Steiner Free Academy In Exeter(49 Posts)
Hi all, dd2 is a late August birthday and had a bit of a rough start. She doesn't like preschool much and I'm not entirely sure she will adjust well to your average reception class. I've seen the new Steiner free Academy will be opening this year in exeter and am considering this as an option.
Does anyone know much about it and will it differ much from the traditional Steiner paying schools ? I've read they can be quite cult like. Unfortunately there's no Montessori in Exeter and we can't afford private school anyway. All views welcome!
Don't even consider a Steiner school - until you have researched thoroughly 'anthroposophy' on sites like Waldorf Critics/Quackometer and Waldorf Watch. If you agree with Steiner's (what many consider to be bizarre and worrying beliefs and approaches to education) that's great. But if you don't - you will be making huge mistake which will be expensive and stressful to put right.
I only wish the information had been on-line before deciding to send my daughter to a Steiner Waldorf (SW) establishment.
At first I sent my child to nearby private school, she thrived at its nursery and I assumed it would be a natural transition into the pre-prep. It was not. She had a dreadful start to school life, slapped and punched by the one other child in the class as well as horrendous pressure put on her to learn etc.
After looking at other local schools, I stumbled across SW education. I am now deeply embarrassed to admit that as well education (MBA), worldly and mature parent (had my daughter in my late 40's) I fell for the creative, tree-hugging hype. Seduced by the calmness of the environment, pretty baskets of shells, ribbons and cones to play with, the smell of bread baking and the gentle pastel colours painted on the walls etc. At the time, there was no other place I wanted her to be educated in.
I had absolutely no idea of the bizarre nature of anthroposophy, I couldn't even say the word. For the first few months it seemed a good choice but as time progressed I became more and more concerned over some of the teaching styles and practices. It was only after I got a letter saying my child would be required to jump over a fire (yes true!) at one of their odd festivals they celebrate, that I started to research the true nature of SW schools. I then came across the websites mentioned above. By this time, she was entering SW Year 1.
Already a fluid reader with good writing skills, she was not allowed to use this skills at all. She was not allowed books to read or permitted to use normal pencils. Instead she was made to go back to the most basic of lessons and use huge crayons to write with. When I complained about this, I was told that she would only be allowed to use pencils, as and when the rest of the class was ready. There was only three other children in the Y1 at the time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
She could only use three colours of paint in her art and when a few other children were less than kind to her, I was told it was just 'childish' pranks and she should learn to deal with it. She was reduced to tears by the teacher because she refused to write the letter 'm' in the prescribed four stroke Steiner way and was devastated when made to sit alone at the back of a class of 12 pupils. Why? When challenged the teacher said it was his class and he could do what he wanted!
Once you understand ' anthroposophy' and Steiner's beliefs - these somewhat bizarre teaching practices will become very clear.
I decided to take her out of the school, but because she was so far behind academically I needed to employ a private tutor to bring her up to the most basic of standards- costing me over £1500. Also, she was so far behind that she was placed a year below her peers when she re-entered mainstream school.
I was so angry with the school because I felt conned by the 'so-called' innovative, creative and child orientated promises made to me by the school, I refused to pay the outstanding fees. In addition, I had serious concerns over her general health and safety, for instance, the classroom was infested with wild mice, which ran over the desks that children ate their lunch on. The school threatened me with debt-collectors, but when I said I wanted the matter to go before a small claims court, so it could be put on public record the disgraceful nature of the school and the appalling standard of teaching, the Trustee's backed down.
I can tell you from first-hand experience that SW schools are not what they claim. Only being allowed to use a limited number of colours in art and copying everything off a blackboard is the exact opposite of 'creative'. The bizarre religion that Steiner invented underpins everything that is said and done at these schools. It may, as you will no doubt be told, not taught to the children directly but it is done by stealth.
It was a truly dreadful experience. My dd has now been at mainstream state school for one year and is thriving and doing incredibly well. She tells me she hated the SW school and I looking back on it I can see why she would often beg me not to take her to school in the morning and come home bored and frustrated, desperate just to play with normal toys and paint pictures full of colour.
