Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Article Published in the Guardian 15th December 2013: “Free Schools: why the fight goes on” by Zoe Williams

In an unashamedly partisan article, attacking free schools in general, the writer has chosen to repeat unfounded allegations made in a brief BBC South West news report on the opening of the Steiner Academy Frome.

The writer quotes from a statement made by a local resident opposing the new Academy. The writer describes those remarks as “mild”. In the interest of making her more general point, she then goes on to make an explicit link between Rudolf Steiner (miss-spelt “Rudolph”) & Nazism. Apart from the anachronism (Steiner died in 1925, a point conceded by the speaker she quotes), this linkage hides the fact that the Waldorf School founded by Steiner was closed by the Nazis as being inimical to their aims, prohibition on the admission of pupils being introduced in 1936 ( Furthermore, the writer ignored information in the public domain from the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (, or similar organizations ( That these might be considered biased in favour of this form of education, is no defense when uncritical use is made of blogs & other sources in which there is extreme prejudice against everything Steiner Waldorf schools stand for. Andy Lewis, for example, is quoted without regard to the fact that he is an activist preparing a market for his book on the subject. Lewis has, by his own admission, never visited a Waldorf school. He, in turn, draws copiously from the writings of a minor USA-based academic & self-styled Anarchist historian, Peter Staudenmaier. Staudenmaier recently stated in a lecture, “I’m a person who makes copious use of insinuation and innuendo in polemical contexts. I’m a big fan of using those as a way of getting a point across.” He is also someone who has been found for the invention of references that suit his tendentious purpose.

The evidence of Steiner Waldorf schools in practice should quickly dispel any doubts that the schools represent anything other than a serious & thorough educational contribution to young people learning in an enlightened & humane environment. To the specific allegation that our international & multi-cultural schools are in some way informed by ideology of racial, or any other form of supremacy, an independent academic study conducted in Germany concluded the opposite. An empirical study by Christian Pfeiffer of Lower Saxony’s Criminological Research Institute (2007) concluded that 15-16 year old showed pupils in German Waldorf schools far less likely to respond with approval to stereotyping of any sort .

For more information –

Monday, November 25, 2013

Elmfield wins Independent Schools Award

Elmfield has won the 2013 Independent Schools Award for the headline category of Education Initiative of the Year. This reflects the focus on a fully-rounded education where exams are only one part of the picture.

The judges were particularly impressed with the upper school’s morning modules, main lessons and creative Waldorf curriculum. Jason Pond, on behalf of the staff, was presented with the award by the guest speaker, John McCarthy, at a packed award ceremony in Nottingham with over 250 delegates from schools across the UK. Earlier this year the school was also shortlisted for the 2013 Pearson Teaching Awards and the 2013 Times Educational Supplement Awards.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Milo’s heroes give him top tips

10:00am Tuesday 19th November 2013 in News A RINGWOOD teenager has won an international sailing event – and met Olympic legends. Milo Gill-Taylor, 13, a pupil at the Ringwood Waldorf School, won the Junior Gold Cup in Bermuda and got to meet his heroes Sir Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy.

The talented youngster qualified for the contest after winning the GBR Optimist Selection Trials and becoming British National Champion. What he didn’t know was that he would also be running coaching sessions for disadvantaged Bermudan sailors alongside the stellar sailors, and staying in the same family home as Sir Ben and Percy. Milo said: “When we arrived in Bermuda Ben Nicholls, whose house we were staying at, came to get us from the airport. As we came out of the airport he said there was someone else in the car – then Ben Ainslie stepped out. “I was stunned but he is a really, really nice guy – it was incredible.”

Spending so much time with Sir Ben - the most successful Olympic sailor in history with his haul of five consecutive medals - along with double Olympic champion Iain Percy, proved to be inspirational. Going into the last day Milo was ten points behind the Australian sailor Max Quirk, and looked an unlikely winner. But Milo came from behind to win the final honours. And the experienced sailors were on hand to give him some advice. “They had just done their semi-final of the Bermuda Gold Cup,” said Milo. “They told me what to expect, which side was favouring and what the wind was doing. When Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy tell you things like this you listen. Winning the event was amazing but staying in the same team house as Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy and their team was beyond anything I could have imagined.”

Milo is now setting his sights on the Winter Championships and events in Vigo, Palma, Palamos and Garda. Waldorf School administrator Nigel Revill said: “Everyone at the school is thrilled at Milo’s success. “He is such a talented student who does so well combining his school life with a very promising future in sailing.”

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Waldorf graduate gets a Nobel prize

