Monday, October 26, 2009

Edinburgh Rudolf Steiner School pupil success

Edinburgh pupil ranked joint highest in Higher physics exam

Published Date: 24 October 2009

Edinburgh school pupil Tommy Shinton has been ranked joint highest in Scotland for the mark he achieved in his Higher physics exam.

Edinburgh Rudolf Steiner School pupil, Tommy Shinton, has subsequently been invited by the Institute of Physics in Scotland to attend this year's Science and the Parliament event at Dynamic Earth to receive a prize for his efforts.The event, on 11 November, will be attended by Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon, who will also award the prizes. Tommy gained five grade A band one awards at Higher.

Edinburgh Evening News newspaper.

Friday, October 16, 2009

press release Cambridge Primary Review

16th October, 2009

Cambridge Primary Review – response from the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship

The Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship, the association for Steiner education in the UK & Ireland, welcomes the findings of Robin Alexanders Cambridge Primary Review. In our view, Professor Alexander has examined the evidence rigorously. His conclusions will not be a surprise to educators in most of continental Europe, nor to many unheard voices here who believe that in the long term, children benefit from a later starting age for formal learning.

Steiner schools provide an educational environment where the young child's innate curiosity & ability to learn can be strengthened through play and through a range of experiences: linguistic, mathematical, practical, social, spatial & physical. Our approach has a long and well respected track record that shows that high quality, but non-academic, early years education lays the foundations for good social & academic skills & for life-long learning.

We are convinced that a later start to formal learning allows children to experience the joy of learning without unhealthy stress or the risk of early burn-out.

Professor Alexander has reached his conclusions out of a deep concern for the well-being of all children & after lengthy consultation & detailed analysis. His report deserves the title 'independent' & for the sake of our future and we hope that his findings are taken seriously.

Children Start School Too Young

From The Times
October 16 2009
Children start school too young — wait till they are 6, experts say

John OLeary

Formal schooling should be delayed until children reach 6, according to the biggest review of primary education for more than 40 years.
The Cambridge Primary Review, published today, says that five-year-olds should continue with the play-based curriculum used in nursery schools. Trying to teach literacy and numeracy at such an early age is 'counterproductive' and can put children off school, according to the committee that produced the report.
Professor Robin Alexander, the report’s editor, called for a debate about whether to raise the age of compulsory schooling, which has been set at 5 since 1870. But the review was more concerned about the style of learning offered in state schools.
Successive governments’ insistence on the earliest possible start to formal schooling went against the grain of international evidence, he said. Children who started school at the age of 6 or 7 often overtook English pupils in tests of reading before the start of secondary education.

Most continental countries start school later than in Britain, preparing children for formal classes through extended nursery education. The review proposes a similar model for England, continuing the current Foundation Stage for an extra year and following it with a single stage of primary education taking children to the age of 11.

The suggestion was not supported by the Government or the Opposition.
Dame Gillian Pugh, who chaired the review’s advisory committee, said: “If you introduce a child to too formal a curriculum before they are ready, you are not taking into account where children are in terms of their learning and their capacity to develop.”

A separate review, by Sir Jim Rose, that was commissioned and accepted by the Government, called for four-year-olds to go straight into primary reception classes. But Sir Jim recommended that parents be able to defer their child’s entry to school by up to a year if they felt they were not ready.
Chris Woodhead, the former Chief Inspector of Schools, who undertook a more limited review of primary teaching for the previous Conservative Government with both Professor Alexander and Sir Jim, said he feared a later start would lead to lower standards: “It is reasonable when children arrive at school for the emphasis to be on socialisation, but I see no reason to postpone the start of formal learning.”
John Bangs, of the National Union of Teachers, described the proposal as an “innovative idea” that deserved support: “We have seen problems with early admission to reception classes. It is an absolutely crucial stage of a child’s development and I think there is merit in extending the Foundation Stage.” The 600-page report, entitled Children, their World, their Education, says that many practitioners believe that the principles shaping pre-school education should govern children’s experience of primary school at least until the age of 6, if not 7. The Welsh Assembly has already extended the Foundation Stage to the age of 7.
Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, said that it would be a backward step not to make sure children were learning as well as playing through the Foundation Stage and beyond. “It is vital to get children playing and learning from an early age.”
Funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and based at the University of Cambridge, the review took six years and drew on 4,000 pieces of evidence. It depicts primary schools struggling with interference from the Government and its agencies, but remaining “fundamentally in good heart” .
Professor Alexander said: “There is room for improvement but, after 20 years of pretty continuous change and reform, how could it be otherwise?” The introduction of more specialist teachers would help schools cope with the modern curriculum, he said.

