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Superb GCSE results, again!
Whilst we know that exam results are only a tiny part of education, it’s great to report that our teachers and students have done us proud again. An impressive 85% of pupils achieved 5 or more GCSEs at A*-C, including English and Maths. This places us as the second best school in the area.
When including students with English as a second language, the statistic becomes 79%, which ranks us the third best out of around 15 schools.
The Department for Education (DfE) has been ordered by an information tribunal to release departmental advice dating from 2010 following an appeal by the British Humanist Association. This information comprises two short briefing papers setting out the views of opponents of the public funding of Steiner Waldorf education, specifically through the government’s “free school” programme. The two papers, dated August & September 2010, include a number of allegations received by the DfE but without detail or corroboration. The Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship is aware of & seeks to refute several allegations recorded in these papers.
Individuals & organizations opposed to the public funding of Steiner schools accuse Rudolf Steiner, who died in 1925, of having held racist views & claim that the educational method within SWSF member schools is racist. While the superficial reading of a handful of Steiner’s voluminous, extensive lectures present statements that appear racist in modern terms, none of these occur in his educational writings. Our schools do not tolerate racism. Racist views do not accord with Steiner’s longer term vision of a society in which such distinctions would be entirely irrelevant & modern Steiner Waldorf schools deplore all forms of intolerance, aiming to educate in a spirit of respect & to encourage open-hearted regard for others among the children they educate.
The allegation has also been made that bullying is tolerated by teachers in Steiner Waldorf schools. Bullying is not tolerated by our schools and all our schools have strong anti-bullying policies, informed by the appropriate DfE guidance. This is illustrated by our members’ inspection reports. Steiner teachers work with all aspects of the child’s development and place value on enabling children to explore & learn about the widest possible range of human endeavour & knowledge as they mature. We recognise the need to provide a safe & sociable environment for children to become resilient, creative & effective adults who retain a lifelong thirst for learning. Any reference to a child’s “karma” that suggests that this explains or excuses bullying is incorrect & unacceptable in an educational context. In contrast to the allegations, the recent inspection report for the Steiner Academy Frome, found Pupils’ behaviour is good. They are confident and happy in school, which they describe as ‘a big family’. They consider that pupils’ behaviour is ‘generally good’. They know the boundaries and that the principal will not tolerate any form of bullying. Pupils say that they do not experience any bullying. Adults deal swiftly with any incidents of name calling or unintentional physical contact. (https://www.steineracademyfrome.co.uk/files/5113/9506/2330/Steiner_Academy_Frome_Ofsted_Report_March_2014.pdf)
The SWSF works to support its members in maintaining the highest possible standards in an ethos informed by Steiner’s philosophy, although this is not taught in the schools. For example, the following points are highlighted from a formal inspection report conducted in the summer term:
[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][The school] provides extremely well for pupils personal development by extending their knowledge & experience of local & wider society & their appreciation of other cultures…it encourages independent learning & research skills to flourish…so that pupils are very well prepared for the next phase of their education [&] enables pupils to achieve very high standards in music, eurythmy & observational drawing & the use of twenty-first century multi-media & information technology in their project work (https://www.schoolinspectionservice.co.uk/new/docs/GreenwichSteinerInspectionReportMay2014.pdf)
Pupils achieve well throughout the school, reaching above expected levels in English & mathematics & in the other subjects they take in year 11…..Older students develop strong independent working & thinking skills…[&]…go on to successfully study & achieve wide ranging qualification at GCSE, A-level & beyond
For further information steinerwaldorf.org
Elmfield was one of 4 schools in the UK to be shortlisted for the Times Educational Supplement Award for Maths & Numeracy. On 4th July staff attended a ceremony in London where we were notified we were Runner Up nationally.
Bristol schoolgirl ‘gobsmacked’ by bestselling author’s praise
Ella Rehin drew a comic strip about Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, ‘gobsmacked’ by reply
By Christopher Brown
Wednesday July 9, 2014
A Bristol schoolgirl who drew a comic strip about her favourite author was stunned and is now considering a career in illustration after receiving a reply from the bestselling novelist.
