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Moving to Steiner for Secondary School from State Primary

(109 Posts)
WKMum Wed 21-Apr-10 11:05:01


Advice sought from all you very knowledgeable Mums and Dads out there!

I realize I may be opening a can of worms with this post, but I have tried to make my way through the various other Steiner threads on MN and, despite their being very long and rambling, very few of the posts seem to address my particular situation, so please forgive me for starting up another debate.

I am posting this in the Secondary School thread, because I am not interested in the whole Steiner Early Years 'To Read Or Not To Read' debate.

My DD is eight years old and in Y3 at our local state primary school. She is strong at the more 'creative' subjects, such as writing and drama, but her maths is poor and she is in the 'lower set'. (Personally, I have an issue with the idea of 'streaming' children as young as seven, as I think it gives their confidence a terrible knock, and only serves to dint their interest in the subject even further - but that is another discussion!)

We live in a GS area, and a large number of the children at DD's school will go on to GS. My daughter's teacher has indicated, however, that she is unlikely to pass the 11+. (Information I was given, rather than requested.) Although I appreciate it is early to make this call, and nothing is set in stone, I am nonetheless currently exploring the other options.

The one aim I have for my DD is that she is happy in her secondary school. Academic achievement is not the 'be all and end all' in my opinion, and I am not inclined to have her intensely coached to pass the 11+, as I know a lot of people around here do, just so she can then be at the bottom of a very large pile of very bright/pushed kids, which I think would just undermine her confidence.

My preference for her would be a small, non-selective indie, in which she can feel comfortably average in most subjects and have enough one-to-one attention to be encouraged to reach her full potential in the subjects she enjoys.

With this in mind, DH and I went to see our local Steiner school. I was impressed by the ethos and the way the children seemed happy and engaged with what they were doing, and the teachers seemed relaxed but in control. The facilities were also good - theatre, sports hall, library etc.

As I understand it, Steiner schools do vary a lot, but I would be very interested to hear from any Steiner parents or pupils (former or current) who have experienced the transition from state primary school to Steiner school at age 11 (i.e. mid-way through the Steiner 'Lower School'). Was it a difficult transition to make - particularly given that you would be joining a class of children and teacher who have been together from the age of seven? Did the school feel very different from state primary? Better or worse?

Also, how did the school approach GCSEs and 'A' Level preparation within the Steiner methodology? Do you feel you had adequate help and encouragement without being pressured?

This will probably make me sound like a hippie - even though there is not an incense stick to be seen in my house! - but I am a great believer in 'the journey' being just as important as the destination, and I am worried about my DD's character being 'crushed' by what I see as the high-pressured environment of the current educational model favoured in most UK state schools.

However, should my DD wish to take exams when she is older and ready to make that decision for herself, I would want her to be adequately prepared. I'd love to know from anyone whether they think the Steiner method would work in this regard.

Thanks so much for reading this post. I apologise that it's rather long, but I wanted to try to make clear the sort of feedback/advice I am looking for.

Could I kindly ask everyone to please avoid posting potentially libelous comments on this thread, as I know this is a highly-emotive subject and do not want to get MN into any trouble.

seeker Wed 21-Apr-10 14:10:57

I think I may have answered you on another forum!

Remember that the vast majority of children in your child's year won't go on to grammar school - around 25% of them will. So it's worth having a good look at where the others are going to see what you think.

I do have some experience of Steiner education. There is a philosophy that you have to buy into to some degree, and in my experience people who find this difficult or uncomfortable end up not having a particularly good experience with the schools. Also, I am pretty sure that most, if not all, don't go up to school leaving age (which will, of course, be 18 for your dd) so that does mean another move. Also, facilities for science and ICT are usually pretty limited, so choices are restricted.

deaddei Wed 21-Apr-10 14:15:16

Is there any reason why you want to go private- as seeker says, those who don't do 11 plus go somewhere in the state system.
FWIW my dd was not an academic achiever at primary school- maths a particular issue- but is flying high at her state girls secondary.

WKMum Wed 21-Apr-10 14:49:25

Thanks very much for your replies.

