Frequently Asked Questions about
Literacy and age-appropriate learning
When do pupils begin formal learning?
Pupils start formal learning (i.e. writing, reading and numeracy) in Class One at the age of six, the norm in many European countries and an approach supported by a significant body of research. Cognitive skills can be introduced with relative ease if children have first had the opportunity to develop speech, co-ordination and their relationship to themselves, others and the world around them during the pre-school years and in Kindergarten.
Why do you start by teaching upper case letters in class one?
Upper case letters have more characteristic forms, they are less confusing and easier for the children to distinguish and remember. Also, because historically the lower case letters evolved from the Roman Capitals, when the time comes to introduce lower case, one can show the children how this evolution took place, giving them a real understanding of the relationships between the two forms of the letters. (with thanks to Alison Gebert)
The Class Teacher period
What if a child does not get on with their class teacher? (given that the teacher may be with the child for a number of years)
The teacher’s professional responsibility is heightened when children are in their charge for a number of years. Problems cannot be ‘passed down the line’ but have to be addressed. The teacher and children come to know and understand each other in a deep way, respecting both strengths and weaknesses. The children feel themselves to be known, the teacher feels more accountable and the working together between teacher and parents becomes more meaningful.
Transferring to and from other schools
How do children adjust when they transfer to one of our schools?
The standards in Steiner schools are high and the breadth of subjects covered by the Steiner curriculum is extensive and it can take time to adjust to this, although most settle very quickly. It is not uncommon to observe new children waking up to the possibility of actually enjoying school and learning for the very first time.
Is science teaching is at odds with current scientific beliefs?
The science subjects begin with the close observation and direct experience of physical phenomena, rather than with a description of prevailing theories and models. An emphasis on a holistic ‘outward looking’ approach is maintained throughout the upper school. Students start the upper school with a Main Lesson on Sustainability, and an introduction to digital technologies. This reflects our strong links with the natural environment. In the upper school, students are encouraged to extend their evaluations of scientific developments by considering social, economic, environmental, and ethical implications. Students are also shown how to develop specific skills that enable them to independently organise their own scientific investigations. When applying these investigative skills, students follow a standard systematic methodology, based on evidence, as understood by scientists the world over.
Do Steiner schools teach religion?
In most Steiner schools there is a regular religious education lesson in which the aim is to cultivate a moral mood towards the world and our fellow human beings. In the younger classes a sense of wonder, respect and reverence is central. In the older classes the focus is on the phenomena of idealism, striving and overcoming adversity. Story material from all sources, including a broad range of folk and religious traditions, together with the biographies of inspiring individuals is used.
Is the Steiner Academy a faith school?
No. Steiner schools are non-sectarian and non-denominational. They educate all children, regardless of their cultural or religious backgrounds. The pedagogical method is comprehensive and aims to foster a recognition and understanding of all the world cultures and religions. Steiner schools are not part of any church. They espouse no particular religious doctrine but are based on a belief that there is a spiritual dimension to the human being and to all of life. Parents from a broad spectrum of religious, spiritual and philosophical backgrounds send their children to Steiner schools.
Temperaments and labelling
Are pupils labelled according to their temperaments?
Labelling of any kind can be at odds with good educational practice, although a variety of ways of categorising child and adult behaviour are used in education and psychology generally. Steiner described how a knowledge of four temperamental types can make the teacher’s work more effective, especially in the class teacher years (age 6 – 14). It offers a way of working with each child’s individual and distinctive style in a collective, classroom context and gives the teacher an additional means of understanding each child.
How do we know that pupils are making progress?
The teacher stays with one group of pupils for up to seven years in the lower school and his or her knowledge of the child is therefore very extensive. An emphasis on formative and on-going assessment reduces the dependence on, and the anxiety related to, testing. Teachers and parents work closely together in order to build a picture of the child that helps everyone to understand and support that child’s development. Parents receive a detailed written report at the end of each school year.
Continuous assessment is integral to the teaching method. This works well in a system whereby one teacher remains with the same group of children over a period of years. This allows the teacher to get to know each pupil extremely well and reduces the dependency on performance data from tests.
Is the Steiner Academy opposed to immunisation/vaccinations?
The decision to immunise (or not) is a matter for parents. Opposition to immunisation or to any other national strategy forms no part of our educational approach.
Statement of ECSWE 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. The European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education is an associative body for representatives of national Steiner Waldorf School organisations both within and beyond the borders of the European Union.
This Statement was agreed by members of the ECSWE meeting in Copenhagen on 21st January 2001.
Is Steiner education old-fashioned?
Educational questions that Steiner raised and to which he offered answers nearly a century ago are as pressing now as ever. So much that is being recommended by contemporary educationalists finds its reflection in Steiner schools including the place of creativity and the later introduction to formal learning.
Contemporary and popular commentators such as Daniel Goldman (Emotional Intelligence), Howard Gardner (Multiple Intelligence), Sue Palmer (Toxic Childhood), Aric Sigman (Remotely Controlled) and Richard Loovs (Last Child in the Woods) offer modern perspectives on the challenges facing educators, parents and children that find parallels in the writings of Steiner.
Because the education offered in Steiner schools is directed not from outside or above but by the teachers themselves through their collaborative working, they have the opportunity to respond promptly and imaginatively to the challenges that come towards them.
Screen entertainment and TV
What do our schools recommend about television viewing and IT?
A familiarity with all the technologies that surround us and influence our lives is an essential part of a complete education. There is growing evidence, however, that too much ‘screen time’ is detrimental to children and Steiner schools do not shy away from engaging in critical debate about the appropriate use of computers, TV and DVD. Computers are generally used by students at secondary age and not earlier. They very quickly master the necessary ICT skills and many go on to successful careers in the computer, film and TV industries.
Where do they go when they leave your school?
From SWSF website in the section `Does it Work?` http://www.ste
Steiner pupils have succeeded in a great variety of activities in their professional and personal lives: actors, engineers, scientists, academics, journalists, politicians, documentary makers, comedians, models, professional sportsmen and women, musicians (classical, rock, pop, jazz), architects included.
Beyond the headline celebrities there are countless people for whom Steiner education has played a key role in enabling them to live successful and fulfilled lives. Web-sites, brochures and DVD’s can go some way towards explaining how the education works, but the most telling testimony is that of ex-pupils themselves, of their parents who made this choice and of the people who work with Steiner educated scholars once they have taken their place in the world.
Movement, Eurythmy and Games
What is eurythmy?
Eurythmy is a form of movement that attempts to make visible the tone and feeling of music and speech. It helps to develop concentration, self-discipline, spatial and aesthetic awareness and a sensitivity to others. Eurythmy lessons follow the themes of the curriculum, exploring rhyme, meter, story, and geometric forms
Different Learning Needs
What provision is made for pupils with different learning needs?
A child’s weaknesses in one area – whether cognitive, emotional or physical – is viewed as usually balanced by strengths in another area. It is the teacher’s job to try to bring the child’s whole being into balance and to offer a differentiated approach in the classroom in order to meet a wide range of abilities. Most schools employ SEN specialists to support the class and subject teachers.
Inclusion and Differentiation,
Whole class teaching is combined with individualised and differentiated learning. Imaginative engagement with the lesson material allows all learners, regardless of strengths, weaknesses and learning styles, to work at different levels within their class group.