Parent Experiences Re: Accountability, Transparency and Honesty (or lack of) when dealing with private, academy and Steiner schools(1 Post)
As a former long term pupil, I can honestly say that Waldorf/Steiner education is too much of a risk to take. Together with the enforced dogmatic approach to academic & developmental matters, the 3rd rate teachers and the constant bullying and abuse (permitted and encouraged) has ruined many peoples lives. Furthermore, those parents who raise concerns with teachers are dismissed as ignorant or troublemakers and can find themselves vilified or at best disregarded.
Those who are or claim to be knowledgeable and well-up on anthroposophy and its teachers tend to look down their noses at the majority of parents who usually know very little about it. Forget the smooth propaganda on YouTube etc, it is not worth the gamble sending your child to a Steiner school. The risks are potentially huge and the same issues that crop up in the UK Steiner schools are present in Steiner schools in other parts of the world as well.
Sadly my experiences are not unique. I went to 2 different Steiner schools and have subsequently met other former pupils who were also badly bullied and/or sexually abused by staff. I have met people who attempted suicide as adults due to their experiences in Steiner Schools. There are also former students who enjoyed school, but I suspect they would have done well wherever they went.
At my second Steiner school a pupil was given permanent brain damage and left as a vegetable when another jumped on his head repeatedly. There was a lack of teacher supervision at break-times which may have contributed to this. Other pupils were victimised with homophobic (had a gay parent) bullying, racist bullying (pupils of colour never lasted more than a two years), and bullying based on disability. Also quite a number of kids in Steiner Schools have been excluded from mainstream schools or have been troublemakers, but since their parents can pay, they are welcomed since they can pay full fees and Steiner education is not cheap. Money talks so the bad eggs find a home, but the good kids suffer academically and psychologically because of these imported, often disruptive, bullying kids.
For example, a vulnerable girl with MS was called spastic and imitated mercilessly and bullied by all the girls, most of the boys and some of the teachers. They obviously did nothing to stop the bullying. What tended to happen was that even kids who were not the ringleaders all joined in to avoid being victims themselves. Teachers also did this as they sought popularity with the bullies who were invariably the most popular, the fastest runners, best at sports etc. Other pupils were bullied due to minor disabilities or unusual appearance. Others had school work and belongings vandalised regularly. I cannot recall ever seeing or hearing of a pupil being punished for bullying except the guy who stomped on the head who was suspended.
There is an emphasis (despite the propaganda at open days) on physical and external things. Very little emphasis is placed on being a good person or kind or generous etc. Parents will be shown a pleasant, often rural setting and classrooms painted in pastel colours, decorated with children's watercolours or various handicrafts. Many people take this at face value and assume its an arts & crafts sort of place full of nice olde worlde charm. Nothing could be further from the truth. Behind the pretty pictures there are some very disturbing, dogmatic and alarming theologies and directives. Indeed a number of teachers are also misled and as a result staff turnover is pretty high with lots of formally idealistic staff, leaving under a cloud of ostracism and disillusionment. If a child is good in maths or science or has interests and talents that do not fit with the dogmatic Steiner approach to education, they well suffer and be held back and there will be no-one to bring them on or encourage them since the teachers are the ones who apply the dogma in practice. With a heavy emphasis on Greek, Roman, European and Norse history and myths/legends, a subliminal message is taught that only being white and of an athletic and attractive physic is the goal. Anyone not fitting this tends to be seen and treated as an outcast and a legitimate target.
So whats new...bullying happens in most schools. Well here is why its often worse in Steiner schools:
Anthropology views bullying as the child's Karma. Steiner teachers are taught during their training to believe it is the child's necessary path to be bullied or even the child's fault for actions in a previous life. If your child is has special needs or a disability, anthroposophy informs that the soul of the disabled child is impure and bullying is the inevitable reaction/consequence to that impurity...a correction if you will. No staff member will ever admit this to a parent, but I had an aunt who was a Steiner teacher and she has confirmed to me that still goes on in practice. The result is a laissez faire approach by staff to bullying no matter what they say in public. There are other reasons for this tolerance of bullying. For example, a lack of staff supervision in break times. Lack of an authority figure to whom teachers are accountable if they do nothing (ie no head n most cases). Lack of teacher accountability to Parent Governors. In Steiner Schools, the teachers together with a few prominent supporters/anthroposophists (college of teachers) are in charge of decisions and staff issues, not the board of governors...if there is one.
Basically the way Steiner schools are set up provides the ideal setting for incompetent, immoral, abusive and irresponsible teachers to succeed and be protected. In the 1980's 90's a known and active paedophile was allowed to remain working at a Steiner school for years and rather than being held accountable it was kept in house. He was demoted from teacher to caretaker. Many students were targeted at school and in their own homes since he befriended parents and co-teachers. I have met and heard their personal stories quite recently.
Class Teachers who take the morning 9-11 lesson each morning remain the same for classes 1-8. So if they bully or are not interested in your child, or are otherwise bad teachers your DC will be lumbered with them for 8 years potentially.
Advanced students have no place in Steiner School, since reading, maths and science are held back, neglected or dismissed as unimportant according to some staff. Furthermore since many teachers for upper school, GCSE and A level stages are not properly qualified to teach their subject, bright students have no one to bring them on. Also there is no bottom/mid/top form system so all abilities and levels are taught in one class with no options for the brighter ones to push on.
Steiner Teachers in my school were often unqualified for the subject they taught...this became most apparent in the years before and during the GSCE exams. This was exacerbated by a shortage of teachers (low wages, high turnover) and the fact that teachers didn't have to have a PGCE, only the Steiner teachers training course. Some Steiner teachers knew their stuff but were very poor teachers and would never be up to teaching in a state school and in fact some had 'left' the state sector after burn out and were happily brought in.
Many teachers and some parents are overgrown hippies, searchers, new age types and tend to be egoists in my experience. There are a few really nice teachers, but most are a nasty, ragtag bunch of loony lefties and new age spiritualists with rather lax moral standards. Anyone under the impression that traditional Judeo/Christian morality or values or even simply being nice to each other is taught or encouraged in Steiner schools has been misled. Any moral education depends very heavily on the individual teachers personality. However the majority of the the staff and the enthusiastic anthroposophists tend to be very much left wing and liberal in moral outlook and this permeates the world-view children are provided.
I hopes this gives potential parents an insiders view (from a 13 years a pupil)
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