Ella Rehin, from Montpelier, sketched a biography of Mark Haddon, best known for his children’s book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, for a school English project.
Her teacher was so impressed with the artwork that she sent it to the author.
But the 15-year-old was “gobsmacked” when Haddon – whose books have sold two million copies worldwide – sent a letter back, saying her comic strip was “brilliantly drawn and very funny”.
He added Ella’s work, which contains 12 individual colour pictures, including one of Haddon with his wife and children, was “by some margin one of the best letters I have ever received”.
Haddon, who has two sons, Zack and Alfie, was also a good sport about the size of his comic book nose, adding: “Zack, nine, was troubled by the size of my nose but very taken with his younger self sitting on the sofa.”
The A4 artwork is now hanging on his dressing room wall at the Gielgud Theatre in London’s West End, where a stage adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time opened on June 24.
Ella, who attends Bristol Steiner School, said: “We were asked to write or draw a biography of our favourite author, and I chose Mark Haddon because I absolutely loved The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.
“I knew that my teacher had sent it to Mr Haddon, but I was still gobsmacked when he replied. Thankfully he really liked it, too!”
Ella is now considering a university degree in illustration. She also hopes to enter next year’s Vintage Graphic Short Story Prize – on Haddon’s recommendation.
Laura McInerney’s promiscuous use of the term “extremist” to label Steiner schools is grossly misleading. Quite apart from her report’s various innuendos and inaccuracies (e.g. its calculated use of the pejorative term “extremist”, the discredited claim that Steiner was a “racist”, and the misdefinition of eurythmy), the idea that the broadness or otherwise of the Steiner education curriculum can be accurately indexed by the GCSE exams that students take is fundamentally to misunderstand the nature and content of the education, and is, I’m afraid, just sloppy journalism. One does not expect Guardian journalists to throw around the term ‘extremist’ in such a tabloid-esque, unthoughtful way.
There are many ways in which novel educational approaches strive to escape the anti-learning toxicities of mainstream educational practices, and Steiner education is undoubtedly one of the more progressive and enlightened ones – that’s why it is the world’s most popular independent educational approach, chosen by tens of thousands of families across all cultures and continents, and often at considerable personal economic sacrifice to families. That’s a lot of “extremists”.
Dr Richard House, C.Psychol.
Education campaigner, trained Steiner teacher
Re: ‘Trojan horse: why some ‘extremists’ are more acceptable than others’
by Laura McInerney in the Guardian, Tuesday 17 June 2014
If ‘extremism’ is defined as it is in the title of this article Trojan horse: why some ‘extremists’ are more acceptable than others’ by Laura McInerney in the Guardian, Tuesday 17 June 2014 then a good number of Guardian readers would be swept up in a net set to catch thoughtful and creative entrepreneurs and individuals, of the sort to have made fundamental contributions both to British society and human progress. But the article, not content to turn a facetious definition into a telling point, goes on to undermine its own message with a strange concoction of misinformed and misleadingly blanket assertions without the material of evidence. A system of education that is fully integrated with the educational landscape of many other countries, and which numbers among its former pupils personalities such as recent Nobel Prize laureate (in medicine), Thomas Sudhof and Jens Stoltenberg, the former Norwegian Prime Minister, whose words and actions following the Anders Breivik atrocities drew world-wide admiration, surely deserves greater attention to fact than this.
Tolerance is deeply embedded in the Steiner ethos and values around citizenship and respect for others are central throughout the curriculum. Indeed, OFSTED inspectors found that spiritual, moral, social and cultural development are excellent because of the importance given to these within the school curriculum (OFSTED report, Steiner Academy Hereford, July 2013 https://www.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/ELS/135672. Steiner schools have a long and respected track record for producing well-rounded young people with a strong sense of social responsibility.