Wanted to add that I know someone who has a son with special needs (autism) and she wanted him to go to a certain Steiner school because of their gentle approach, supposed "accept everybody" approach, good values, etc. When she approached the school to ask if he could join, the teacher told her she would ask the class their opinion first (as it's child led). She came back to her saying that the class didn't want the boy to start there. Unbelievable. So just goes to show, they don't always practice what they preach.
josie I'll tell you why people are getting fussed about it. Because that school is receiving funding that should be going to the state schools in Exeter. Because that school isn't needed here. Because people - like you - are moving from another area to take advantage of state funding that should be going to the existing schools, and to save yourself fees which you would otherwise be paying. There is no demand for Steiner in Exeter. And no need for any free schools.
Our experience of Steiner kindergarten was also hideous. Daughter was terrified to go into Kindergarten. Seemed very dark, sinister and secretive and teacher was cold. Could never talk to the teacher as we were told the school was "child focused". Just had to leave a note in a book if you had any concerns. Daughter was left to her own devices at "playtime" where she would wander around the "playground" alone for ages with no interraction from staff as they wanted her to use her own imagination. She felt lonely, she was bullied (again, no supervision at playtime) and there was no structure at play time. A very bad first experience of school. Daughter would never talk about it, only cry hysterically if Steiner was mentioned.
As for the Steiner school, don't get me started! When our older child started, the school already knew they were in dire straits financially but still took our child on knowing that it would only be a temporary thing. Child has special needs and had already left one school because they couldn't cope with her. We believe it was hugely unfair of Steiner to take our child on especially with her difficulties, allowing her to settle in and get used to everything and then close down so suddenly. She was left very distraught and confused. They happily took our money for 10 months and then landed us with this bombshell. In the meantime, the staff were concentrating on getting the free academy ready and making sure that their children had places there. Our child does not even have a place at the new academy. We feel very angry and used.
Oh! and the teacher couldn't even spell! Daughter was always correcting him! How good is that.
Don't touch it with a barge pole. Weird, airy fairy, hippy dippy people who make you feel inferior if you're not one of the great unwashed. They looked down their noses at me because I wore makeup.
Just wanted to add that my two girls are going to the Exeter Steiner Academy in September, we are moving from another area to go there. My kids have been in the Steiner school here for several years.
Honestly, I don't know why people are getting so fussed about it all - go look if you like - rather than believing all the weird stuff written on the internet, make decisions based on your experiences. Speak to parents/pupils who have been there. The schools are not perfect and certainly don't suit everyone, nevertheless this is true of all schools and education systems.
My personal experience has been one of seeing my children happy, nurtured and loved. Academically they are excelling and I really enjoy all the magic of the early years (for instance the little necklaces made by the teachers form the 'fairies' on midsummers day)...This is a delightful part of childhood and I am glad it is celebrated for them. Gnomes are great! Who cares if they are 'real' or not? - many people believe in all sorts of stuff that we can't see (God, aliens, the big bang, atoms - well- I've never seen one so I just believe in them....blah, blah, blah). Some of these beliefs are helpful, some not so. So long as they aren't harmful and we have enough guidance to wisely discriminate these then for most of us, most of the time, we can escape certifiable insanity. Children believe in all kinds of wonderful stuff... the tooth fairy, father Christmas, making wishes, fairies, that they will be an astronaut one day - why not let them enjoy it while it lasts?
We can ignite the imagination or crush and belittle it, regardless of our religious or spiritual beliefs. I am a Buddhist personally and find the education very welcoming and compatible. My daughter's class is of many races and religions, speaking many languages and coming from many counties of origin, I have never witnessed or experienced racism within the school except from one other parent of a much older pupil on one occasion (sad, but not unique to the Steiner schools to meet ignorance).
In terms of the influence of the media - again try for yourself. If you like take a look at stuff written by Aric Sigman (not a Steiner person). My kids don't watch TV at all, we just don't need it, but this is a personal conscious choice, not one pushed on me by the school.
Of course there are some odd beliefs in Steiner's work, but the guy was writing around the turn of the 20th century, ever read any of his contemporaries stuff??? Try reading Freud for some add stuff too. Both I think classify as radical and genius in their way, but they were also a product of their era, culture and own education. These, just like their own ideologies, are not static things, are nor are the Steiner schools, they are evolving and alive.