Professor Alexander described the “crisis of childhood” as a media obsession and said it was evident mainly among those from poor backgrounds, who were farther behind their peers than those in comparable countries.
The review accuses the Government of abandoning the convention that it did not dictate how children were taught, and imposing a “state theory of learning” through its literacy and numeracy strategies. Such policies’ “Stalinist overtones” had produced an air of pessimism and powerlessness in the teaching profession. Existing tests at the end of primary school should be scrapped, the review says, and replaced by assessment of the whole curriculum, rather than just English, mathematics and science.

It describes politicians’ exclusive focus on ensuring that children can read, write and add up as narrower than that in Victorian elementary schools.Among the changes recommended by the review are longer training for graduates intending to teach in primary schools which, it says, should take two years not one, and a review of special educational needs. Long summer holidays might also be reduced.
Professor Alexander said that the review was intended to inform long-term planning, not “pre-election pointscoring”. The main parties nevertheless seized on the findings.

Nick Gibb, the Shadow Schools Minister, said: “We agree that the wave of bureaucracy over the past decade has been deeply damaging and we must trust teachers more. We also agree that we need more specialist training for primary teachers.” However, the Conservatives would not support a delay in the start of formal schooling.
Vernon Coaker, the Schools Minister, said: “It’s disappointing that a review which purports to be so comprehensive is not up to speed on changes in primaries. The world has moved on since this review was started.”
Mr Coaker added: “We’re putting in place fundamental reforms following Sir Jim Rose’s primary review, to make the curriculum less prescriptive. A school starting age of 6 would be completely counterproductive — we want to make sure children are playing and learning from an early age and to give parents the choice for their child to start in the September following their fourth birthday.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Two schools win right to ditch early years curriculum

from Times Online Friday October 2nd 2009

(Richard Pohle)
Rosemary Bennett, Social Affairs Correspondent

Children at Steiner schools do not use electronic technology until they are seven

Two schools have won the right to opt out of the controversial early years “nappy” curriculum after ministers dropped a commitment that no pre-school child would be exempt.
After their successful appeals, the two Steiner schools will no longer be required to meet the Government’s targets, including making children aged 3 and 4 write simple sentences using punctuation or start to use phonics.
The two schools, which are the first to be allowed to opt out, argued that the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) clashed with the Steiner philosophy, which does not believe that children benefit from the formal teaching of subjects such as English language until they are 7.
They also do not introduce “electronic gadgetry” until children reach that age

When ministers first published the curriculum, which contains 69 different measures for the progress and development of under-5s, they made clear that childminders and all nurseries and schools, state and private, would have to implement it.

The assessment criteria includes being able to dress and undress, sounding out letters, children writing their own name, and using some electronic equipment.
Victory for the two schools, the Wynstones School in Gloucestershire and North London Rudolf Steiner School in Haringey, means that the 40 or so other Steiner schools seeking an opt-out are likely to be given the go-ahead.
Their success has also stiffened the resolve of the many preparatory schools who oppose the curriculum.

John Tranmer, chairman of the Independent Association of Prep Schools, said that it would back any of its 600 members who wanted to opt out.
“We are keen to support any member in asserting their independence, their right to determine what is best for children in their care. If that involves disapplication from EYFS they will have our backing,” he said.

Critics say such a prescriptive set of measurements is not suitable for young children because they develop at such different rates. Most unpopular is the expectation that children should be able to write a sentence with punctuation by the time they reach 5.

Professor Richard House, spokesman for the Open EYE campaign against the curriculum, said that he hoped the victory would open the floodgates for others to opt out.
“When schools share the views of these Steiner schools about literacy and numeracy for such young children it will be hard for the Government to treat them differently,” he said.
“We hope it will also help form a more general legal challenge against the Government’s decision to set compulsory goals for children below the compulsory age of education.”
He admitted that the Government had made the appeal process so difficult that a school would have to be very determined to see it through.

Schools must win the backing of more than half their parents, warn them that funding might be cut and state why they are incapable of meeting each of the targets before they can even get leave to apply.