was himself a teacher from an independent Steiner school, and one who has immersed himself in anthroposophy for many years.

You say Phillip Wright is very much in favour of a critical dialogue about Steiner’s work, but I wonder if you have read his documentConstructing ‘geo’- exploring the epistemological frameworks of Steiner-Waldorf and mainstream approaches to geography”?

In order to understand what he is getting at it helps to have some knowledge of anthroposophy.

Far from looking at ways to modernise the curriculum, he writes at length about how anthroposophy influences what children learn in Steiner schools and attempts to justify it, but without explaining which parts of Steiner’s teachings should be dropped.  In fact he spends much of the article suggesting how the Steiner teachings should be incorporated into the mainstream.

In his study, Phillip Wright admits that

“…there is a real need to know how Waldorf pedagogy works to develop the intellect.”

In fact, the intellect is considered “Ahrimanic” – that’s why Steiner schools delay reading and writing as long as possible – children are still too busy remembering their past lives, according to this belief system.

In the article he continually refers to what “Steiner said” and maintains that

“…geography in the Waldorf context cannot be separated from the philosophy that underpins it. For Waldorf education to gain more credibility in the academic world the impact of this philosophy on its curriculum knowledge needs to be understood and rigorously defended.”

So he does not advocate changing the Steiner geography curriculum in order to gain credibility, instead, he maintains that those in the mainstream sector need to “understand the impact” of anthroposophy, and those on the inside need to defend it. Rigorously.

This is typical of Steiner proponents, who claim that the reason we are critical of Steiner methods is simply because we do not have sufficient “understanding” of anthroposophy.

“Whereas the mainstream geography curriculum is, to a large extent, shaped by the intellectual streams flowing down from academia …the geography curriculum in Waldorf schools is closely tied to the developmental needs of the child, as understood by anthroposophy.”

“As understood by anthroposophy”. That is the problem you have at Bristol. Your class teacher believes in the “developmental needs of the child” according to anthroposophy, nothing to do with normal child development.

Phillip Wright writes contemptuously  of the rational, scientific mainstream teaching of geography, where “physical and biological laws” are taken into account, but eulogises on “the pre-modern cosmographic dream” where “mental picturing” and “imagination”(clairvoyance) are used.

He asks

“…should Waldorf education even concern itself with such academic questions of knowledge which, it could be argued, are marginal to its holistic view of the child and [spiritual] educational goals?”.

He proposes that it should, but then presents reasons why this is unlikely ever to happen; the “class teacher” method where the main lesson is taught by one teacher for 8 years every day, ”strengthens the position of the class teacher as knowledge authority” and the questioning from the children is dependent on  “nuances of voice, emotion and meaning”.

I think he is making the point that not much is documented in a Steiner lesson, and it is difficult to know exactly what the “narrative” has been in any given lesson.

Angie Browne and Joe Evans, how much do you know about anthroposophy, ie the physical, etheric and astral bodies that Phillip Wright accepts and works by? This is after all what Phillip Wright regards as ” developmental needs of the child”.

Maybe not much, if so, he is at an advantage.These are occult beliefs with no place in a school funded by tax-payers, where parents send their children unaware that of how the belief system is used or why.

This class teacher thinks it’s ok to base his lessons on the “wisdom” of an Austrian mystic from 100 years ago, because he accepts this wisdom as “the truth”, as is evident from his study.

This is explained very well by Roger Rawlings on his Waldorf Watch website.

The site is American, but Steiner schools work in the same way all over the world. Grégoire Perra’s workbooks from his schooldays contain copied drawings and writing which are almost identical to those of children in the States.

The anthroposophical assumption that a child has lived before, and that karma influences her present life, is an abuse; a child has a right to a decent education where teachers are not living out their fantasies according to Steiner’s clairvoyant visions, and imposing them on the children in their care.

In his conclusion Wright says

“… it could be argued that the explicit metaphysical nature, universal claims and, to some extent, didactic tone of Steiner’s anthroposophical teachings present obstacles to the up-dating of the educational system that arose from it. Dialogue between Waldorf education and the wider academic community (educational, philosophical and scientific) has, as such, been relatively limited and views remain considerably polarized.”