Hopping off my soap box now and wishing you well in your own educations....
We have similar dilemma and wondered which school you were recommending and where - sorry the link didn't work
The 'you must have done something wrong in a past life' stuff makes me furious where ever it comes from.
Vile, vile view point.
I knew someone who referred to someone I knew in these terms 'I don't know what John did to deserve having downs syndrome but I will pray for him and his family'.
Just piss right off was my response.
No way could I send my children to a school which upheld such damaging, disrespectful views.
Snus - Americans are widely known as being racist ????
No, I am not American but I have lived and worked there. There are parts of America where its a case of Praise The Lord and pass the ammo. But that is only a small part of America. The rest is quite multi racial. This is why the GOP is in a panic. Their pool of Angry White Men voters is dwindling.
How many black police officers do you see on the streets of the UK? How many black faces do you see in the government/opposition front benches?
IMO we live in more racist society. Pardon the hi jack.
mathanxiety I can assure you that my DD's steiner school does not use gnomes to teach maths. They are cute little fantasy figures in the same way that young children might draw Father Christmas, etc., or at worst an anthropomorphic expression of "earth energies" for those who choose to believe in woo-type stuff (and such people exist in all spheres of life - how many people believe in Guardian angels as cute glowing creatures.
Maths is taught from early years, using actual things, rather than numbers on paper, so it might be that when cooking the children learn "more than", "less than", rudimentary fractions, e.g. half/thirds, etc. As children become slightly older then things such as multiplication rhymes, etc. are used. In this way maths becomes a non-scary concept as it's about real-world scenarios, not just abstract marks on paper. That bit comes later.
I'm not sure what you mean about the myths? I went to Catholic school and we were also taught history in vaguely chronological order, and also covered Greek and Roman myths. What is wrong with knowing the myths and stories of people if this helps us better understand their world view?
Tizian - frankly, your only interest in mumsnet is to support your cult. Every time you comment here you make Steinerology look more like Scientology. Congratulations.
Restlessnative links to the BBC-film from Nov last year above.
For some comments on the film, see thebee.se/BBC
My understanding of the gnomes is that they are used in teaching maths -- times tables and long division, etc. It all seems very innocuous because it is an esoteric religion (as pointed out above) with the full picture available only to a select few. The gnomes are used to displace emotions of both students and teachers, and they are used to explain questions such as how the office copier works. Their existence is not questioned. Children who don't see them or are inclined to be sceptical can feel there is something seriously lacking in them. If you wouldn't send a child to a Catholic school because of fear of exposure to RC beliefs on Resurrection, etc., why send a child to a school where gnomes are an article of faith?
Wrt anthroposophy, though often not explicitly taught (this is for the elite to learn) it informs every single detail of what is taught and how and when it is taught. It informs the lack of intervention in the playground too, where children are working things through in karmic fashion, not bullying or being miserable.
As an example of anthroposophy at work -- waiting to teach reading until a child has lost his or her milk teeth. Children are not exposed to the factual world of written materials until this happens -- up to then they are assumed to see angels and other other-worldly beings. The way art is taught is similarly inexplicable until anthroposophy provides the essential clue -- art can be wrong and right; all artistic efforts that are outside of the Steiner model are wrong and a child's progress in art mirrors the progress of his or her soul. The art is watched closely and creativity is frowned upon. Art is soul work.
History is taught as a developmental process that mirrors the Steiner hierarchy of the races and reincarnation. Western civilisation is at the pinnacle and all other cultures and people are working their way to this apogee. Children start their study of 'history' with European mythology and legends with the lines between fact and fantasy blurred.
You may find yourself under pressure to limit your family's engagement with media. This is because media is a creature of Ahriman, a materialistic spirit who alienates people from their spiritual roots.
It may be worth noting that the Catholic Church sees Steiner schools as unsuitable for Catholic children and sees anthroposophy as a religion.
Hi sannaville, i'm in the same position. No montessori and cant afford private anyway. Completely torn at the moment between steiner (potentially the one they are trying to open in Bristol IF we could get her a place, or relocating to Frome) or just mainstream school. The schools we stand a chance of getting her into are both underachieving so in an impossible situation really where there is no ideal outcome. She loves her montessori preschool and so disappointed we cant continue it through primary as it seems such a perfect environment for her. We either go with the slightly daunting and possibly too extreme Steiner (given up researching i now as its such a highly debated topic!) or schools which arent up to scratch. Be interested to hear what you decide to do??