Seeker: I'm not sure if you have already answered me, but thanks if you did! I put up a similar post on the 11+ forum, but nobody was really able to give me much feedback there on Steiner schools at secondary level, so I thought I would try here as well. At the Steiner school we visited, there were kids doing GCSEs and A Levels and they did have a science lab. I know they don't really promote ICT, but I am not so worried about that, since most kids spend far too much time on their computers at home anyway.

Deaddei: There are three state secondary schools in our area. Two are church schools (one CoE, one Catholic). To get a place at these, you need to be a regular church-goer, with a letter from your priest/vicar to say you attend every week and are 'actively involved' in the church community in some way (usually running a Brownies group or that kind of thing). As well as this, your DCs must be confirmed/baptized. We wouldn't have a chance getting into either of these schools. Frustratingly for people living locally, children are bussed in from places up to an hour away to attend these schools while the kid who lives at the end of the road, but who wasn't baptised, won't get in. If anyone can explain this sort of madness to me, I'd love to hear it!! Isn't the church supposed to accept all-comers?!!

The third state secondary was previously a failing school, which has just become an Academy. It has no sixth form. Possibly, this place will turn itself around in two years, and I wish it all the luck in the world, but I am not sure it will be the sort of school I want my daughter to attend by the time she transfers to secondary. I know it's wrong of me to say that, and that schools like this desperately need the support of local parents to improve, but I bet there aren't many people on this site who would be happy to send their children there as it is at the moment. Sorry!

I'd still be interested to hear from anyone with experience of Steiner at secondary level. Thanks so much!

gnomesrus Wed 21-Apr-10 23:02:57

Message withdrawn

WKMum Thu 22-Apr-10 07:11:20

Thanks for your post, Gnomesrus, and I'm sorry to hear that your experience of Steiner was such a negative one. Would you mind my asking how old your DCs were when they attended the school?

When I went to the open day at my nearest Steiner school, the older children were doing lessons in history, science, art and German and they didn't really seem to be bored. It's so hard to tell, isn't it?!

I am also looking into other Indies, as I don't mind paying for the best school for my daughter. The trouble is that a lot of the indies around here are selective, so I'm trying to find a non-selective that will provide a stimulating but not too competitive/stressful environment. It's quite a minefield!

MintHumbug Thu 22-Apr-10 11:00:56

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TubOfLard Thu 22-Apr-10 16:48:08

My experience with Steiner education is that the children are generally behind in reading and writing but ahead in maths in the lower years so, in this respect, it might be a good fit for your daughter.

OTOH, your daughter might not be happy in a Steiner school, especially at first, as she'll be the new child in class. That might be something to think about-how would it be for you after a year if you don't feel that the academics are on par with her previous school AND she's unhappy.

Steiner schools really are about educating the whole child-which you may find actually at odds with your daughter being "encouraged to reach her full potential in the subject she enjoys."

WKMum Fri 23-Apr-10 10:41:24

Thanks for your replies.

MintHumbug: I am definitely considering all indie options, but it's good to be reassured that even top selectives can be flexible.

TubOfLard: thanks for sharing your thoughts. As you say, it could be a good match to my DD in some respects, but obviously, as I mentioned in my first post, I am a bit concerned about her having to try to fit in at age 11 to what will already be a very tight-knit group... That was why I was keen to hear from people whose DCs had been through that experience.

Also, are you saying that Steiner schools won't develop a particular talent in a child if they have one? I wasn't really aware that was the case, so that's very interesting to hear: thanks!

TubOfLard Fri 23-Apr-10 15:55:08

I have not had the experience of having my children transition into a Steiner classroom but I do know many children who have done so. Let's say your daughter is not very academically inclined but a gifted musician or painter. Steiner education is more apt to develop her weaknesses than it is to accentuate her strengths.

ShellingPeas Fri 23-Apr-10 19:38:17

There are two children from my DC's primary going to Steiner at age 11. I think, from what you have said, that they may well be going to the same Steiner school you have looked at WKMum (initials of village FR).