Steiner education is a pragmatic, caring education in tune with the needs of the developing child and, as the waiting lists for the Steiner academies in Hereford, Frome, Exeter and Bristol show, it is an education that appeals to a significant number of parents. There are increasing numbers of people who are impressed by the remarkable success these schools have in developing a positive sense of ‘I can do’ and unlocking creativity in students. They may offer a limited number of GCSEs, however, a bit more research by Laura McInerney would have shown that the Steiner Academy Hereford offers five core GCSEs in Maths, Science, English Language, English Literature and Citizenship as well as a further three qualifications from Art, Music and Spanish GCSEs or Performing Arts and Craft Btecs. and some independent Steiner Schools offer more.
A quick glance at their timetable will show that pupils are engaged in an education programme that reaches way beyond the confines of GCSEs and the evidence is that most students go on to successfully study and achieve wide ranging qualifications at GCSE A level and beyond, often in subjects not previously studied at GCSE level. It is to the credit of this government and the previous one that they have recognised that ‘one size does not fit all’ and that different models of education do have a place within the mainstream provision in a post-modern society.
The Executive Group of Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship
Bristol Steiner School calls for memorabilia: Alumni and former teachers at Bristol Steiner School are being asked to gather memorabilia together in preparation for the school’s 40th anniversary. The school is holding a celebratory festival on Saturday, June 21 in its grounds on Redland Hill, Clifton, with past and present pupils expected to attend. Those with old photos and material relating to their years spent at the school are being asked to contribute it to a memorabilia collage wall that will be created in time for the event.
Students from Ringwood Waldorf School to take production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on tour to Sweden
1:00pm Sunday 18th May 2014 in News By Jane Reader
SWEDEN BOUND: Some of the cast from the Ringwood Waldorf School’s production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream
STUDENTS at a New Forest school will be visiting their teacher’s homeland of Sweden to tour their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The 24 teenagers from Ringwood Waldorf School have all been taught by Marika Bjerstrom since they were seven and this summer they will fulfil their dream of performing at five schools in and around Stockholm.
Ringwood Waldorf is a Steiner school that does not follow the national curriculum.
The schools the 14-year-olds will be visiting are also Steiner schools, including the one where their teacher was a pupil.
Marika said: “The children have been asking me from day one about Sweden and how much they would like to visit and I’m delighted to say that seven years later we’re now all going.
“They will stage three performances in Ringwood this month before embarking on the tour.”
All of the children have a part in the play – even the scenery is made up of pupils in costume and disguise.
The striking costumes, which were all designed by Marika, have been handmade by the students’ parents and a rehearsal camp was held over the Easter holidays.
School administrator Nigel Revill said: “Everyone has put so much hard work into putting on these performances.
“It is a truly magical show and we hope people in the local community come along to enjoy these performances.
“I know the students will have an amazing trip of a lifetime when they take their play on tour to Sweden.”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be held at the Ringwood Waldorf School on Friday May 23 and Saturday May 24.
All showings are at 7pm and the public are very welcome to attend.
For more information call 01425 472664.
The Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship supports the Save Childhood Movements’ call to the Government put the well-being of the child first in the early years (see below).
Steiner Waldorf Early Childhood education has, for over 90 years, been providing high quality provision for children up to the age of 7 (when they would normally begin formal education in Steiner schools).
Our kindergartens and early childhood centres provide a developmentally appropriate enabling environment with mixed age groups where children can thrive. Where child initiated play enables social, emotional and physical skills to flourish. Where communication and empathy are nurtured, along with creativity and imagination, and where the foundation skills of literacy, numeracy, science, awe, wonder and pure joy in life, provide the basis for lifelong learning. Our children have the time to develop towards a resilient, caring and creative adulthood.
Guided by well trained, qualified and caring adults, we, as an early childhood community, take care of ourselves, each other and the earth’s future well-being.
‘There are three primary virtues which we must develop in the child: gratitude, love and responsibility. These three virtues are the foundation on which the whole social life is built’. Rudolf Steiner.
To access the joint letter please go to https://www.toomuchtoosoon.org/160414-letter-to-the-political-parties.html
To access a pdf of the manifesto please go to https://www.savechildhood.net/putting-children-first.html www.savechildhood.net
A TIME FOR CHILDHOOD!