Autobiography – Thomas C. Südhof When I was born in Göttingen in 1955, the aftermaths of the second world war were still reverberating. I was born into an anthroposophical family. My maternal grandparents had been early followers for Rudolf Steiner’s teaching, and worked for Waldorf schools when Hitler assumed power and banned the anthrophosophical movement. Waldorf schools were closed, and my grandfather was conscripted to work in a chemical munitions factory – it was a miracle he survived the war. My uncle was drafted into the army right out of school, and when I was born, he had just returned from the Soviet Union after 10 years as a prisoner of war. My parents were physicians, with my father pursuing a career in academic medicine, while my mother cared for our growing family. My father’s training led him to the United States during the time I was born; as a result, he learned of my arrival by telegram as he was learning biochemical methods in San Francisco, where in a twist of fate I now live. I spent my childhood in Göttingen and Hannover, and graduated from the Hannover Waldorf school in 1975. I had been interested in many different subjects as a student, any subject except sports. I did not know what to do with my life after school, except that I was determined not to serve in the military. More by default than by vocation, I thus decided to enter medical school, which kept all avenues open for a possible career in science or as a practitioner of something useful – being a physician – and allowed me to defer my military service. I studied first in Aachen, the beautiful former capital of Charles the Great, and then transferred to Göttingen, the former scientific center of the Weimar republic, in order to have better access to laboratory training since I became more and more interested in science. Soon after arriving in Göttingen, I decided to join the Dept. of Neurochemistry of Prof. Victor P. Whittaker at the Max-Planck-Institut für biophysikalische Chemie. I was attracted to this department because it focused on biochemical approaches to probe the function of the brain, following up on Whittaker’s discovery of synaptosomes in the two preceding decades, his development of methods to purify synaptic vesicles, and his increasing interest in the cell biology of synaptic vesicle exo- and endocytosis. As a lowly ‘Hiwi’ (‘Hilfswissenschaftler’ for ‘helping scientist’) in Whittaker’s department, I was assigned the task of examining the biophysical structure of chromaffin granules, which are large secretory vesicles of the adrenal medulla that store catecholamines and ATP. Although my project developed well, I started exploring other questions in parallel as I became more and more familiar with doing experiments, while simultaneously studying medicine at the university. I am infinitely grateful to Victor Whittaker for giving me complete freedom in his department in pursuing whatever I thought was interesting, and continued working in his department after my graduation from medical school and my internship in 1982, until I moved to the US in 1983. Among the studies I performed during my time in Whittaker’s department in Göttingen, the most significant is probably the isolation and characterization of a new family of calciumbinding proteins that we called ‘calelectrins’ because we had purified them from the electric organ of Torpedo marmorata. ‘Calelectrins’ were among the first identified members of an enigmatic and evolutionarily ancient family of calcium-binding proteins called annexins. Annexins were at the same time discovered in sevaral other laboratories, and I am proud of the fact that we contributed to the first description of this fascinating protein family, although to this date their function remains unknown. After I finished medical school, I thought that I wanted to be an academic physician, along the mold of my father who had died when I was in high school. Although my time in Whittaker’s laboratory had taught me to love doing science, I wanted to do something more practical and immediately useful. The standard career for an academic physician in Germany was to go abroad for a couple of years to acquire more clinically oriented scientific training before starting her/his clinical training. Upon surveying the scientific landscape, I decided to join the laboratory of Mike Brown and Joe Goldstein at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas for postdoctoral training. Brown and Goldstein were already famous for their brilliant cell-biological studies when I made this decision, and were equally renowned for using cutting-edge scientific tools to address a central question in medicine, namely how cholesterol in blood is regulated. While in their laboratory, I cloned the gene encoding the LDL receptor, which taught me molecular biology and opened up genetic analyses of this gene in human patients suffering from atherosclerosis. I also became interested in how expression of the LDL receptor is regulated by cholesterol, and identified a sequence element in the LDL receptor gene called ‘SRE’ for sterol-regulatory element that mediates the regulation of the LDL receptor expression by cholesterol. Discovery of the SRE later led to the identification of the SREbinding protein in Brown and Goldstein’s laboratory, which in turn identified new mechanisms of transcriptional regulation effected by intramembrane proteolysis. In 1986, I had the choice of resuming my clinical training, or trying to establish my own laboratory. Much of what I know about science I learned in my three years of postdoctoral training in Brown and Goldstein’s laboratory, and has guided me throughout my career. Probably the best advice Brown and Goldstein gave me, however, was now: they suggested I forego further clinical training and do only science, and they backed up this advice by providing me with the opportunity to start my own laboratory at Dallas. This I did, and I ended up staying in Dallas for another 22 years, interrupted only by a short guest appearance as a Max-Planck-Director in Göttingen (see below). When I started my laboratory at Dallas, I decided to attack a question that was raised by Whittaker’s work, but neglected: how do synaptic vesicles undergo exocytosis, i.e., what id the mechanism of neurotransmitter release which underlies all synaptic transmission? In 1986, Whittaker’s work had shown that synaptic vesicles could be biochemically purified, but nothing was known about the mechanisms of synaptic vesicle exocytosis in particular, and membrane fusion in general. Our approach, initially performed in close collaboration with Reinhard Jahn whose laboratory at that time had just been set up in Munich, was simple, namely to purify and clone every protein that might conceivably be involved, and worry about their functions later. This approach was more fruitful than I could have hoped for, and has arguably led to a fairly good understanding of membrane fusion and neurotransmitter release. In the 25 years since the start of my laboratory, our work, together with those of others, led to the identification of the key elements of the membrane fusion machinery, to the characterization of the functions of these proteins, to the mechanisms of regulating this machinery, and to the description of synapse-specific molecules that bestow the specific properties of neurotransmitter release onto synapses that render synapses so fast and precise, as required for brain function. Some of the proteins whose function we identified are now household names and have general roles in eukaryotic membrane fusion that go beyond a synaptic function, while other proteins are specific to synapses and account for the exquisite precision and plasticity of these elementary computational elements in brain. I feel fortunate to have stumbled onto this overarching neuroscience question at a time when it was ready to be addressed, and it has been tremendous fun to work our way through the various synaptic proteins and their properties that shape their functions. It is important to note, however, that the nature of our studies was not revolutionary. There was not a single major discovery that all at once changed the field, as usually happens for the development of tools (e.g., monoclonal antibodies, patch clamping, or shRNAs, to name a few). The closest our work came to a radical change in the field was probably the identification of synaptotagmins as calcium-sensors for fusion, and of Sec1/Munc18-like proteins (SM-proteins) as genuine membrane fusion proteins, but both hypotheses took more than a decade to become accepted by the field – in fact, the SM-protein hypothesis was only recently adopted by others, 15 years after we proposed it. Thus, our work in parallel with that of Reinhard Jahn, James Rothman, Jose Rizo, Randy Scheckman, Richard Scheller, Cesare Montecucco, Axel Brunger, and many others produced a steady incremental advance that resulted a better understanding of how membranes fuse, one step at a time. As a result of this combined effort, we now know that SNAREs are the fusion catalysts at the synapse, first shown by the discovery that SNAREs are the substrates of clostridial neurotoxins, that SM-proteins in general and Munc18-1 in particular are essential fusion proteins for all membrane fusion events, that a synaptotagmin-based mechanism assisted by complexin underlies nearly all regulation of exocytosis, and that synaptic exocytosis is organized in time and space by an active zone protein scaffold containing RIM and Munc13 proteins as central elements. Ten years after I started my laboratory, while the work described above was progressing, I was offered the opportunity to return to Germany and to organize a Department of Neuroscience at the Max-Planck-Institut für experimentelle Medizin in Göttingen, my home town. I enthusiastically took on the challenge, planned and oversaw the building of a new animal facility, hired scientists, and organized the renovations and equipment of a suite of laboratories. However, despite of strong local support, it soon became clear that the new leadership of the Max-Planck-Society, which had recently changed, developed doubts about my recruitment, and began rebuilding the institute that I was recruited into in directions that were quite different from what I had been told and what I had envisioned. In a personal discussion, Prof. Markl, then the president of the Max-Planck-Society, suggested I resign my position at the Max-Planck-Institut and look for a future in the US, which I did. I have never regretted my work for the Max-Planck-Institut in Göttingen, which laid the foundation for much of what happened there subsequently, including the recruitment of one of my postdoctoral fellows as a new director who has done a much better job than I could have done. However, I have also never regretted following the suggestion of the president of the Max-Planck-Society, and returning my attention and future to the US, where the breadth and tolerance of the system allowed me to operate in a manner that was more suitable for my somewhat iconoclastic temperament. Overall, my work as a director at the Max-Planck-Institut in Göttingen was a very positive experience that shaped my thinking when I subsequently had the opportunity to help build the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Contributing to establishing a neuroscience department at Dallas was a lot of fun, and the free-flowing and unbureaurocratic environment of a state university was extremely supportive – it was a pleasure to hire young people, and see them develop! The currently final chapter in my career began when I moved my laboratory from UT Southwestern to Stanford University in 2008. After 10 years as a chair of a Neuroscience Center and then Department in Dallas, I felt that I wanted to devote more of my time to pure science, and to embark on a new professional direction, with an environment that was focused on academics. Moreover, I decided to redirect a large part of my efforts towards a major problem in neuroscience that appeared to be unexplored: how synapses are formed. Thus, in this currently last chapter of my life, I am probing the mechanisms that allow circuits to form in brain, and to form with often near magical properties dictated by the specific features of particular synapses at highly specified positions. I am fascinated by the complexity of this process, which far surpasses the numerical size of the genome, and interested in how disturbances in this process contribute to neuropsychiatric diseases such as autism and schizophrenia. This is what I would like to address in the next few years, hoping to gain at least some interesting insights. Throughout my career as an independent scientist, I have been generously supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the National Institute of Mental Health. I am grateful to both for their unflinching support. I have received several recognitions, all of them unexpected, among which I particularly cherish the Alden Spencer Award from Columbia University in 1993, the von Euler Lectureship from the Karolinska Institutet in 2004, and – of course - the Kavli Award in 2010. I am not sure I deserve any of these awards, as conceptual advances in science always represent incremental progress to which many minds contributed. The conceptual advances we made were no different in this regard, they do not constitute a single discovery of a particularly revolutionary method or phenomenon but a continuous postulation and testing of hypotheses. Moreover, our discoveries on how membranes fuse and how calcium regulates fusion would have been impossible without the coincidental findings by others, to whom I am grateful for their contributions. Finally, I feel indebted beyond words to my family, without which I would be barren and rudderless, and which has been more considerate of me than I deserve.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Tilda Swinton speaks on Steiner Education