Both children are fairly strong in arts and literacy related subjects but not so adapt at maths. From speaking to the parents, they feel that the Steiner way of working will be a big benefit to the children - a more 'holistic' approach. I was told that the children, in the end, decided that this was more their type of school than the comprehensive option so this helped the parents' decision.

From a personal standpoint I am not entirely convinced about Steiner, but I think it probably works very well for the right kind of child.

I think you need to keep an open mind between now and Year 5 and see how your DD progresses. I have gone through the 11+ mill myself with my DS this year and it's not the easiest thing to do - you either have to live very close to your chosen school or be very, very good at exams! We were fortunate to get the 'right' result for DS, but my DD is unlikely to pass so we will have to think of alternatives for her.

mathanxiety Fri 23-Apr-10 19:57:38

Steiner schools come with a steiner philosophy just as much as religious schools do, imo.

And I agree with TubOfLard's observation about accentuating the weakness rather than developing the talent.

There's a middle ground between intense coaching in maths to pass an exam and allowing a child to find a level of her own -- there are many ways to approach most mathematical concepts and encourage a child to be more engaged in the subject. There's something to be said for working a bit more at something that doesn't come that easily to you. And at age 8 or 9, it's probably the teachers your DD has had rather than her own innate ability or lack thereof that has got her to where she is right now in maths. I would be inclined to investigate the maths lag instead of the steiner option, and try to overcome it -- not necessarily with intensive coaching.

WKMum Sat 24-Apr-10 00:10:51

Interesting to hear everyone's thoughts: thanks so much for posting.

Yes, Shelling Peas, the Steiner school I am thinking of is in FR, so I was curious to hear that your friends' children have chosen to go there instead of the state option (which one is that, if you don't mind my asking?)

I'm glad things worked out for your DS with regard to the 11+, but it's such an onerous decision to have to make, isn't it?

I feel very torn about Steiner: instinctively it does appeal, but I hear such mixed reports...

Mathanxiety: our DD is getting one-to-one maths tutoring once a week with a lovely private teacher, and I agree that it is far too early to reach any definite conclusions regarding her ability, but her teacher thinks she is an unlikely 11+ candidate and I really don't want her to be struggling beyond her comfort zone just to get into GS.

Thanks so much for your thoughts.

LauraIngallsWilder Sat 24-Apr-10 00:22:01

Hi WKMum
My advice (from personal experience and from spending hours reading about such things on Mumsnet and elsewhere) is to read read read about Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy - and all that it entails.

If after doing that you are happy with Steiners philosophy and Anthroposophy then and only then consider sending your dd to a steiner school.

A steiner school is far more than just an alternative school to send your child.

What you saw on your visit and what you read on their website is what they want you to know - there is FAR more to know about Anthroposopy than they will openly tell you.

I would explore all the other local school possibilities or consider Home Educating.
I home educate my own two children and can honestly say it is the best thing for them.

I hope that advice is helpful

Thediaryofanobody Sat 24-Apr-10 00:28:14

WKMum I've looked into Steiner too but decided against it due to some of the beliefs that come with it.
Have you spoken to the School yet? I was under the impression that they don't always accept children into the schools at a late age but I could be wrong.
I must admit the one we were looking into had fantastic facilities and really excellent exam results.

But how would your DD react to a completely different schooling style?
The artistic subjects aren't always as free style explore your talent style more like this is how you do it copy the teacher type.

How would your DD cope with being expected conform to very different philosophy and play styles the other children will have been raised to believe is true. For example believing that Gnomes as really existing.

How would she cope will limited TV and computer time?
My children watch very little TV and only occasionally a DVD but even I was uncomfortable about the insisting that children should be very limited to almost no TV and computer time, it was even in the parents handbook along with a warning of that they can tell if a child has been watching TV. For me that was a step into my family private life and I wasn't comfortable with it.

If it hadn't been for the philosophy style and the instance that you buy into it then I certainly would have sent DD but instead we will home educate.