The recent push from both Ofsted’s Sir Michael Wilshaw regarding early formal education is misguided!
Research and experience across the world shows that allowing time for children to develop skills for life instead of ‘readiness for school’, is what is needed.
Steiner early childhood education and care provides a holistic approach enabling children from all backgrounds to develop essential skills such as speech, listening, physical and social in a nurturing and enabling play based environment supported by quality practitioners.
The later start to formal learning (6+ as is the case in Steiner Schools worldwide, and many countries where research and statistics show that children out-perform the UK where formal education begins at 4) lays the foundations for health, life-long learning and creativity. Parents are supported as partners in their child’s care and education, and the skills developed are secure, embedded and nurtured. Children enter school at 6+ motivated and excited about learning, having laid the foundations for formal literacy, numeracy and creativity and developed resilience and curiosity about the world and their place in it.
The main goals of Steiner Waldorf Early Childhood Care and Educations are to recognise and support each stage of child development by:
working with the child’s natural inclination to be active which develops resilience
using imitation, co-operation and example as educational tools rather than instruction and direction
supporting creative child-initiated play with open-ended materials enabling creativity and imagination to flourish
providing a good sensory experience in the nurturing and enabling environment
supporting the child’s personal, social and moral development, enabling them to know and love the world through awe and wonder
working with rhythm and repetition enabling the child to feel safe and secure
working in mixed age groups develops social skills such as good communication, care and empathy
protecting the child’s right to a healthy and appropriate childhood
You will find more information in the early years section and on the documents page of this website.
The announced closure of Aberdeen Waldorf School
The Steiner Waldorf Schools’ Fellowship regrets to hear of the announced planned closure for financial reasons of Aberdeen Waldorf School. We believe that AWS brought a much-valued diversity to schooling in the Aberdeen area & in Scotland generally alongside our other Scottish members. The SWSF has been aware of efforts by Aberdeen Waldorf School to enable wide & inclusive access to the Steiner Waldorf education. This has impacted on the school’s budget over the years & a recent critical inspection may have, in part, been a consequence of this. As contributors to a world-wide, collaboration of Steiner Waldorf educators, with approximately two thousand settings across the continents, it is a matter of sadness to lose a member school in this way. Our sympathies go to the colleagues, children & parents who will be losing a school that has provided a distinctive curriculum, opportunity for creative learning & a sense of community since it was first established in 1978.
Obituary: Karla Kiniger, teacher
Karla Kiniger: Steiner teacher who embraced a philosophy she assumed had been banned by the Nazis
by ALISON SHAW
Published on the 27 March 2014 00:00
Published 27/03/2014 00:00
Born: 4 November, 1921, in Hinterstoder, Austria. Died: 21 March, 2014, in Edinburgh, aged 92
Karolina Maria Anastasia Kiniger grew up in the idyllic surroundings of some of Austria’s most beautiful countryside, a picture postcard setting of towering mountains and crystal clear lakes.
The youngster, the eldest of four sisters, attended a convent school and had hoped to become a doctor but, as the Third Reich intruded inexorably into her homeland, she found herself living under the dark shadow of Nazi rule.
During the Second World War, after embarking on her studies at Vienna University following Austria’s annexation to Germany, she endured forced labour, under the so-called Voluntary Labour Service, on farmland in Sudetenland and Galicia, and never did fulfil her ambition to be a medic.
But, when the war was over, the opportunity to embrace a philosophy she assumed had been banned under the Nazis set her on the road to becoming a gifted and indefatigable teacher and ultimately led her to Edinburgh where her no-nonsense yet intuitive approach to education inspired generations of pupils.
She continued to teach until well into her 80s and remained respected and appreciated by her former pupils who helped her celebrate milestone birthdays decades after they had left her class.
As one acknowledged: “She educated you towards a sense of freedom of thought and, in doing so, she empowered you to confront the world when you left.”
The daughter of a farmer, who later became a postmaster, she was born in the village of Hinterstoder, in a valley in Upper Austria, surrounded by high peaks. She was educated at the local school before going on to the Freistadt Gymnasium for a year, after which she attended a girls’ school. When the family moved to the Salzkammergut, the spectacularly beautiful lake district right in the heart of Austria, she became a convent school pupil.