Tilda Swinton supportive of private Steiner schools Updated on thePublished 01/10/2013 10:38 TILDA Swinton today defended parents’ rights to opt out of state education in favour of the Steiner Waldorf education system which her own twin kids attend. The Oscar-winning star, who lives in Nairn, said an Oxford professor had told her that state education was so under question the top university “longed” for Steiner pupils who still have a love for learning. Swinton, 52, spoke out as she mixed with teachers, pupils and visitors at an open day for the Moray Steiner School and the recently-opened Drumduan Upper School in Forres, Moray. Ms Swinton, 52, is a trustee of both schools and a co-founder of Drumduan. Xavier and Honor, her 15-year-old children with artist John Byrne, are pupils at Drumduan. The London-born actress said promoting the schools, which take a holistic approach to education, is her only current project, adding that there was “a misunderstanding” about Steiner education as people think it’s ‘flaky’ or ‘woolly’. Ms Swinton, who won an Oscar for best supporting actress in 2008 for her performance as a ruthless corporate attorney in the legal thriller ‘Michael Clayton’, said: “When I went into the Steiner school for the first time, I was struck not only by the trusting and familial atmosphere for younger children, but mainly by older children, because I had never walked into a school before where teenagers had been so welcoming and self-possessed and kind. “The older children play with and care for the younger children. “There is, very often, a misunderstanding about Steiner education, because of the emphasis on the arts, and the children seem so carefree. “A misunderstanding that the education might be ‘woolly’ or ‘flaky. “As my children go through education, I am continually more impressed by how rigorous and engaged all the learning is.” She added: “I heard of a student who got a double first in physics from Edinburgh University, who said that all he was ever interested in was science and if he had an education other than Steiner then he would have been another ‘geek’ - unable to do anything other than his subject. “But through the Steiner system he had to learn other crafts. The Steiner had nurtured him to become a fully functional person. “The new upper school, which has only recently started here, has a 100 per cent success rate in placing students at universities, including Oxford and Cambridge. “A don at Oxford, who sits on the interview board for applicants, said that state education is so under question that they long for Steiner pupils who still have that love for learning. “Until Steiner education is taken on board by the government, it remains a private education.” Ms Swinton cut short promotion of her 2011 Oscar bid ‘We Need to talk about Kevin’ to do a cleaning shift at the Moray Steiner School. The mum-of-two jetted back from Spain to scrub floors and wash windows at the Forres school. Taking her role at the school very seriously, she said at the time: “There is a regular rota. “In order to keep the fees down it’s necessary for parents to take part in cleaning the school on a regular basis.” Steiner schools are based on the philosophy of Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner who founded the first in Germany in 1919. There are now 1026 independent Steiner schools across 60 countries. The schools concentrate on educating the “whole child” with a strong emphasis on creativity. The educational philosophy’s overarching goal is to develop free, morally responsible, and integrated individuals equipped with a high degree of social competence.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ofsted visit to Steiner Academy Hereford