I am afraid Joe, your statement that “all Steiner schools are different” and that Steiner is a developing system is false; whether you really believe it or whether you are also attempting to deceive, I am not sure, but Philip Wright and others, including the SWSF will be ensuring that Steiner’s doctrine remains at the centre of your school’s practices.

Families continue to get hurt, due to the concealment of anthroposophy. A small child should not have to leave his school within a couple of weeks of starting, due to insufficient information provided to parents. This would simply not happen in mainstream.


Yours sincerely




  1. Helen

    In one of the notes on his article Phillip Wright says

    “36.For example, even academic texts that support broader or child-centred views on education rarely explore Waldorf educationin any detail, if at all. Likewise, media views on Waldorf education (including anti-Waldorf websites) are often informed by common myths, distortions and factual inaccuracies.”

    So Waldorf (Steiner) education is misunderstood because no-one – except anthroposophists- understands anthroposophy.
    Well, since Mr Wright has a PhD in Steiner education, he cannot claim to be ignorant of the worst aspects and the impact an occult belief system can have on families – and employees – who unwittingly become involved with the system.
    Instead of arguing for more Steiner methods to be introduced into mainstream schools, as he does in this article, he should be campaigning to make parents more aware of exactly what they are signing up for. And this he has made no attempt to do.

    • alan

      There may be something about cults that makes them not very good at doing PR to the muggles, especially if they’ve taken a large number of members who’ve never previously done any PR and appointed them to roles that include PR responsibilities. The Steiner cult is on a PR offensive of sorts, but their indoctrination of their own members into thinking that inside the cult it’s them, people who truly understand stuff, whereas outside it’s us, who don’t (because our whole outlook is stupid, ‘intellectual’ and based on just our present incarnations – what fools we are!), works against them. Looks to me as though more weak points are opening up. Which isn’t to say they haven’t done an effective job on Whitehall and the Tory party.

      “Critical discussion” is just verbiage. Steinerism obviously couldn’t stand up to its critics on a level playing field, assuming its opponents had the nous to keep hacking at its weakest points.

      I looked Wright up. He got his PhD at Bristol, supervised by John Morgan, who’s now in New Zealand. Morgan has been associated with Futurelab, which looks like a Microsoft front that softens up the right people in the right departments so that they buy new Microsoft software, unless anyone knows otherwise. I didn’t notice any Steineroid pong in other things he has done other than supervise Phillip Wright, although “education for sustainable development” and “examining alternative food networks in Auckland” may be worth looking at.

      • alan

        Having said that, I’d be interested to hear what people think of the Whole Education Network, with which Futurelab is also associated. The Cambridge connections may be interesting. The guys who helped Princy write his Harmony codswallop are both players in the Cambridge area. That said, Microsoft also of course packs enormous clout in that part of the country.

      • Helen

        Ha ha thanks Alan. I had to look up “muggles” and for anyone else who hasn’t read any Harry Potter, it is
        ” a person who lacks any sort of magical ability and was not born into the magical world.” so very apt.
        But yes, they are generally hopeless at PR because they simply do not understand how far from reality they have strayed.
        I am still not sure what the situation in Bristol really is – ie how much anthroposophy Joe and Angela know,but it is a truly worrying thought, that the class teachers may be the only ones who are informed, and are managing to keep the real reasons to certain practices secret from the Principal. Intriguing, really.