Church attendance was compulsory and there, aged 12, she became an agnostic, partly as a reaction to what she called “the Roman Catholic dictatorship”.
Just after the Anschluss in 1938 that saw Austria become part of Germany, she went to university in Vienna to study history and German.
Medicine was not pursued, partly because of the excruciating experience of having her tonsils removed under local anaesthetic – she vowed never to be in a position to inflict such pain on others.
Her studies were interrupted, however with duties for the Nazis, “voluntarily” working the land belonging to farmers in Sudetenland, on the border of Bohemia, and, in 1942, in Galicia, later part of Poland.
Miss Kiniger had seen Hitler in person more than once and many years later would use her eyewitness account to explain some of the history of the Second World War to her pupils.
During the Battle of Stalingrad, which raged over the autumn and winter of 1942-43, she had a vision of how future Soviet and Anglo-American interests would be mapped out in Europe, imagining northern Austria controlled by the Soviets and south of the Danube by the Americans. It was not until May 1945, after the Yalta conference earlier that year, that the demarcation followed that same line with the river separating the two zones.
After the war she lived in Linz on the Danube, staying with an aunt in the American sector south of the river while her parents’ home was in the north in the Russian area.
In 1946, at the instigation of one of her sisters, she attended a lecture on anthroposophy, the spiritual science founded on the work of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner.
She had not a clue what the subject was, save that it may well have been prohibited under Nazi rule. Once in the lecture hall, it was a revelation. Its ethos, based on a modern spiritual path of self-development that recognises and respects the freedom of every individual, immediately made sense to her and she began attending lectures and a study group.
She went on to study the dance-like art form eurythmy and creative eurythmy in Vienna and, in 1953, during a conference in Switzerland, met one of the Edinburgh Steiner School’s founding teachers, Inez Arnold. She was interviewed for a teaching post in Edinburgh but, before arriving in the Scots capital, spent a term learning English at Michael Hall School in Forest Row, East Sussex, Britain’s oldest Steiner School.
Miss Kiniger began teaching in Edinburgh in 1954, initially doing creative eurythmy with individual pupils and giving German lessons, before becoming a class teacher – a role performed by each teacher for a period of eight years at a time. Her charges ranged from age six to 14.
In the early 1970s she took her class of approximately 36 on a two-month exchange visit to a Steiner school in Vienna. A formidable presence, she brooked no nonsense on the three-day train journey, even managing to keep an eye on mischief-makers at three in the morning.
The trip was an extraordinary experience for the youngsters and much of their daily lesson concentrated on the Second World War. Their teacher was able to give them a personal insight not only into the history of the conflict but, having witnessed the Fuhrer in real life, could describe his deep blue eyes and the inexplicable charismatic quality that allowed him to influence so many people in pursuit of his abhorrent aims.
Also during the 1970s she was asked to visit Russia, to meet others interested in anthroposophy. The movement was still underground at that time and much care was taken in preparation for her journey, one that she repeated regularly for another 30 years.
She took a sabbatical in 1974-75, travelling to New Zealand where she also taught. She returned to Scotland, via Russia on the Trans Siberian Express, and set up the Steiner teacher training course in Edinburgh in 1976 with colleague Lawrence Edwards.
A stocky powerhouse of a woman, known for both her spiritual insight and clear opinions, her contribution to the school was enormous, practically and spiritually.
She continued to teach until about ten years ago and remained active in the Anthroposophical Society, locally and internationally. She also enjoyed a large network of friends and acquaintances and kept her sharp mind fully occupied with interests including reading, music, opera, current affairs and scientific advances.
On her 90th birthday she was invited to address the entire Steiner school during assembly and did so without a microphone, her words leaving a deep impression on every pupil from six to 18.
She is survived by one sister, her nephew and nieces.
