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Ofsted handed power to inspect all Steiner schools following failures

Ofsted now has the power to inspect all Steiner schools after the chief inspector called for a “thorough examination” into “deeply concerning” failures.

Amanda Spielman wrote to Damian Hinds, the education secretary, on Thursday after snap inspections of nine Steiner schools – state and private – found six were “inadequate” and three “requires improvement”.

Senior leaders at one school “blamed pupils with SEND for all the problems”, while others witnessed “inappropriate physical handling” of pupils, she wrote. Some parents who complained were “intimidated”.

Spielman demanded an investigation into whether the Steiner philosophy – which advocates a holistic approach to education based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner – is contributing to the failures.

READ MORE: Private schools repeatedly fail school standards but stay open

Hinds would only pledge to review what’s “lying behind” the problems under a thematic analysis of inspection findings.

Hinds had given Ofsted the go-ahead to inspect some private Steiner schools, usually inspected by the School Inspection Service (SIS), in November. The SIS has now closed.

Hinds wrote: “I think our officials should then review together what the inspection evidence tells us about these schools.

“That would include what may be helping or hindering them, what may be lying behind those schools that are failing to meet the standards, and what may be preventing other schools from sustaining improvements to meet the standards.”

However, this falls short of Spielman’s demand for a “thorough examination” of the “underlying principles” of Steiner education.

She said poor leadership, management and governance was at the “root of many of the weaknesses” at the inspected schools.

In the worst cases, Spielman said senior leaders had “created a culture in which it is difficult for parents to raise their concerns, and some parents who have made complaints to Ofsted or to the school have felt ostracised and intimidated by school leaders”.

The DfE’s failure to fully meet Ofsted’s demands came a day after Luke Tryl, its outgoing director of corporate strategy, told MPs his team needed more support from government in clamping down on failing private schools.

Spielman urged the DfE to close all inadequate Steiner schools that failed to improve rapidly.

Hinds said such action must be taken on a “case-by-case basis”, but added the three inadequate Steiner academies were being rebrokered.

It follows the Steiner Academy Exeter being forced to close temporarily in October following an Ofsted inspection, so that it could “focus on learning lessons from this week’s inspection and ensure a safe environment for all pupils”. The school is now facing rebrokerage to another trust.

Meanwhile the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley closed in Hertfordshire over summer, following a string of damning Ofsted reports.

A spokesperson for the Steiner Waldorf Fellowship said the group had “proactively” agreed meetings with the DfE and Ofsted and had four advisers “to complete our own compliance checks so all schools continue to uphold DfE regulations and requirements”.

There are 21 private Steiner schools and two Steiner academies in England.*

 

*this article was updated to reflect the total number of Steiner schools in England, rather than England and Ireland.

 

 



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8 Comments

  1. Alec Templeton

    Could we at long last hear some details as too what was found to be inadequate. Can the reporter give readers some examples at least of criteria applied? All we hear is that an inspection took place in nine schools, that one school passed, that nine failed and that (temprrary) closures ensued but there is little to ebable us to even begin to understand what is going on.

  2. Jason Collins

    And yet Steiner schools turn out bright, well-adjusted intelligent people. I think I may be inclined to suggest the fault might be to do with ridiculous pressure put on under-funded private schools and this stupid govt.

  3. Toby Chadwick

    I have been absolutely appalled by the Ofsted process I have witnessed at Exeter Steiner Academy. Whatever the shortcomings before the inspection, the process could not have been more damaging if it had been the deliberate intention to undermine staff and pupils and destroy a fledgling initiative before it could find its feet in a challenging world. The ignorance betrayed in the brief report is quite staggering, and it is nothing short of scandalous that its authors can wield such power so crassly in trying to close the school.

  4. Error: Department for Education did not close Rudolf Steiner School in Kings Langley, the school decided to close voluntarily after being inspected two/three times per year, as teachers and parents could not stand the pressure 🙁

  5. Fred Ehresmann

    Asking the question “Do the underlying principles of Steiner Education explain the widespread failures of safeguarding and education found in schools based on that philosophy?” being a closed and clearly loaded question, arguably reveals a bias against these principles and certainly reveals an ignorance of asking effective and constructive questions. Surely a more useful question might be something along the lines of “What explains the pattern of OFSTED inspection reports of Steiner Schools?” Do have a robust enquiry, but let’s have it be fair and conducted along the lines of good research practice. We wouldn’t want people to be thinking that there’s some sort of agenda, would we?

  6. Cllr Shane Collins

    This stinks. Ofsted Inspectors are not trained in Steiner education. If any school gets ‘inadequate’ for Safeguarding it means all the other marks are also inadequate – it’s a stitch up to get all schools into MAT’s.

  7. AJ Witt

    It’s entirely possible for Steiner Waldorf schools to meet the more stringent OFSTED requirements applied now that they’ve taken over inspections from School Inspection Service (SIS). Recently both Bristol Steiner School and Ringwood Waldorf School received Good ratings across the board, with glowing narrative reports on pupil well-being and progress.
    Having witnessed some of the changes required to provision to comply with OFSTED they certainly aren’t incompatible with the Steiner way of doing things – even some of the crazier requirements like requiring e-safety training for kindergarten children (many Steiner Waldorf schools promote a low/no-tech regime for under-13s). It’s easy to draw the conclusion that Spielman & Hinds have “gone after” Steiner schools with an agenda, particularly given some of the rhetoric used. They may be right in the sense that Steiner schools tend to be led on a collective basis meaning that it can be challenging to ensure that legal responsibilities are owned – there are no head teachers as such – but in practice what this means is that Steiner schools need to beef up their non-teaching staff, separating governance from teaching. As with any checklist-based inspection it can end up being just that – a box-ticking exercise – but with the right admin team in place the schools can get on with what they do best – turning out children with all the tools & skills to make a difference in the world.