  2. Dmitri

    It springs to mind that there may be legal issues around publishing a private correspondence about an employee of a school. I would imagine that just because the school is funded by the state does not mean you can privately discuss matters concerning that individual’s employment in a private correspondence with their employers and then publish it on a public forum. Nor, I would imagine, are their employers at liberty to discuss such a person’s qualifications, experience or other personal matters relating to the post with a member of the public such as yourself. Matters of confidentiality, the data protection act and also perhaps matters of copyright re. academic papers not fully and completely referenced in context come naturally to mind. I’m not a lawyer, and I may be wrong but I know a man who is, and another who is exceptionally wealthy, and others who were persecuted for their belief in Anthroposophy, and another who does this, and yet another who does that, and I even know one who owns a dog.
    Anthroposophy is an intensely individual and private matter. If people like you are going to declare open season on Anthroposophy, just because your child didn’t get on at a Waldorf school and one way or another you experienced a lot of hurt and confusion around the issue, you will eventually start getting responses from people like me which please you even less. Not just a post from a former Waldorf pupil who is politely asking you what your problem is, but something worth thinking about a little harder, perhaps. Consider this, it’s an extreme example but I take it seriously: In the old Soviet Union Anthroposophists were persecuted, imprisoned, tortured and killed for their spiritual beliefs – for as little as gathering together, lighting a candle and saying a verse, or having a Steiner book on their bookshelf. Some people I know lived through that. And when the Berlin Wall came down their former persecutors…well, I don’t suppose it went well with their former persecutors. If you want to know how loyal we are, use your noddle. But thank goodness we’re not in the old Soviet Union, and that a democratically elected government has seen fit to raise Steiner Academies and that we can discuss the ins and outs of it as we please.
    But in truth, where Anthropsophy is concerned you are in a hall of mirrors. I hold one up for you now.. .half the people running Waldorf schools and Camphills in Britain today know next-to-nothing about Anthroposophy. Of course, this makes you think they must be controlled by something or someone else (if only!) No. The truth is far more mundane. When they hardly mention Anthroposophy in their public literature, it’s because they actually don’t know all that much about it or care all that much. They’re being honest, actually! Joe Evans and Angela Browne, for instance, are two good examples of people working in an Anthropsophical place who know next-to-nothing about Anthroposophy whatsoever. It hardly matters to me what they think their Anthroposophical credentials are. They don’t, have any actually. In any case, like I said, you are in a hall of mirrors. But you insist on seeing something other than the reflection of your own hurt and confusion. You insist on seeing something deeper, and unfortunately for us, darker or more sinister, and suddenly, you’ve figured it all out, and seen the light! It’s a cult, voila! Explains everything! And now you’re ready to share it with the world. Ludicrous. Who do you think we really are, us Anthroposophists…do you think we are like the illuminati, or some other type of fictional secret society? It appears that you really do think something like that, which is a very silly thing to think indeed. I think it’s one thing to get hurt and confused, it’s another to start getting a little paranoid. No, rather it’s the case that you’ve been hurt, I understand.
    The truth is this; that if you want to see Anthroposophical shadows all around you, then they will be there. If you want to see hidden purposes behind every nominally Anthropsophical endeavour, then in your mind, such purposes will certainly be there. All of the Anthropsophical places you mention……. well ultimately, those things don’t matter all that much. It’s nice to have them around of course, no matter who runs them, whether they really are Anthropsophists who run them or merely hangers-on feathering their own nests through the salaries and benefits that accrue through state employment. Whatever the case may be, and whoever runs this or that Anthropsophical institution, they are but transitory manifestations of something far deeper. If we relied solely on these, we would disappear very fast. But we don’t, and that’s something that might challenge you and that you might want to think about. Where they still exist, those who are still truly working out of Anthropsophy in such places know that what they do and where ultimately means little, but why they do it means much. A school means nothing, ultimately, but the knowledge upon which it was once founded, will remain. I say again, a school means nothing, and even less-than-nothing when run by a management who consist purely of complete Anthropsophical non-entities. Things change, schools, Camphills, Biodynamic farms…they come and go. Incidentally my own child did not go to a Steiner school yet I’m a paid-up card-carrying sentimental agent of the Volyen Empire (that’s from a novel by Doris Lessing by the way – just a little joke – we don’t have agents).
    So keep writing, keep blogging, keep fearing and loathing and keep your anger hot and your senses sharp, and get all the Anthroposophical places closed down. Who knows, I might even consider the completion of such a task as a worthy qualification for joining. (Um…No Not really). It would be sad, and we wouldn’t forget it, but ultimately we would continue as we always have, because first and foremost we are a spiritual movement, nothing more, nothing less. We don’t quite rival the Vatican for intrigue, we’re not quite that ‘interesting’, but never mind. I say again…a spiritual movement…that’s why you hardly ever get any real flak back, meaning we take a lot more than we dish out, but that can change. I mean, after all, if we were who you appear to think we are – some sort of shady cult with money, power, and connections – we’d do something about it, right? Well, again, No not really. But times are changing, we’re starting to come under attack again. We have a long history of such attacks, and in our past such things were sadly sometimes a matter of life and death, most recently, victims of the Soviets as I pointed out above, right up to the 1980s and before that, other regimes and times. It’s terribly sad how so much of all that kind of thing can start with mere gossip and ill feeling just because a few people choose something different and it doesn’t suit their neighbours. In the end it hardly mattered who did what to whom, who believed in what or what the perceived or actual hurts were. You probably don’t know or care about that, why would you? You’re a woman in a small town in England with a bee in her bonnet about Anthropsophy, how could you know? In fin. The plain old ordinary sad conventional and boring truth is that there’s a lot of hurt and confusion that can go along with something like Anthroposophy. It’s not the nature of Anthropsophy, it’s the nature of human beings.
    You’ve suffered, I can see that and I’m not unsympathetic, but you’ve had a negative experience of something you don’t fully understand. You do (of course) understand what hurt and confused you, and have written extremely well about it with every justification as you have explained and described it. However, harsh as this may seem, it means nothing other than, or perhaps – since this has cost me a little effort – nothing less than – me taking the time to write this to you. In the normal run of things we accept all sorts of criticism, but where we feel something like an attack, we will defend ourselves.