OFSTED inspectors find evidence that a later start to learning does not disadvantage pupils' academic progress and achievement The recent section 5 OFSTED inspection of the Steiner Academy Hereford (July 2013) found that: ‘Pupils achieve well throughout the school, reaching above the expected levels in English and mathematics and in the other subjects that they take in Year 11, despite their later start with the formal teaching of such subjects.’ Their findings are borne out by the school's GCSE results this summer: 80% of Year 11 pupils achieved 5 GCSEs (including maths and English) at grade C or above and almost half of the grades achieved were A or A*.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Too Much Too Soon


We're too young to fail

 The new SCM Early Years Education (EYE) Group has now been established and is launching its first major campaign to challenge the early years being seen primarily as a preparation for school, rather than a unique stage in its own right, together with what it sees as a succession of developmentally inappropriate policy interventions in the English approach. We are arguing that this issue is too important to get wrong and that policy-making should be be put in the hands of people who really understand the extraordinary learning capacities and developmental abilities of young children.

In the long-term the group would like to see the formation of a multi-disciplinary National Council on the Science of Child Development, similar to that established in the USA by Harvard University This body would aim to make the child's best interests paramount and to bring an understanding of the science of early childhood and early brain development to political decision-making. We would also like to see the development of Child Wellbeing Impact Assessments for all new policies (in accordance with Article 3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child).

The Campaign has just been launched with an Open letter that has been signed by 127 eminent academics, early years leaders and senior figures.
See the Open Letter
See the Press Release
See the Comment Piece

The Telegraph has now run a poll on what age its own readers think is best with the following results. You can still participate in through the article page here.

Three 4.24%  (277 votes) 
Four 7.15%  (467 votes) 
Five 20.91%  (1,366 votes) 
Six 38.57%  (2,520 votes) 
Seven 29.13%  (1,903 votes) 
Total Votes: 6,533

Sign the Petition
and please help share this with others

Stand up for the Natural Developmental Rights of the Child
Put an end to developmentally inappropriate policy-making
Make your banners and book your coaches!

We are planning a sector-wide Day of Action for Wednesday 30th October and invite everyone to join us to show just how important we think these issues are. We will soon be providing resources such as posters and banners on the website but you can also make your own and promote your own related campaigns. We think it is only by coming together that we can really make a difference.

So whether you are a parent, childminder, playworker, early years teacher or headteacher, academic, lecturer, author or anyone else who really cares about the welbeing of children, please join us on the day. Let us know if you are coming though, especially if you are organising coaches, and we will share your details on the website.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Exeter Steiner Academy Opens

Exeter Steiner School starts as new wave of schools open

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Exeter Express and Echo

A “FREE” school in Exeter will be among the second wave of the coalition Government’s flagship education policy to open this week.

In total, 93 free schools are due to admit pupils for the first time this week, the Department for Education (DfE) said, bringing the overall number of open free schools to 174.


They include the Steiner Academy in Exeter, two in Plymouth – the School of Creative Arts and the Marine Academy Primary – Sparkwell All Saints Primary on the outskirts of the city and Route 39 Academy at Higher Clovelly, north Devon.

The Steiner Academy will initially open in a temporary premises in Gloucester Road , while it intends to move to a permanent home in Thomas Hall, a former university halls in Cowley Bridge Road.

Free schools are semi-independent schools set up by groups including parents, teachers and charities. Of the 93 schools opening this month 35 are primaries, 42 are secondaries, 11 are all-age schools and five will cater for 16 to 19-year-olds.

When these schools are full, they will provide an extra 46,000 places for pupils, the DfE said.

Prime Minister David Cameron insisted that free schools “are one of the most important reforms to education in this country for a generation” and are “allowing people with a passion for giving children the best start in life to set up schools and making sure teachers in those schools have more freedom to do what they think is best”.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said these schools were “an integral part of the growing success story of state education in England”.

There are also 12 universal technical colleges (UTC) and 13 studio schools opening this term, including the Devon Health Studio in Torbay and UTC Plymouth.

From next September, Exeter University is to help open a new free school specialising in maths. The university will jointly run one of the government's flagship free schools with Exeter College, with a fifth of pupils will be able to stay at the university between Monday and Thursday in a bid to attract youngsters from across the South West.

Cornwall already boasts a new private catholic secondary school at Camborne, called St Michael’s, a free school.

Free schools are established by groups including parents, teachers, faith groups and charities and have powers to decide how they spend their budgets and set their own curriculum, teaching hours and term-times. Teaching unions have claimed that they adversely affect neighbouring schools.

Read more:

Follow us: @thisis_exeter on Twitter

Friday, August 23, 2013

Elmfield Exam Results

There were lots of celebrations at Elmfield School in Oldswinford, Stourbridge, where a whopping 89 per cent of final year students picked up five or more A*s to C grades.

Students at the school in Love Lane follow the internationally renowned Steiner Waldorf curriculum.

They don’t do SATs and they sit their GCSEs over a two-year-period rather than at the end of a two-year GCSE course.

The school says it does not believe in “hot-housing” youngsters to achieve top results.

Instead it believes in “prolonging childhood” and education is “age-appropriate” with regular homework not introduced until pupils are 11.

Dudley News 22.8.13

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Former Rudolf Steiner School student Bethany Woodward takes silver in T37 200m at World Championships

Former Rudolf Steiner School student Bethany Woodward takes silver in T37 200m at World Championships

12:00pm Sunday 28th July 2013 in Sport

Picture: Action Images

Former Rudolf Steiner School student Bethany Woodward won a silver medal in the T37 200m at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon on Monday.

