What is a Steiner school?

Steiner education……

  • Works for all children irrespective of academic ability, class, ethnicity or religion;
  • Takes account of the needs of the whole child – academic, physical, emotional and spiritual;
  • Is based on an understanding of the relevance of the different phases of child development;
  • Develops a love of learning and an enthusiasm for school;
  • Sees artistic activity and the development of the imagination as integral to learning;
  • Is tried and tested and is part of state funded, mainstream provision in most European countries;Is respected worldwide for its ability to produce very able young people who have a strong sense of self and diverse capacities that enable them to become socially and economically responsible citizens.

 Who was Rudolf Steiner?

Rudolf Steiner (1861 – 1925) was an innovative academic born in Austria whose ideas founded the basis of Anthroposophy.

He applied his ideas to education as well as agriculture, medicine, architecture and social reform. The Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship acknowledges Rudolf Steiner as the founding inspiration of modern day Steiner schools, but does not promote Anthroposophy or endorse every aspect of it.

Rudolf Steiner and Steiner Schools

The first Steiner school opened in Stuttgart in 1919 for children of workers at the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory. The school’s benefactor was managing director, Emil Molt, who asked Dr Rudolf Steiner to found and lead the school in its early stages.

This philosopher and scientist’s insights inspired what has become a worldwide movement of schools that espouse and promote universal human values, educational pluralism and meaningful teaching and learning opportunities. This progressive, international schools movement is noted by educationalists, doctors, policy-makers and parents for the effective education that it offers children. The ideas and principles which inform the education provide a credible and thoughtful perspective to the debate on education and human development.

Steiner schools are always co-educational, fully comprehensive and take pupils from 3 to ideally eighteen. They welcome children of all abilities from all faiths and backgrounds.

The priority of the Steiner ethos is to provide an unhurried and creative learning environment where children can find the joy in learning and experience the richness of childhood rather than early specialisation or academic hot-housing. The curriculum itself is a flexible set of pedagogical guidelines, founded on Steiner’s principles that take account of the whole child. It gives equal attention to the physical, emotional, intellectual, cultural and spiritual needs of each pupil and is designed to work in harmony with the different phases of the child’s development. The core subjects of the curriculum are taught in thematic blocks and all lessons include a balance of artistic, practical and intellectual content. Whole class, mixed ability teaching is the norm.

Steiner education has proved itself adaptable. More than 80 years after the first Steiner school was started in central Europe, this education continues to inspire people from all walks of life and in all parts of the world. Steiner schools have a reputation for producing well-rounded and balanced human beings who are able to cope with the demands of a fast-changing and uncertain world. Steiner graduates are highly sought-after in further education and work place for their unjaded interest in the world and their resourcefulness.

The Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship outlines ten key points that make Steiner education distinctive.
1. Creativity
The use of drawing, painting, music, movement, poetry, modelling and drama enhances the learning experience in all subjects. A high value is placed on play in the early years, imagination in the middle school and creative thinking at secondary level. This encourages a strong sense for the artistic and cultural life and is supported by an aesthetic teaching environment.
2. Continuity
In many Steiner schools the children are with the same class teacher from first to sixth class, supported by a range of subject teachers. Key subjects are taught in `Main lessons`: blocks of up to four weeks of the same topic, usually for two hours every morning, allowing for depth, integration and focus. The rhythms of the day, week, month and year give a context that is enhanced by seasonal celebration.
3. Activity
There is a central place for structured movement, the out-door environment and learning through doing across the entire age-range. The school timetable may include traditional games, sports, eurythmy, gymnastics, drama productions and an extensive programme of hand crafts and the development of manual skills.
4. The Individual and Society
Social and emotional skills are fostered in a variety of ways: by the recognition of childhood as a time of wonder, by the family-like environment of the extended Early Years, by the provision of clear adult authority and guidance and by the exploration of global and social perspectives at secondary level.
5. 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.
6. The Spoken Word
The oral and narrative tradition is brought to life though recitation, drama and an extensive use of poetry, stories, myths and legends from all cultures, often told rather than read. Modern languages are taught, ideally two, from age six.
7. Age-appropriate
Not too soon, not too late. The lesson content and its method of presentation are linked to the children’s emotional, social, physical and intellectual development. Formal education, which begins at age six, is introduced in a way and at a pace that respects the child’s developmental journey.
8. Assessment
The unique qualities of each child can be observed and described, but not always measured. The development of every pupil is closely monitored, mainly through ongoing formative assessment and in-depth study.
9. Excellence
Every pupil is expected to give of their best across all disciplines, thus avoiding one-sidedness and early specialisation. Hard-work, determination and good teaching can always build on innate ability.
10. Context
Steiner schools form the largest group of independent, non-denominational schools in the world. Many are state funded. The first school was opened in Germany in 1919. There are currently over 1,000 Steiner schools worldwide. There are over 2,000 Early Years settings in a total of 64 different countries.