Steiner Academy Sussex Weald

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.



  1. Vicki

    It should be law that they are obliged to be completely honest about their beliefs before anyone even applies for the position. I was not given any information whatsoever about anthroposophy or what it entailed before I took up a position in a Steiner School. I was not told that I would be expected to recite prayers and rituals that go against my moral beliefs. I do not believe in indoctrinating children or preventing them from having access to things that other people take for granted, such at TV’s or limiting their food choices. This is why people need to know what ‘Steiner’ is as a belief system. It isn’t some ‘cute and cuddly, middle class belief system’ it’s very rigid and if you don’t go along with it then you are going to have a tough time. Thankfully I am going back to my original profession as Social Worker, where I can support people whatever their religious beliefs but without having to prescribe to it myself. I also believe strongly in openess and not secrecy and this was one of the biggest problems that I encountered at the school I worked at. Don’t be hoodwinked and get all the information you need before you consider sending your child to a Steiner School or working in one yourself.

  2. Steve

    Thanks for the info. I hadn’t realised Joe Evans had already moved on from the Bristol Steiner Academy (been rather busy lately), but it gets frustrating when the message isn’t really getting out beyond the core people.

    Even despite last year’s Newsnight, the Steiner PR machine still appears to be unblemished in the eyes of “regular” people.

    How can we remind them what happens when things go wrong in a Steiner school?

    That merely being a neighbour of one of those school could lead to decades of hurt?

    Or point them to the testimony of a former anthroposophist who had the courage to speak out?

    And that despite their assurances, mysticism is deeply rooted within the belief system of those schools?

    The more you know, the more unbelievable it all is. :(

      • Steve

        I was remembering the interview Joe gave us when he told us the Bristol Steiner Academy would take part in any vaccination programme that was happening in the other local schools… And then I read Grégoire’s account that the doctor in the Steiner school he was in would pretend to give the injection and merely let the vaccine drip along the skin… If this happens in other Steiner schools, just like the pretence of hiring different teachers for the inspections, it’s like subterfuge and deceit knows no bounds.

        Roger Rowlings of Waldorf Watch and Mike Collins of UK Anthroposophy both told us no one had ever taken a Steiner school through independent mediation as we had. I haven’t heard of anyone having succeeded at having done so since, but I dearly hope I’m wrong. We need more people like us so that what goes on there can no longer be ignored or casually swept under more lies and deceit.

        And people think this is an hollistic education system?

        • Helen

          Yes that account from Gregoire is frightening.

          And on the subterfuge he describes how the classrooms in the Steiner school where he worked were not numbered, so that when there was an inspection the inspector could be taken to any room where there was a suitable teacher at the time, and would not know any different.
          I do not think Joe Evans ever meant to deceive, I think he got into something he didn’t fully understand, and is just a bit New Agey. That is my personal opinion!

            • Helen

              “But isn’t that the hallmark of a cult?” Yes, exactly.
              I’ve been reading about how is considered the best way to help people to realise they are in a cult, and it is to leave open channels of communication with the outside world – in other words, not to demonise them or their beliefs, but to try to point out how the tenets appear to the outside world. It is difficult to criticise a cult without seeming to attack the people who are in its clutches.

  3. Steve

    Re dealing with cults, I think Margaret Sachs’ words on Waldorf Critics back in September 2010 describes it best:

    “I warn any satisfied Waldorf parents to pay more attention when families leave the school suddenly or unexpectedly and to dig deep to find out what really happened. Do not accept the school’s version at face value. Ask questions. See if your questions are encouraged or discouraged. See if the answers really make sense in the context of the real world, not just the secretive murky world of Waldorf, where everything has meaning that you don’t necessarily fully understand. And most importantly, call or write to the parents of the children who left and ask them to tell you about the situation from their point of view.”

    Re being deceitful, to be fair, we only met Joe once. When we met Mark Thornton, manager of the Titirangi Rudolf Steiner School, he sounded perfectly honest too. And then he treated my children as he did, followed by trying to tear my family apart by blaming us, their parents, for what happened to them. And then the community, and others, ran with that because, after all, it’s easier to blame the parents and take what the school says at face value, than deal with how staff can treat children, isn’t it. And those disgusting lies, despite our settlement agreement, still do the rounds, both in New Zealand and elsewhere.

    Again, Margaret’s words are illuminating:

    “You would get conflicting testimony because you would get the lies spread around the school to counteract the damage that could be done if people knew the truth. I heard many stories as to why children and their families were to blame for situations that led to their leaving our Waldorf school. I sometimes heard the parents’ side of the story but usually gave the school the benefit of the doubt because I was one of those people who thought the school was wonderful and could not believe that any school could be capable of some of the things parents claimed had happened. Then it happened to my family, and then I heard the lies that were going around the school. That’s when I learned for the first time that truth and integrity — things I value — were not valued at our Waldorf school. Since then, I’ve heard many, many stories from parents around the world that indicate deception and lack of integrity are systemic in Waldorf education.”

  4. Pete Karaiskos

    Margaret and I were at the same school while two different incidents where happening simultaneously – impacting different grades. The school was so good at controlling communications, I didn’t hear about Margaret’s incident and she didn’t hear about mine – until much much later. The school somehow was able to schedule meetings with facilitators and angry parents for one class without anyone from the other class finding out. Absolutely amazing!

    • Steve

      That’s interesting, because the same thing happened at Titirangi: a parent with a child in the exact same class as our eldest daughter’s had spent years trying to deal with the unchecked bullying and we didn’t know about it until she took her kids out in desperation.

      We only found out about it then, when we wrote to her apologising for not making our complaint more public. It was only then that she told us how long she had been working on the same problem. The manager then told us that he had no idea this had been going on.

      Two weeks later, our kids were expelled.

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