Steiner Education

Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) founded the first Waldorf Steiner School in Stuttgurt, Germany in 1919. The school arose in response to the wishes of workers at the Waldorf cigarette factory for their children to receive an integrated education which the parents themselves had not had. Steiner who was a philosopher, scientist and scholar oversaw the founding of the first school and developed a carefully structured approach to education. From this seed has grown a worldwide movement of Steiner (Waldorf) schools offering a comprehensive, integrated, cohesive curriculum which responds to the child’s developmental, age-specific needs.

Steiner schools provide education for children aged between 3 and ideally 18 (although this is dependent on uptake in any particular location) and welcomes families from all cultural backgrounds and faiths. All Steiner schools are co-educational and comprehensive; they offer a non-setted, non-streamed approach to learning. Thus the classroom becomes a microcosm of society, reflecting different cultures, faiths and abilities striving to live in harmony and learning not only from the teacher but also from each other.

Report published in 2005: Steiner Schools in England

by Philip Woods, Martin Ashley and Glenys Woods of the University of West of England, Bristol. One of the recommendations in this report is quoted below and could be taken as a summary of some of the differences between Steiner and maintained-sector approaches to education:

Government, LEAs, maintained and Steiner schools and the SWSF to explore the potential of the following to inform practice in maintained schools:
• early introduction and approach to modern foreign languages
• the combination of class and subject teaching for younger children
• development of speaking and listening through an emphasis on oral work
• the development of a good pace in lessons through an emphasis on rhythm
• the emphasis on child development in guiding the curriculum and examinations
• the approach to art and creativity
• the attention given to teachers’ reflective activity and heightened awareness (in collective child study for example)
• collegial structure of leadership and management, including collegial study.

The Cambridge Primary Review is an independent enquiry into the condition and  future of primary education in England. It is based at the University of Cambridge, supported by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and directed by Professor Robin Alexander. One recommendation of the review is for school education (not early years / Kindergarten) to start at age 6. This is exactly what happens at a Steiner  school.