Woodward’s time of 29.12 was a personal best and just 0.64 seconds behind the winner, Mandy Francois-Elie from France.

The 20-year-old, who has cerebral palsy and won silver and bronze medals at last summer’s Paralympic Games, came close to securing a second medal in the T37 100m but just missed out, finishing fourth in 14.43.

After winning the TE7 200m silver medal Woodward tweeted: “What a day! So proud silver and PB, thank you so much for all your lovely messages!” After missing out on a medal in the T37 100m she added: “Thank you so much for all your lovely messages, a great champs, would have loved that bronze but 4th in the world and it's not even my event.”

Monday, July 15, 2013

Brien Masters

Brien Masters

Many have been inspired by Brien Masters. His work, especially as a teacher educator enabled him to express the range of his talents - as musician, story-teller, raconteur and sage. A photograph of teachers at Michael Hall (in the 1950s, I believe) captured him as the image of a young Oxbridge graduate in tweedy jacket with the look of mildly bemused idealism. One could easily imagine such a young teacher featuring in a boarding school novel of the period, teaching Divinity and Latin perhaps and playing the organ for Sunday service. But Brien was far more complex than that and his many achievements are testimony to the range of his talents and to the intricacy of his character. In addition to working for many years at Michael Hall, he spent some time at Pottersbury Lodge School (a residential Steiner school for boys with special needs).

My first meeting with Brien took place at a conference for people working in (independent) Steiner home-schools for children with special needs. Brien gave a lecture on music which included many of his favourite stories. I remember being spell-bound by his humane authority and rich vein of humour. Later, I worked with him for as part of what was then called the “steering group” of the Steiner Schools’ Fellowship (Waldorf was added a little later). With the retirement of Ron Jarman, Brien became Chairman (definitely Chairman), taking his own idiosyncratic minutes in tiny handwriting, usually on large used brown envelopes, slit open along two side for the purpose. Not infrequently we only found out what Brien’s view of an issue was when the minutes appeared in typed form. He had very strong views, but tended to reserve their expression for a lengthy missive after the meeting. During this time he began to spread his interests internationally and, in typical style, gave an amusing and elaborate report as SWSF Chairman to a meeting of international Waldorf educators on his travels in South America and Israel (there was some puzzlement, as those attending were expecting a report about schools in the UK and Ireland!). Throughout, he continued to edit ‘Child and Man’, later re-titled ‘Steiner Education’, with the help of a small team of trusted collaborators. The magazine, partly funded by the Fellowship, was the longest running title of its type in Anthroposophical publishing, continuing even after its circulation began to wane (with the advent of electronic media): Brien had persistence! His retirement from the SWSF was not the happiest but enabled him to concentrate his energies on his increasing foreign visits and on developing the London Waldorf Teacher Training Seminar at Rudolf Steiner House, and for a time, the seminar at Michael Hall alongside it.

It is perhaps as a teacher trainer that Brien was able to expand into a role that fitted him as well as a good pair of gloves, or perhaps well-worn gardening gloves (he had extensive knowledge of wild and garden plants). Among the students his was a magisterial presence and he could often be seen at break-times engaged in intense conversation with an individual student. Having gained a doctorate during the time he worked for the Fellowship, Brien gave increasing attention to his writing, publishing several more books including ones on Mozart and Marie von Steiner-Sivers. His educational books, stories for children and the two ‘Waldorf Song Books’ are admired by many, But it was in leading a seminar and as pianist Brien seemed most at home with himself. His soul eased itself into the music he brought to life; his playing had a finesse and responsiveness (especially in accompaniment) that was worthy of some of the best exponents of the instrument and his composition was often very fine. He once said that he had never read Anthroposophical authors on music. He probably did not need to. Just as a superb performance of music continues to resonate with those who heard it long after the last notes have died away and grows richer in the memory, so too Brien’s contribution to Waldorf education.

Kevin Avison

Friday, July 12, 2013

Brien Masters

Brien Masters died yesterday morning at 1.30 am.

There will be a memorial service held at Michael Hall School on Saturday 13th July at 8pm in the Eurythmy Studio.

Brien was for many years Chair of the Fellowship. He founded the London Waldorf Teacher Training Seminar. He wrote many books and lectured both here and abroad.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Steiner Academy Exeter given site

One of Devon's first new free schools has been given the go-ahead to open at a former university hall of residence.

The Steiner Academy Exeter is expected to open at Thomas Hall on Cowley Road in 2015.

It is one of five free schools planned in Devon after the coalition government offered people the chance to open their own state-funded schools

Steiner schools offer an alternative to mainstream education and teach children through play and creative activities.

'Big breakthrough'

The Exeter academy has been given approval for a permanent site at Thomas Hall by the Education Funding Agency. The amount of funding for the site has not yet been revealed.

The academy is due to open in temporary buildings in Gloucester Road, Exwick, in September and stay there while planning permission is sought.

Organiser Jenny Salmon said: "It's a big breakthrough for us, it's been a long process to get the site confirmed."

The total number of pupils is expected to rise from 136 in September to 624 - aged four to 16 - in 2021.

Four other Devon free schools, Route 39 in Higher Clovelly, the Marine Academy in Plymouth, Sparkwell Primary near Plymouth and Plymouth School of Creative Arts, will also open in September.

Alan Swindell, principal designate of the Exeter academy, said: "We are delighted to have this opportunity to breathe new life into this beautiful building and site.

"It will be a wonderful environment for children, with tremendous scope for us to develop those aspects of our curriculum that really come alive in the great outdoors."

Free schools have been criticised by some teachers as unnecessary and taking resources away from other state schools.

