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Steiner Schools - what you need to know


by Isbi Schools

Steiner Schools - what you need to know

What is a Steiner school?

Steiner education is based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), an Austrian philosopher. Steiner schools, sometimes called Waldorf schools, aim to develop pupils’ skills in an holistic environment. Steiner schools are co-educational and usually take pupils from age 3 to 18. Steiner schools foster an unhurried environment, where children are encouraged to forge their own path. Steiner education is designed to improve each child’s concentration levels and to help them to be physically and emotionally ready to learn. There are 23 Steiner schools across the UK; they are run on a not-for-profit basis, with fees increasing as pupils progress through the school because of the need for more specialist teachers.


Why are Steiner schools also called Waldorf schools?

In 1919 Steiner’s first school was opened in Stuttgart, Germany for the children of workers at the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory. For this reason people often refer to Steiner schools as Waldorf schools.


What is the Steiner method of teaching?

Steiner schools do not have a fixed curriculum.  The focus is on providing a supportive and creative learning environment where children are encouraged to feel joy in their learning. There is a flexible set of guidelines that attend to each pupil’s physical, emotional, intellectual, cultural and spiritual growth. 

Core subjects in the curriculum are taught in blocks, with each lesson including both practical and intellectual content. Students study one topic for a month at a time.

Students are also taught by one teacher from beginning school until around the age of 12 or 13. After this age, there are specialist teachers for each subject. Unlike traditional schools, there are no textbooks. Everything is taught by the teacher, who aims to engage all pupils in the narrative of the lesson. Pupils are taught in mixed ability groups, and encouraged to help each other when some struggle.


Are Steiner schools religious?

As a general rule, Steiner schools are not religious; the schools say they educate children in a range of religious traditions without focusing too heavily on any particular one. One of Rudolf Steiner’s key aims was to to ensure his schools provided a nondenominational but spiritual setting for children.


What is the difference between Steiner schools and Montessori?

Both of these approaches to education are considered "alternative” in their ways, but they are quite different. Montessori tends to emphasise the idea of reality, with the idea of drawing children away from fantasy and daydreaming. The idea is that children can’t distinguish between fantasy and reality, so it’s better to ground them firmly in reality before allowing fantasy. Children are given tasks based around reality; Maria Montessori said that children shouldn’t be encouraged to amuse themselves with toys. Each task is based around a specific learning concept. By contrast, Steiner education tends to encourage a child’s sense of fantasy and imagination, encouraging play. In Steiner schools, toys are valued as a way of helping children to re-enact life experiences as well as provoking the imagination.`


Do Steiner schools do GCSEs?

Yes, Steiner schools offer both GCSEs and A Levels. Schools teach this exam curriculum alongside the Steiner curriculum, and will often stagger exams; they begin taking them early and take a couple each year, rather than taking all of them in the final two years of school.


Do Steiner schools take SATs?

No. Steiner schools are not obliged to conduct the national SATs.



 
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