    • Jim

      Well done Dmitri – you have managed to capture in one not very brief comment much of what we object to in anthroposophy. You have sneered and patronised your critics and made assumptions about their motivation whilst failing to address a single one of the substantial concerns. And the conflation of victim hood with veiled threat was nice.

      • Dmitri

        Oh my…I’ve sinned, my comment wasn’t short enough. Oh deary me. I don’t care what you object to in Anthropsophy. That’s the whole point, that’s why I wrote what I wrote. I thought it was clear…in fact it is, you understood me perfectly in that respect. I don’t care about your motivations, and I never set out to address your concerns. What threat, the threat to say something about why Anthroposophy inspires a certain loyalty and will therefore be something you can never prevail against as such? After all I certainly didn’t make a defence of Anthroposophy, nor will I…do I need to? I think not, but I’ll have a go if you want, just for the pure hell of it! Oh my oh my, this could be fun. OK. let’s see. Oh yes, I know, tell you what. Ask me something you really want to know…oh go on, you know you want to, like…oooh I dunno, where all the money comes from (or why not just join the society and read the accounts). Last time I looked, we got several million from the sale of something which somebody gave us…that’s where the money comes from. I can’t see that drying up anytime soon, and even if it did, wouldn’t make much difference. Actually you can ask me anything you want, but as I made plain, the answer may well be something you don’t want to hear, so it’s up to you. But of course…where the money comes from, or any other such matter is not Anthroposophy, is it? Think, Jim. just think, that’s all I ask. You’ve got a beef with Anthropsophy, all of you here have. That’s why I’m here, believe it or not. Crack on, lets see what you’ve got. Don’t you believe in Gnomes? …It’s OK, I’m here to help, really.

    • Nick Nakorn

      Dmitri – Anthroposophy is not a private matter as almost all of Steiner’s work is in the public domain and Anthroposophical organisations and businesses are advertised and promoted just like other businesses and religions. Jim is right, you have not addressed any of the issues for which Anthroposophy is criticised. But you have wasted our time successfully; well done.

      • Dmitri

        “Anthroposophy is not a private matter”. You’re telling me, oh god this is queer – I’m an Anthroposophist and I’m saying it is! Of course I wasted your time if that’s the logic you use! It’s like trying to tell a football player that the ball is square, oh right OK, fine, have another glass of wine, you’ll be alright. Of course Anthroposophical organisations are advertised like other businesses and religions, that’s what they are! I haven’t addressed any issues. Oh deary me. You mean, like how we recognise each other in crowded places or what? I don’t care about your issues, I’m just an Anthroposophist. You know, the one’s that usually try to make some defence of the issues, they are the nice ones, they are the ones who try to explain, to talk about how wonderful it all is, and who stumble around forgetting much. You haven’t met one like me before, that’s OK. It’s new for you. You’re used to reasoned argument, I can use that too, we can do it that way if you want.