The government says each school is set up in direct response to demand from local people for a different or better school that will meet the needs of pupils in the community and help raise standards.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Glasgow Steiner School

With great sadness we announce the closure of the Glasgow Steiner School after 25 years. Unfortunately they were unable to recover from the fire that gutted the school. We hope that in time there will be a new Steiner school in the area.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Bristol Steiner School - 40 year celebrations

The Bristol Steiner School is celebrating 40 years of being the first inner city Steiner School in England and is looking forward to providing quality Steiner Education to families in Bristol for many more years to come.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Michael Hall Students Build Outdoor Classroom

East Grinstead Courier and Observer

By Sam Satchell

FOR most teenagers a work placement involves shifting at their local music store, a greengrocers or their parents' business .

But a group of hardworking students at Michael Hall School took a more hands-on approach to their three-week programme by constructing an outdoor learning centre
Using a range of skills learnt at the school in Forest Row, which puts an emphasis on practical learning, they built the skeleton of the eco-friendly timber framed building, which will be completed in three phases.

They also created two eco toilets, converted a shed into a shower room and installed new monkey bars and climbing equipment for the younger students.

Metalwork and craft teacher Michael Cassels said: "All our Year 9s do the three-week work experience project, but this is one of the most ambitious projects we have done. I thought we had bitten off a bit more than we could chew with this, but they have completely exceeded my expectations.

"To get this far in the first phase is amazing. By next year they will be able to start work on the walls, the windows, the flooring and other parts of the interior."

In previous years, work experience students have helped to create sheds, shelters, notice boards, car parking spaces and more, having been taught basic building and woodwork techniques.

The school applied for planning permission to construct the outdoor classroom 12 months ago and the project involving about 20 students got under way in mid-May.

Mr Cassels said: "It's a proper working day. The timetable freezes for the three weeks to allow them to do this. We had some really switched on guys working on the building, some of whom already had experience of building, while some others worked in the kitchen to prepare lunch every day.

"We're not just building something to knock it down again. It's part of our school development and it's been a really good lesson for them. They can take pride from this, as well as valuable life skills."

Eventually, it is hoped the classroom will be open to visitors, and a school from Germany is already booked in to see the work-in-progress this autumn.

The students will start work on the walls, windows, flooring and the rest of the interior next year and, when complete, the space will be used to teach lessons such as craft activities, green wood working, and pottery. The scaffolding and timber were both supplied by local businesses.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Congratulations to The Steiner Academy Hereford on achieving a Gold Sing Up Award!

Congratulations to The Steiner Academy Hereford on achieving a Gold Sing Up Award!

From your application I could hear that the quality of singing at this school is high, which is a testament to how well singing is embedded into school life. Singing is clearly important to the school and regularly utilised in areas such as teaching the curriculum and celebrating festivals with the broader school community.

The Steiner Academy is obviously very supportive of the pupils and staff singing and leading singing, which is evident in the confidence of the singing and eagerness to share songs with each other. I particularly enjoyed learning about how musical the school is, combining group teaching with bespoke learning in order to meet the needs of individual pupils and provide clear goals and challenge for pupils as they travel through the school.

I would have liked to have heard or seen the lyrics for one of the songs that the pupils had written which you described in your Achieve Form, but it was clear that this was happening and well established in your school

Congratulations again. It was a joy to hear such beautiful a capella singing!

Kind regards,
Sing Up Awards Team
Sing Up, Bloomsbury House, 74-77 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DA

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Peace One Day

Join us at the school for a talk and short presentation from Peace One Day founder Jeremy Gilley.

After a successful career acting in film and television, Jeremy began making his own films in 1995 and in 1999 founded the non-profit film project Peace One Day to document his own efforts to establish the first ever annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence with a fixed date.

Why not come to the school to find out more and get involved with the peace process?

Rudolf Steiner School Kings LangleyLangley Hill, WD4 9HG Kings Langley

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Steiner Academy Bristol approved in the last round of 'free school' Applications!

Steiner Academy Bristol approved in the last round of 'free school' Applications!

To open in September 2014, the Academy will be the first inner-city, state-funded Steiner school in the UK and the third Steiner free school to be approved under the ‘free school’ programme. The school will grow slowly, with an opening cohort of 78 pupils (Kindergarten, Class 1 and class 6), rising to two classes every year, with a total of 624 pupils by 2022.

The Academy will make a major contribution to the shortage of school places in Bristol, with demand for opening places in the first two years already up to five times oversubscribed.

The school are currently recruiting for a principal and will be recruiting teachers and other staff in 2014. For more information on admissions and recruitment, see or contact

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Rudolf Steiner School's readathon raises £3,099 for Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity and ReadWell

Abi Allanson, organiser of the event, was presented with a Certificate of Achievement.

Children from a school in Kings Langley grabbed their books to take part in a readathon to raise thousands of pounds for charities dedicated to caring for seriously ill children.

150 children took part in the national Readathon Challenge at The Rudolf Steiner School to raise £3,099 for CLIC Sargent, Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity and ReadWell.

Abi Allanson, the learning support teacher who organised the event, was presented with a Certificate of Achievement and received a voucher for £619.72 to spend on books for the school.

3:40pm Wednesday 22nd May 2013 in News By Rebecca Perring, Reporter

Monday, May 20, 2013

Annual Children's Parade

Brighton Steiner School joined almost 80 other local schools for the annual Children's Parade through the streets of Brighton to mark the beginning of the May Festival. The children enjoyed a real sense of pride as their hard work turned into a vibrant procession of dance, drama and fun for the whole city to watch. Around 10,000 people came along to see the parade and be part of the largest annual children’s event in the UK.

Elmfield puts Steiner-Waldorf education on the map

Earlier this year we entered some national awards for the first time. Many of you might think it is perfectly natural to put our school forward for awards. Others might question the decision, thinking that awards are not very ‘Steiner’. However, the reason we decided to enter this year is quite simple: outside of the ‘Steiner-Waldorf’ world, most people do not yet recognize how good the teaching is in Steiner-Waldorf schools. We want to change that, raise our profile and adopt a more evangelical approach to Waldorf education.

