On Tuesday in the Guardian the education spokesperson for the Green Party Samantha Pancheri answered questions on party policy.
The fourth question is interesting;
“Do you support Steiner schools?”
We don’t have a specific policy regarding Steiner schools, but our policy aims to replace the existing rigid curriculum with a set of learning entitlements, encompassing numeracy and literacy skills, scientific literacy, technological skills and ICT, as well as a strong emphasis on the arts, languages and citizenship. This is broadly compatible with the approach taken in Steiner schools. We believe strongly in recognising children as individuals with varying learning styles and needs, so a child-focused approach to teaching is at the heart of our vision for education.
So is that a “yes”? It sounds like one. And yet in answer to a separate question Samantha also says;
“We would bring free schools and academies under local authority control. Private schools would have their charitable status removed and be required to join the local authority admissions system. Those choosing to remain privately funded and selective in their admissions will be treated as a business. No school will be run for profit.”
This has been Green Party policy for some time, although personally I do not believe the Green Party are the slightest bit concerned about education; this was pointed out to me most forcefully by the Green former Mayor of Stroud. They have one main priority and that is the environment. Party policy has been to “oppose free schools and support campaigns against them” but nothing has been heard from local Green group in opposition to the Stroud Free school bid. And there has been no support for campaigns against, from the group as a whole.
“Bringing free schools and academies under local control” would be very difficult in the case of Steiner schools, as they employ many unqualified teachers (and when I say unqualified I mean without even A levels in some cases). They would also need to teach the national curriculum – difficult in a school with a Steiner “ethos”, all Steiner schools teach their own special curriculum.
The Green party clearly wish to rid us of private schools by removing their charitable status. This would include most of the Steiner schools in the country.
They also appear to be under the impression that Steiner schools use a “child-centred” approach. Not surprising since that is what the Steiner movement tell us. But Samantha probably doesn’t know that the Steiner idea of a child is not one most people would recognise; in anthroposophy the child has lived before and must work through the experiences from previous incarnations before she is ready to learn to read and write; she must be taught according to her “temperament”, according to this occult belief system; she must be allowed to work through her karma, and if this means being bullied or being a bully herself, so be it.
Teachers are trained to use the techniques dreamt up by a mystic from 100 years ago; children are not treated as individuals but categorised according to the size of their head or the shape of their nose.
Samantha says the Green party would not allow religious schools to be state-funded, but Steiner education is as religious as can be, although this fact is hidden from those who need to know. If only people with a say in policy matters would take the time to find out what Steiner education really is they would not be so keen to fit it to their “vision for education”.
I am not sure how “learning entitlements” differs from the current system – it sounds similar to what is already on offer.
The two taboos of religion and politics keep making an appearance in this debate; whatever our opinions on the Green party, it does seem they are sympathetic to Steiner education, and if the national leadership is anything like that at local level, there will be those at the top with a stake in promoting it.