  3. Helen

    Congratulations Dmitri – you have won a prize for one of the longest comments ever. At least you have used paragraphs which most Steiner defenders seem incapable of doing, and for that I am grateful.
    Are you threatening me with legal action? It wouldn’t be the first time here. Just to reassure you Joe Evans has commented here in the past and knows about this blog. He asked me to contact him by e-mail on his business manager account after banning me on his school facebook page, and says he is happy to talk to critics, although our conversation seems to have dried up now. As for Philip Wright’s, “employment” that was discussed here before too, Joe is very proud of his class teacher’s PhD, although I am not convinced he has read any of the contents – it is not very encouraging from the point of view of dragging Steiner education into the 21st century.
    I am inclined to agree with you that Joe and Angie know little about anthroposophy – or did at the start – rather worrying then that they have anthros working alongside them. The fall-out from this situation could be spectacular.
    I can’t expect you to know this but I did not ever send my children to a Steiner school, nor did I attend one myself. I worked in one for a very short time many years ago before I even knew what Steiner education was, and on leaving promptly forgot about it until 3 years ago when the internet meant it became much easier to find out about things that interested me.

    “Anthroposophy is an intensely individual and private matter”.

    If only that were true! Then anthroposophists wouldn’t be conspiring to draw parents and children into their rather unpleasant world without their knowledge. And there would be no need for this blog or any of the other critical sites around the world.
    Millions of pounds wouldn’t be wasted on indoctrinating children using these bizarre ideas instead of educating them..
    “We will defend ourselves”. Yes, I know that.

    • Dmitri

      You’re telling me that the seemingly single continuous piece of writing on the ‘Steiner experience’ page is not your experience but that of one or more others? I mistook it for your experience. No I’m not threatening you with legal action. Why, do you want to be threatened with legal action? If I was I’d just let the attorney get on with it, but it doesn’t surprise me that someone else has thought about it in the past. Anyway, never mind, I want to get round to all the people who posted stuff, so I’ll see you later. Thanks for the commendation on the length of my comment by the way and the paragraphs. I do so insist on paragraphs (yawn) I was tired. You could probably tell.

  4. anon

    And you are supremely wrong; how dare believers in this nonsense use these beliefs to experiment with children and people with learning difficulties without their knowledge.
    What doesn’t Helen fully understand by the way? Do tell.

    • Dmitri

      You mean a member of the First Class of the School of Spiritual Science, or what? Or did you mean just what makes a good lapdog? What doesn’t Helen fully understand – mistake (see above – I took the front page as a continuous piece of writing by her).
      I can be as supremely wrong as you wish me to be. That’s the joy of it all. Next.

  5. we escaped!

    Another true example of Pro Steiner in action. I thank the poster for their comments, as it provides an insight to the true nature of what the unsuspecting are up against should they dare to speak up.

  6. we escaped!

    I would also like to echo the importance of confidentiality and data protection laws. It seems that steiner schools only enforce the proper protocol when they are backed into a corner. They do not display these qualities when children and parents raise issues and complaints. A suggestion would be for all steiner employees to attend courses in HR, customer service, process and documentation in line with basic compliance, safeguarding, health and safety , basic education, teaching experience , manners, honesty etc…
    The poster obviously knows the importance of such things, as they have expressed so, therefore they know better and should be held accountable for their actions.

    Indeed -watch this space…

    The day will come when you have caused so much destruction, people will refer to blogs such as this and use it as evidence.

    Readers of this blog know the pattern of behaviour, and threatening legal action is nothing new to us. Totally obvious and such a low blow, I pity and laugh at your attempts to quash the truth.