National Teaching Awards: Outstanding Team of the Year 2013

Runner Up: Elmfield Rudolf Steiner School

We entered this award on the basis of the Upper School’s innovative and creative Waldorf curriculum and their ability to secure the best GCSE results in Stourbridge, despite allocating over a third of the timetable to creative, enriching experiences that are utterly unrelated to GCSEs! In 2010 we re-organised the entire upper school curriculum to create morning modules. Students in the Upper School can choose from a range of three week modules which run all year round, for 1 hour 30 minutes every day. Modules are derived from body-based learning and aim to inspire and awaken the mind and body for the day. A total of 37 modules are offered, including: folk music performance, choreography, stained glass, bow-making, Shakespearean acting and half-marathon training. As far as we know, we’re the only school in the country to offer this. The award judges were blown away by morning modules and were supremely impressed with main lessons, where they observed outstanding teaching, a love of learning and confident, creative students. Over 24,000 entries were received for the National Teaching Awards. Being Runner Up is a credit to our curriculum, to the upper school teachers delivering the curriculum and to all teachers in other areas of the school who prepare our pupils so that they can learn in this way.

Times Educational Supplement Outstanding Teacher of the Year 2013

Shortlisted: Avril Whitehead
Avril felt uncomfortable in being singled out for this award as she considers herself to be part of a team that works together to deliver a wonderful curriculum. In truth we could have entered many other teachers. It was on the understanding that she would be representing Elmfield’s education and Elmfield’s teachers that she agreed. Our entry was based on the methods used by our teachers at Elmfield – such as the use of movement, music, inspiring main lessons and all the learning styles to stimulate curiosity and a love of learning. On May 17th the Times Educational Supplement announced that Avril is one of only six teachers in Britain to be shortlisted for this award. She’ll be going to a ceremony in London on 5th July with government ministers, the national press and 600 guests, where the final result is announced. Having one of Elmfield’s teachers at this event is an amazing achievement for the school and Steiner Waldorf education generally.

Ben Arnold (Business Manager,

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Scottish-themed fancy-dress day at York Steiner School

Scottish-themed fancy-dress day at York Steiner School

8:07am Wednesday 8th May 2013 in Education

YOUNGSTERS at York Steiner School, in Fulford, took part in a Scottish-themed fancy-dress day.

The children and teachers came dressed in tartan and there was even a Loch Ness monster.

The York Steiner School is part of a network of 34 Steiner schools in the UK and the fun Scottish day was to help raise funds for the Glasgow Steiner School, which recently suffered from a devastating fire.

The children at York Steiner School had also drawn and written cards to send to the children in

Meanwhile, the school is inviting members of the public along to its annual spring fair on Saturday.

The event, at the school in Danesmead, will feature a fairy grotto, crafts, puppet show, Maypole dancing and food and drink. It will run from 11am to 4pm.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Steiner School re-opens after fire destroys Glasgow building

An independent school in Glasgow has re-opened in temporary premises - almost four weeks after fire destroyed its main building in the Yorkhill area. Up to 60 pupils were led to safety after the blaze broke out at the Glasgow Steiner School on 26 March.

The school is now operating out of West George College, formerly Kelvinhaugh Primary School, in Sandyford Street.

Lower school pupils returned on Monday. No date has yet been set for the Kindergarten re-opening.

School manager Catherine Turner said that an incredible amount of hard work had been done to allow the school to re-open. She said: "Our own staff and parents have been absolutely tremendous - the support we've had has been just amazing. "The work has been very hard. It's all come together and the school is looking great. The building looks very good and we're ready for the children to come back."

On its website, the Steiner School said it had been "overwhelmed by all the messages and offers of support we have received".

The statement said: "We are particularly grateful to the owners, board and staff of West George College, who stepped in with an extremely generous offer of accommodation and have helped in so many ways to make this viable.

"Glasgow University have generously donated and delivered furniture to equip our classrooms and joinery expertise to create new blackboards.

"Our amazing parents and staff have painted, cleaned, sanded and done a thousand other jobs to bring our new home to life."

The Steiner building in Lumsden Street was destroyed by the fire last month. At the height of the blaze, 55 firefighters and 10 appliances were deployed to prevent the fire spreading.

BBC News

Friday, April 19, 2013

Kings Langley ex student Sarine Sofair to star on big screen in The Look of Love

Kings Langley woman Sarine Sofair to star on big screen in The Look of Love

5:30pm Thursday 18th April 2013 in News By Rebecca Perring, Reporter

Sarine Sofair caught the acting bug in Kings Langley and now is preparing to see herself on the big screen alongside Steve Coogan and Stephen Fry.

The young actress attended the Rudolf Steiner School between the ages of four and 18, where she says she was always involved in numerous plays showcasing her dance talents.

These talents will now be on show in new cinema release The Look of Love, where she plays 1970s actress Yvonne Charles alongside acting stars including Steve Coogan, Stephen Fry, Anna Friel, Matt Lucas and Imogen Poots in the film directed by Michael Winterbottom.

Ms Sofair recalled the time she used to attend tap and ballet classes at a church in Chipperfield and was guided by her mother, Louise Sofair, who was a drama and English teacher at the school in Langley Hill.

The 28-year-old said: “At Steiner we were always involved in some kind of play, performance or rhythmic form of performance and I picked up a great love of dance while at the school.

“I grew up positively drenched in stories and story-telling and am very fortunate to have had a Waldorf education. Although I didn’t realise acting was a real job until around the age of ten, at Steiner I learnt the importance of creativity throughout all walks of life and my love for performance was nurtured.”

Ms Sofair, who now lives in London, has also appeared in the film Anna Karenina last year alongside Keira Knightley, as well as in commercial, video and photography projects.

She said she was walking through London’s Soho when her agent called and said she had got the part.

The Look of Love is based on the true story of Paul Raymond, the “King of Soho”, who is played by Steve Coogan. It is to be released next Friday, April 26.

She said: “I was so pleased to have got the part and was trying not to scream on the streets of Soho. It was one of my happiest moments because I was so lucky to have got the part so soon after Anna Karenina.

"During filming and rehearsals I was working close to such brilliant actors who would be in the dressing room or in the audience, which was such a brilliant experience.”

