Thursday, May 17, 2012

School Starting Age: Time for a Rethink.

The SWSF supports the call from Dr Richard House, education campaigner and child psychologist, for a new approach to early childhood education in the light of current research. Dr. House, in a speech to the Westminster Education Forum, claims that there is now sufficient evidence that an early school starting age is bad for children. He is calling on the Prime Minister to intervene and wants to see the following action from the government:
  • make the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) voluntary rather than statutory;
  • extend the EYFS to the end of the sixth year;
  • consider, via an independent inquiry, raising the statutory school starting age to 6
  • allow schools the flexibility to allow children to repeat a year
In Steiner schools 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 to which Dr. House makes reference. 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.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Science teaching in Steiner Schools

The SWSF response to the letter in the Observer, Sunday May 13th, re. `pseudoscience`.

The letter invoking fear of `pseudoscience` in proposed Free Schools (Observer Sunday 13 May) suggests that Steiner education poses a `grave threat to science education`, whilst offering no evidence to support the statement. Is an evidence-based approach not central to all good science? In Steiner schools it certainly is. In Steiner schools all science teaching
begins with the close observation and direct experience of physical phenomena in order to gather evidence, rather than with a description of prevailing theories and models. An open mind as to causes and first principles is encouraged. Conclusions and concepts are then derived from the observations and finally the theories that explain the whole are introduced. This approach reflects the way that science has developed historically. It is an approach that resulted in the 2006 PISA study into Austrian Steiner schools concluding that state schools could learn from Steiner methods `especially concerning science teaching`; an approach which led to the same recommendation from a National Academies report in the USA; an approach that assists Steiner pupils in their generally excellent results in GCSE science subjects;  an approach that has produced scientific alumni such as John Fitzallen Moore, Prof. Dr. Wolf-Christian Dullo and Kristen Nygaard, and an approach favoured by the parents who want their children to receive a scientific education that empowers them to question, enthuses them to explore, and equips them with a context in which to consider the ethical and moral issues that surround science. The `grave threat` our youngsters face is one posed by science-as-orthodoxy, not by an educational approach that is rigorous, open-minded and questioning.
Alan Swindell 

Friday, May 11, 2012

A New Baby is Due: Early Years news from the North of England.

A new baby is due to be born this autumn! It is the North of England Steiner Waldorf Early Childhood Studies programme (NESWEC) which will provide an initial early childhood training course based in the York Steiner School. The validation will be identical with the London Waldorf Early Childhood course, with Edexcel through Crossfields Institute, and our intention is to have both these courses placed on the national frameworks in England and Scotland as soon as possible so that they will provide a valid early years qualification, now necessary for working in early years settings in these countries. Currently the London course is the only one available in Britain and a new course based further north will be its ideal complement.
The three year structure, the assignment load, and the costs will all be comparable with the London course. The core tutor team will include the tutors from the Plymouth Foundation Degree and we intend to bring to this new course the strengths of our Plymouth experience. These include strong support for our students, an open and interested attitude towards the wider world of early childhood studies and the essential balance of thinking, feeling and willing throughout the course.
  • We aim to provide a high quality, nationally validated and accredited course in Steiner Waldorf principles and practice that will attract students from outside the Waldorf movement as well those already involved in Steiner Waldorf schools and settings.
  • The taught sessions for the first two years will take place on 10 weekend residentials in the York Steiner School and 2 five-day residentials annually in Elmfield Rudolf Steiner School, Stourbridge.
  • The third year will be a full time work placement in a Steiner setting supported by a work placement tutor and including 3 weekend residentials, leading to a level 5 qualification. This is equivalent to a Foundation Degree. (Level 6 is equivalent to a Bachelor’s Degree and we hope that it may be possible to provide a Steiner Waldorf early childhood course to this level in future.)
We are looking for seed money for setting up the course and would welcome any offers of grants or loans that might assist us. We are also ready to receive expressions of interest from potential students. You can contact me via our web-site at , e-mail me at or write to me at 132 High Lane, Brown Edge, Staffordshire, ST6 8RU.
I look forward to hearing from you
Jill Taplin
On behalf of the NESWEC core tutor group