    • Dmitri

      yep yep next next…the day will come etc. thought that’s what I was talking about. God, if it’s going to be like it was in Soviet times I hope it doesn’t come too soon! I wasn’t threatening legal action. Jeepers (sigh). Anyway, make yourself clear, accountability – yep – anyone not going by the book (the relevant legislation) should have some explaining to do, which is what OFSTED CQC and allied bods are there for. Or did you mean me? Oh …wait a minute….hang on…now I understand. You don’t think I work for an Anthroposophical organisation do you? Oh, please, no, that’s too funny, oh dear, really. Why on earth would I do that?? I thought my original post would have made that clear. No, really, you guys haven’t met one like me before. Anyway, as I said before, if you’ve got any questions (about anhtropsophy) I’ll answer ’em. If you’ve got any questions about anthropsopsophical organisations which are public facing, ask them.

      • we escaped!

        As you have proven, mockery, rudeness and sarcastic comments is another trait/tactic used by steiner supporters.

  7. Jim

    Well Dmitri, you may be pleased to hear that within all your bluster I may have detected one piece of information. In replying to Nick above you imply that anthroposophy is a religion yet this is something which anthroposophical organisations consistently deny. And that is one of the concerns most often expressed by critics, that unlike other religious bodies ( esp. schools ) there is systematic deception as to the nature of their beliefs.
    So can I ask you to clarify – are Waldorf schools promoting a religion and lying about it? You say you are an anthroposophist but not part of an organisation so are you a reforming one ( ie they should open up about it ). Or maybe you are on the Al Qaeda wing of anthroposophy ( ie carry on the deceit and to hell with everyone else ).
    If you really do want to answer it would be helpful to do so with the minimum of sarcasm.

  8. Helen

    Dimitri – it’s hard to respond to someone like you is taking the line that as a spiritual movement, anthroposophy must be benign, and even a force for good. We have met “one like you” before – several, in fact, and they usually don’t come back and answer our questions. It would be good if you could answer Jim’s question – how do you feel about the plight of families who are being deceived? You have read the account above by “we escaped”, and mistakenly attributed it to me, and misunderstood my motives for trying to warn people about Steiner. I am sure you are aware of criticism elsewhere also – not just here.
    If you could answer that question without mockery or contempt perhaps we could have a fruitful discussion.

    We really do not know about the two people ostensibly in charge at Bristol Steiner Academy and the level of their involvement with anthroposophy – unless you have inside knowledge you are not sharing. That school is affiliated to the SWSF, teaches the Steiner curriculum, has anthros on the board of governors and employs anthro teachers. I would say it is highly likely that situations could occur similar to that experienced by “we escaped”. What is more, the principal and the business manager would not even see it coming.

    The reason anthroposophists keep quiet about their belief system when luring parents into Steiner schools and camphill is because the tenets of their creed are so bizarre they would put the majority of people off. If parents knew their child would be assessed according to the size of her head, be denied books until she has finished remembering the experiences of her previous incarnation, and be taught spiritual movement designed to initiate her into the world of the occult they would retreat in horror before you could say Jack Robinson, and would warn everyone else off too. So the beliefs are concealed, and people go on being caught in the Steiner trap.

    There are plenty of anthros like you who may not be personally involved in these institutions where public money is used, but don’t make out that because you personally do not set out to draw people in that the problem does not exist.

    You could also tell everyone what the first class in the anthroposophical school of spiritual science knows that we do not, instead of ducking the question from “anon” as you did above.

    How did you come to anthroposophy by the way?

  9. sue

    Does a Steiner “education” leave one totally unequipped for earning a living? In my experience this is definitely the case. No exams mean no qualification, means no job.

  10. Hollywood Tomfortas

    Hello Helen,

    Jeremy Smith is a former information officer for SWSF and he cultivates a blog called “Anthropopper.” Recently, he posted about Anthroposophy not being a cult, and for a future article there, he plans to address – and of course soundly refute — the cultic aspects of Waldorf education.

    In that regard, he mentioned Angie Browne, the principal of Steiner Academy Bristol, and provided this recent newspaper profile of her

    Obviously, his reason for highlighting her is that, in his mind, it completely disproves the charge that Steiner education is racist because the principal of Bristol Academy is a black woman.

    So I am curious why you or other commenters here have not yet made any reference to Steiner’s racial teachings in the light of her being principal at this particular school.

    Best regards,

    Tom Mellett
    Los Angeles, CA

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