Did you go to the open day Sannaville? I didn't feel I learned all that much but I did have a chin wag with the head and the teachers who were there.
Sorry to be ignorant but most children are vaccinated (or not) before they enter school so how would Steiner teachings have any sway over it anyway?
@worldgonecrazy you describe my statement
"But a Christian (or Hindu) school would not teach that children ought not to be vaccinated as childhood diseases (with a non zero fatality rate) are part of a child's karma.'
As "bullshit" and then say you have never met any steiner educated person who said this.
However, the UK Health Protection Agency considers Steiner pupils to be members of the unvaccinated community.
"The epidemiological information that will help to favour the diagnosis of true measles includes a history of contact with another case, age, travel and membership of an unvaccinated community.... (including Steiner schools, travelling families etc) increases the index of suspicion."
Which is the logical outcome of the beliefs I describe.
Thank you restless for that very useful
here's a link to the recent BBC Inside Out South West film about the state funded and state-inspected Steiner Academy Frome.
Gnomes feature, of course.
My advice to parents in Exeter, given from the heart, is to be very cautious. I would not rely on the DfE having exercised due diligence on your behalf. Nor would I rely on the Steiner movement to be honest with you, even if you ask the right questions.
sannaville - I wish you all the best with your dd2. I was anxious about my summer born ds too. I'm sure this lovely school is too far away from you, but perhaps worth a chat with them? Anyway, hope you find the right place for her
duchesse - you would think it was safe to say, but Steiner Schools lobby to opt out of inspection and national standards so that they are free to carry out their non-education unhindered.
Many Steiner schools in the UK are not inspected by Ofsted but by SIS - an organisation set up to deal with the 'special character' of Steiner and Maharishi schools, but where the inspectors have strong links with these schools to 'aid understanding'.
This week, Steiner Schools in the UK have secured exemptions from EYFS and full exemption has been granted from the literacy ELGs - reading and writing.
I think it's fairly safe to say that a school funded by the state and state-inspected will not be teaching about gnomes, racism or karma of disability. So I think OP's daughter (and potentially mine too) is safe from these things.
nlondondad I'm really confused/annoyed by your comments, though I guess we're back at my first post referring to the bullshit that is written about Steiner Education. I have never come across any Steiner-educated person who says that. The following official statement may be of particular interest (especially the bit I've highlighted).
Statement by ECSWE (European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education) on the Question of Vaccination
It has come to our attention that uncorroborated statements have appeared purporting opposition to childhood immunisation as the official or tacit policy of Steiner Waldorf School Associations and the institutions they represent. We wish to state unequivocally that opposition to immunisation per se, or resistance to national strategies for childhood immunisation in general, forms no part of our specific educational objectives. We believe that a matter such as whether or not to inoculate a child against communicable disease should be a matter of parental choice. Consequently, we believe that families provide the proper context for such decisions to be made on the basis of medical, social and ethical considerations, and upon the perceived balance of risks. Insofar as schools have any role to play in these matters, we believe it is in making available a range of balanced information both from the appropriate national agencies and qualified health professionals with expertise in the field. Schools themselves are not, nor should they attempt to become, determiners of decisions regarding these matters.
But a Christian (or Hindu) school would not teach that children ought not to be vaccinated as childhood diseases (with a non zero fatality rate) are part of a child's karma.
Actually the reference to Hindu's makes my point. I would not send my child to a Hindu school. In fact I do not agree with church schools of any kind, and for that reason oppose Steiner as well. As to whether actual belief in Gnomes is better or worse than belief in say "Angels and Archangels and all the company of Heaven" Well, the whole thing a mystery.
Duchesse yes they do, I got email this week saying email will be sent next week with details. Will keep you informed x
"and that people with any kind of special need must have done something wrong in a previous life "
I guess you don't want any Hindus teaching your children then?
worldgonecrazy, a very close friend runs a school for children with special needs in India, and she assures me that the notion that special needs are a punishment for sins in a previous life is very prevalent among the (mainly Hindu) families she works with.
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