Crochet in Court
Taking the unusual step of entering a national court competition by fielding two teams from one class, with students of all abilities participating rather than taking a gifted and talented group forward as many schools do, Steiner Academy Hereford came away from the local heat in Hereford on Saturday 15th March with 1st and 2nd place. In addition to clearly strong team performances in a variety of formal legal roles, Bethan Glennon won the cup for the best defendant, and Oliver Meiklejohn and Louie Ablett won the cup for the best defence lawyers.
The Magistrates Court Mock Trial is a national competition organised by the Citizenship Foundation and magistrate courts with support from local charities. Teams for the competition consist of 13 students, with each taking a role as either a magistrate, prosecution or defence lawyer, prosecution or defence witness, defendant, legal advisor / clerk and usher. Each student explores their particular perspective on the case (one ‘Jaz Henry’ accused of dishonestly handling stolen goods – a bicycle) and is required to step into their part as fully as possible. In the competition itself they participate in two heats, one when the prosecution lawyers and witnesses have to play their part, and another when it is the turn of the defence team. Three judges, drawn from the bench and the police, mark students’ performances against national criteria. This includes observing each heat in court as well as the deliberations of those students playing the part of magistrates discussing the merits of the case in the retiring room.
The contribution of local magistrates was invaluable in supporting the students. Leigh Brazewell, organiser of the local heat, visited the school to give an overview of the justice system in the UK. As in previous years, discussion around more severe sentences for crimes involving discrimination or prejudice, whether involving a person’s race, gender, sexual orientation or vulnerability, provided a salutary context for incidences of careless classroom talk that can challenge all teenagers. Magistrates Michael Wilcox and Michael Ward also supported the class with astute and invaluable feedback on their performances during weekly run-throughs.
Somewhat unexpectedly, the teams from Steiner Academy Hereford also drew attention from the judges for their innovative crocheted red and blue badges, worn to distinguish whether they were either defending or prosecuting the case in one of the two heats. The “nimble fingers – nimble minds” and “slow-burn” pedagogy of Steiner Waldorf education and the uniqueness of the school as the first state funded Steiner Waldorf school in the UK, returned a number of times during conversations between the school’s teachers and visiting dignitaries, as verdicts were awaited and students calmed.
Preparation for this competition began just before Christmas 2013 for the current Class VIII (year 9). Since September, the class had been taking a weekly ‘Justice’ lesson, exploring both retributive and restorative forms of justice around the world. It so happened that the class visited the history of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the weeks before Nelson Mandela passed. The balance of reconciliation and punishment within justice and the relationship between ethics and law has formed a basis and ongoing theme of the students’ work. Preparation for the competition itself allowed the students to engage with the professional challenges of putting these issues into practice. Whilst the school has previously participated in the competition this has been the first year that the project has been fully integrated into the curriculum for a whole class. It has offered the students a powerful experience of participation and commitment, beyond perhaps their success. In a broader context, the growing place of citizenship studies in the UK, exemplified by this competition, is converging well with the goal of Steiner Waldorf education, expressed by the Steiner Academy Hereford’s vision as cultivating the ‘moral imagination’ of ‘free thinking individuals’.
Paul Hougham, March 2014
Steiner School Kings Langley Students visit CERN
9:54am Tuesday 18th March 2014 in Your Contributions
From the 9th to 11th March 14 students from the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley and 16 students from Michael Hall (another Steiner school in Sussex) went on a trip to CERN in Geneva. CERN is the leading particle Physics research centre in the world. The pupils had a chance to see some of the experiments carried out there first hand, and to talk to the Scientists, technicians and engineers who make it happen. The trip included a chance to see the beautiful city of Geneva, visit the Geneva car show, visit the chemistry and Physics departments of the University of Geneva, visit the CERNs museums and the highlight of the trip, the tour of CERN.
The tour took four hours. It included an introductory lecture, a visit to the cryogenic testing facility where the giant magnets used in the large hadron collider (LHC) are tested. We then had a visit to CMS, one of the experiment sites. We were lucky that the experiment was not running as it enabled us to travel 100 metres underground and look at the huge particle detector they have assembled down there in a cavern. The trip was a huge success and enjoyed by all.