The Sussex Weald Steiner free school bid is going ahead for the third time, with the team stating their determination to “make this a reality”. They say they plan to open in 2016 in the Uckfield area of east Sussex.
They have some gaps to fill, however; “… we have 2 significant gaps in our core team: a state secondary teacher with leadership experience (Deputy Head or Head), and a state school finance manager/bursar.”
A similar situation occurred in Stroud where Joe Evans gave up his position on the board of directors in the Steiner Academy Bristol where he is employed as Business Manager, and took up a position as director of the Steiner Academy Five Valleys (now Stroud Academy).
What next for Mr Evans? Perhaps a new directorship with the Steiner Academy Sussex Weald? His help didn’t do the trick for the Stroud team, so maybe not.
Joe commented consolingly on the Stroud Academy facebook page when the team announced the failure of the bid, and suggested “…this may not be the end”. He had momentarily forgotten he was part of the team himself, and the comment was removed.
The Stroud team also recruited a local primary Head teacher as a director, and I feel this may have been one of the nails in the coffin of the Stroud bid; Vince Southcott is not an anthroposophist, and I speculate here that on finding out exactly what it means to be a Steiner school and part of the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship, he may have instigated the move away from the official Steiner status, and thus away from approval from the DfE.
So there is a problem for Sussex Weald; where do they find suitable candidates to fill the gaps in their team without diluting their Steiner credentials and jeopardising their bid? Most state secondary bursars and teachers with leadership experience will not be sympathetic to the kind of nonsense espoused in the Steiner education system. Those who find themselves attracted to it may not last long once they start researching the subject in any depth.
Uckfield is a town roughly the size of Stroud. I don’t know whether there is a surplus of school places as there is here and whether this will affect their chances. The issue must have been irrelevant for the DfE as far as the Stroud bid went, because they would not have been invited for an interview if the reason for refusal was simply that no new school places were required.
As has been pointed out many times the DfE does not seem to care where they plonk new schools or whether they are needed.
The Stroud team says their curriculum did not provide enough evidence for demonstrating learning progress among children. Tarra Gilder Rai was quoted in the Stroud Life;
Unfortunately, with the Steiner curriculum, the DfE feel that Stroud Academy will produce insufficient data from standardised testing and national measurements to evidence ongoing student progress.
Of course it is only official Steiner schools that have exemptions from teaching what children need to learn, not “Steiner inspired settings”.
Tarra informed me before the decision was made that the team wrote the curriculum themselves.
I hope some people in Uckfield are on the alert and try to raise awareness among local people about what may be about to befall them in terms of a new Steiner free school.
Stop Steiner in Uckfield doesn’t have the same ring to it to me, but something along those lines would be of use in East Sussex. Failing that perhaps internet searches will direct interested parties here.