When asked where she sees herself in ten years’ time, Ms Sofair replied “doing this”.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Glasgow School Fire

Our thoughts are with the children, parents and staff of the Glasgow Steiner School after a devastating fire swept through their building on Tuesday 26th.

Fire crews were called to the building at 11.30 am and by the time of their arrival the fire was well developed. Around 60 children had to be evacuated to a nearby community centre. No injuries were reported.

School manager Kathryn Turner said: "The only word anybody can use is devastated. It's a Victorian building, it's a much-loved building — a loved school.
"You can't put into word show you feel, it's — I think devastation. The kids are distraught, families are just heart-broken."

 For more, go to: Glasgow School Fire

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Exemptions from EYFS: Nursery World Article

Our schools gain exemptions from EYFS

From Nursery world: Catherine Gaunt, 28 January 2013, 12:00am
Steiner kindergartens have been successful in achieving exemptions from those aspects of the Early Learning Goals in the EYFS that do not fit with the Steiner educational philosophy and ethos. The ruling applies to all Steiner settings.
Beechtree Steiner Kindergartens in Leeds
Beechtree Steiner Kindergartens in Leeds
A joint application for exemptions and modifications from certain aspects of the EYFS was made by the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship, the umbrella organisation that represents Steiner schools and early childhood settings in the UK.
The SWSF was asked by the settings to make the case for opting out of some of the ELGs and the entire literacy educational programme on the basis that aspects of the EYFS run counter to Steiner's 'established principles', meaning that Steiner kindergartens cannot meet the EYFS requirements, without compromising their ethos and practice.
This week, letters have been sent out from the Department for Education to all Steiner settings that applied to confirm that the Secretary of State has approved their applications.
The ruling is not time limited and will apply for as long as the setting follows the established Steiner principles, and once applied does not run out until there is a change to statutory regulations.
Full exemption has been granted from the literacy ELGs - reading and writing - on the grounds that it is an established principle in the Steiner early years curriculum that young children are not taught to read and write before rising seven.
Full exemption has also been granted from the assessment requirements of the EYFS, so that Steiner settings will not have to complete the EYFS Profile and send the results to the local authority.
The case was also made for modifications to ELGs for communication and language, physical development, mathematics, understanding the world, and expressive arts and design, and these were also granted.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Warmth and Light for the Cambridge Steiner school!

Prize-winning school warms to green future 
Energy experts lit up the faces of staff and children at a school when they came to plan a whopping six-figure makeover.Cambridge Steiner School won a competition run by the News with British Gas to transform a lucky school into one of the most energy efficient in the country.They were visited by the company yesterday to see how the money can be spent.
The school, in Fulbourn, is desperate to have its 1980s boiler replaced and is also interested in fitting solar panels and heat pumps.  Both measures would save the school thousands of pounds in energy bills over the years, which can be diverted towards giving pupils a better education.
Andrew Cleland, a trustee, said the school was grateful for “this fantastic opportunity”, adding that its ethos was about protecting the environment. He added: “We are a private school, but we are also a charity and we offer bursaries. The money we save can hopefully go towards that.”
The work will be carried out over the coming weeks following yesterday’s informal audit.
The school collected nearly 3,400 tokens from copies of the News to land the prize, worth £135,000. As well as a legion of parents, it recruited lots of different groups from the community, such as old people’s homes, to help them amass the tokens.
Kate Lemon, programme manager for British Gas Generation Green, said: “We were very impressed with their entry, which showed a real commitment to, and passion for, sustainability. Our energy experts are looking forward to working with the school to help it become as energy-efficient as possible and inspire a new generation of sustainability experts.”
John Cary, deputy editor of the News, said: “It was a terrific team effort that won this great prize for the Cambridge Steiner School. We’re delighted that British Gas will be working with them to help fulfil their vision for an energy-efficient school fit for the 21st century.”

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

EYFS exemptions: good news for our Early Years settings



Steiner Waldorf kindergartens have been granted permanent exemptions or modifications from those aspects of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Learning and Development Requirements which relate to the formal introduction of Literacy, Numeracy as well as Technology and in some cases the Assessment regulations. A full list can be provided * see below.
The Secretary of State has agreed to all the exemptions or modifications requested on the grounds that Steiner kindergartens cannot meet these EYFS requirements without compromising their ethos and practice. The granting of these exemptions and modifications is in accordance with the ESTABLISHED PRINCIPLES route as set out in the Early Years Foundation Stage (Exemptions from Learning and Development Requirements) Regulations 2008 as amended by the Early Years Foundation Stage (Exemptions from Learning and Development Requirements) (Amendment) Regulations 2012.
Steiner Schools and Early Childhood Settings, made a united application through the umbrella organisation, the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship.
To achieve this, the schools/settings had to complete the following steps:
  1. Contact the Local Authority to make sure their funding was safe, should they have exemptions. Some settings are still waiting for responses from their LA’s.
  2. Notify parents, and get their agreement. There was unanimous support from all parents, who chose Steiner education specifically for their children to have the benefit of a later introduction to formal learning, and experience an extended childhood in an enabling environment which prepares them for life, not only for school.
  3. Notify the LA of the parents decision
  4. Send the application to the DfE Exemptions team
In some cases, kindergartens not in receipt of the Early Years Grant made an application also for exemption from the Assessment regulations which includes the Profile submission. These too were granted.
NOTE: Some LA’s agreed that their funded settings could also apply for exemptions from the Assessment regulations including submission of the EYFS Profile at age 5. The SWSF were surprised that more LA’s did not agree to this exemption. The children in Steiner kindergartens are not formally taught to read and write in the kindergarten, therefore this would result in a poor overall score in the data collected by the LA from the Profile, which means that the LA’s overall data scores are lowered.
The exemptions will remain in place as long as the principles under which it was granted are followed by the setting.
If you would like to receive further information about this, please contact:
Janni Nicol, SWSF Early Childhood Representative