Steiner school teachers and “unlearning”

Thanks to a reader who sent me a link to this article about a Steiner school receiving a School Recruitment Award .

The article explains that Steiner schools are having trouble recuiting teachers because the new Steiner Academies are using up all the Steiner trained teachers.

three new Steiner academies created between 2012 and 2014 instantly doubled the demand for qualified Waldorf teachers, 35 per cent of whom are expected to retire by 2020

As Steiner Academy Exeter are discovering, there is a limited supply of teachers who are Steinerish enough to satisfy the SWSF and also capable of teaching effectively.

A trained Steiner teacher is a very different animal from a trained teacher in any other school. Steiner teacher training is training in anthroposophy; Steiner’s views on child development, which is spiritual development, are very different from accepted medical opinion as explained on Open Waldorf. On Steiner teacher training courses recruits learn about spiritual art techniques, how to do child study, eurythmy, and are required to read Steiner’s books such as “Occult science” . This training does not result in qualified teacher status.

(The particular course mentioned in the report, West of England Steiner Teacher Training is based at one of our local Steiner schools; from here children are regularly taken on by Special Educational Needs teachers at other local schools in order to increase their chances of leaving with some exam passes.)

The problem is that there are limited numbers of people willing to subject themselves to the training, even fewer who complete the course, and fewer still who will be capable of becoming a competent class teacher.

So this Steiner school has decided to derail mainstream trainees just before they qualify, and divert them into Steiner education by “sponsoring” them to undergo 2 years of Waldorf training. According to the report;

experienced mainstream teachers who join Elmfield have to ‘unlearn’ many teaching habits and often struggle with experiential learning aspect of its teaching.

Yes, that’s right, this Steiner school wants teachers to “unlearn” what they have learnt at college or university, and instead use highly suspect anthroposophical methods such as categorising children according to the shape of their nose or the size of their head, and follow a Steiner curriculum which denigrates science, has its own version of history, and limits artwork to the spiritual exercise with paintbrush strokes deemed appropriate to a particular stage of their spiritual development.

Apparently last year 100 student teachers were willing to take this step down the rabbit hole instead of following a career path where teachers behave professionally and do not have to mislead parents about the reasons for their methods . Were applicants told about anthroposophy? How much of Steiner’s writing did they read before applying?

A look at the Handbook for Waldorf class Teachers should be enough to alert students to what they are dealing with.

Out of the 100, three candidates were selected to train, based on interviews and tests. Were they also selected on their willingness to accept the spiritual world of anthroposophy that is the essence of Steiner education? I hope so otherwise this is all a waste of time, effort and money. They will back away when they do find out.

The report says

the project has been extremely cost effective. Staff turnover and teacher recruitment spend have both more than halved.

I take this with the same size pinch of salt with which I read that a Steiner school achieves above average exam results, where in fact out of a group of 12 students only one has an A pass in English.

The halving of recruitment spend sounds impressive but we have no idea how much this spend was, or how long teachers stay.

The school emails PGCE students, and creates a database of potential candidates.

I can imagine students will respond to this e mail just as many parents do when they see a Steiner classroom, to something which seems so harmless and imaginative. I hope they will be inquisitive enough to research anthroposophy before they make the decision to apply for Waldorf and throw away their professional training in favour of a way of working which is worse than useless.

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