OurLadyOfPerpetualSupper Sat 24-Apr-10 01:00:21

What Laura said, apart from the home educating.
We moved our oldest aged 7 from state to Steiner and took him out three years later, when he was begging us not to make him go back - in spite of having made good friends there and settling socially.

< whole paragraph missing here as I remembered your 'libellous' comment - btw, why do you think these threads get pulled? >

I thank the Lord I don't believe in we did leave - can't bear to think what might have become of our family if we'd stuck it out to the bitter end, as so many do.

I seem to remember a website for survivors of this set-up, can't remember what it's called, but you might find reference to it if you search.
I'm off to bed now but will check this thread tomorrow.

WKMum Sat 24-Apr-10 09:48:36

Thanks for sharing all your thoughts on Steiner: it's really useful to read about first-hand experiences.

We did check out with the school about our DD joining at 11 and they were fine with that. They also said that most children make a smooth transition from state to Steiner, but of course they would say that, wouldn't they, which is why I wanted to canvass opinion here.

I confess that both DH and I work in the arts sector, so when I saw all the paintings that were pretty much exactly the same as each other hanging up in the classrooms, I was a bit unnerved. But the teacher taking us round the school explained that the aim was for no child to feel left behind, which made a lot of sense. I wouldn't mind my DD developing the technical aptitude many of those children had, although I take the point about 'freedom of expression'.

We don't have a TV, so that part doesn't worry me, but I do let my DD use the internet, although she has a weekly time limit of two hours, so I suppose that might not be such a problem.

As for the gnomes, well ... I've got a couple in my garden, but I'm not sure they move around much! Maybe under cover of night, who knows? (Joke!!)

I'm sorry you had such an awful experience OLOPS: it's comments like yours that make me really worried.

I will look further into Anthroposophy, since I know it is all a bit strange, but I suppose I'm just at the stage of exploring all the alternatives to GSs in this area and trying to find the best fir for my DD.

LIW: I totally take my hat off to anyone who home educates, and I believe it can be a wonderful experience for children, but I know I don't have the skill set myself to do it - particularly at secondary level.

OurLadyOfPerpetualSupper Sat 24-Apr-10 11:13:55

If you google PLANS, you'll find a forum for 'Waldorf Survivors' - one of whom is a Mumsnetter who I won't name as she'll probably come across this thread and decide whether she wants to join in or not.
I wish you the best.

WKMum Sat 24-Apr-10 16:53:41

Thanks for the link, OLOPS: I will certainly have a good look at the site before making any decisions. Thanks.

LauraIngallsWilder Sat 24-Apr-10 18:19:48

I should have added (but I forgot!) that Home Educating my children is the best thing for them because ds in particular was very unhappy in his school (normal state school) He has aspergers which they couldnt really be bothered to help him with - so HEing is good for him because he no longer talks about burning the school down or killing himself.
I often feel that I dont have the skill set or patience to HE my children

I think the fact that steiner education causes such controversy should highlight to you that it is probably something to stay away from - unless you are happy for your child to spend A LOT of time learning about and taking in part in Anthroposophy ideas/rituals etc

Tizian Sat 24-Apr-10 22:35:35

Try Americans for Waldorf Education informing the public about PLANS Inc. too. The extensive Wikipedia article on Waldorf education is based on reliable published sources.

OurLadyOfPerpetualSupper Sat 24-Apr-10 23:37:28

Ah, Tizian, would that be the same 'reliable source' who trawls the net threatening to close down any site containing anti- Waldorf material?

differentnameforthis Sun 25-Apr-10 03:42:27

You have to be careful with Wiki, because it can be edited by anyone. There have been 'anti-Waldorf' posts removed, so you will not see a true account of Waldorf.

I do tend to worry about organisations like this that have an overwhelming need to silence their critics!

Tizian Sun 25-Apr-10 05:55:21

Wikipedia is an Encyclopedia, not a discussion board. After an arbitration some years ago, the Wikipedia rules for good editing and use of sources are applied strictly. On possible controversial points, only non-Waldorf sources are allowed. It is very well sourced.

justaboutkeepingawake Sun 25-Apr-10 07:13:27

Message withdrawn

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