In September 2014, a new Bristol Steiner Academy may open. With a surplus of more mainstream, traditional schools in Bristol, the Bristol Steiner Academy will provide an alternative for parents who wish to send their children to a school which places different values on education.
I was interested to find out more about the Academy so contacted Sarah Horne (who deals with supporter recruitment and marketing of the project) and she kindly agreed to answer my questions. I must confess, from interviewing Sarah, I found that I had misconceptions about Steiner education. It was therefore interesting for me to find out about Steiner education and I was impressed with the values and reasoning behind it.
I hope you find this interview interesting, too.
Where will the Steiner Academy be?
Location, location, location! We recognise this is one of the biggest issues for everyone interested in sending their children to the school, We are looking at sites across Bristol, but won’t know where the school is until next year. We need funding agreed by the Department of Education before we can make firm plans and we will let everyone know as soon as we can.
What age will the school cater for?
The school will cater for ages 4 – 16. Initially we need to grow the school at a steady rate so will open just a few classes in September 2014 (hoping we receive funding).
How big will the school be?
We will open with about 125 pupils and by the time the school is full in 2024, there will be 624.
Will it be a fee-paying school?
The Steiner Academy Bristol will be a ‘Free School’ which means it will be funded directly by the department of education and be ‘free’ from the local authority.
What are your own personal experiences of education?
Everyone on the steering group comes from a different educational background. Personally, I went to a fee-paying school where I received an excellent academic education that I describe as being ‘dead from the neck down’. Other people went to the local comprehensive while others had an entirely Steiner education.
Is there less emphasis on formal academic qualifications at a Steiner School?
Sometimes there is a perception that a Steiner education will not support academic achievement. People might like to know that the two people who went to the Steiner School now work for Deloittes International Accountancy Firm as a Project manager and as a Site Manager with a first class degree!
Will the new Steiner School offer GCSEs?
Yes, the new school will offer GCSEs; in future we may also offer new qualifications as they emerge but we will always offer qualifications that enable pupils to follow their chosen path through A-levels and other post-16 education.
We do think that most state schools overload pupils with GCSEs. Our curriculum will be based around a Baccalaureate system of a minimum of 5 GCSEs (or equivalent) in academic subjects (Maths, English, foreign languages, sciences). Alongside that we will provide a range of other subjects which will be accredited as GSCEs or in other ways. This system will give pupils more freedom to learn by doing – to learn drama by writing and acting not just by writing essays about plays; to learn about the arts through sculpture, metalwork, painting and drawing without an excessive emphasis on a fixed curriculum of theory.
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I hope you found this interview helpful. If you would like more information about the new Academy and/or would like to register your support, please visit http://steineracademybristol.org.uk There is also a Steiner Academy Bristol Facebook page.
Have YOU any experience of Steiner education? What do you think about the Bristol Steiner Academy opening? Please do comment below!
What is missing in this interview is any challenge of the occult beliefs of the Steiner movement. For example, the relationships the school has with the esoteric movement known as anthroposophy; how anthroposophy will drive the curriculum; its spiritual goals for children with respect to karma and reincarnation; the problem of pseudoscience and quack medicine within Steiner Schools; and the question of Steiner's racist views.
Parents should look in detail about what Steiner's views were before simply accepting that Steiner schools are some sort of alternative, progressive approach to education. There are many who think the exact opposite is true.
Thanks very much for your comments. I am sure your points will be helpful to parents considering a Steiner education for their children.
HI Canard Noir,
I'm part of the steering group for the Steiner Academy Bristol project – I wanted to try to answer some of your points.
I wrote a piece about our school's relationship with Anthroposophy, which is on our website here: http://steineracademybristol.org.uk/faq/anthroposophy-and-education/
Briefly, although the Steiner education movement is rooted in Steiner's philosophy, we feel strongly that religion, faith and spirituality are matters for private individuals. So our school will concern itself with the practicalities of education and will not promote or teach any spiritual or religious perspective.
We want to be a Steiner school because we've all seen how the Steiner approach can give children a happy, creative experience of education; that doesn't mean that we uncritically accept everything that Steiner wrote, far from it. In particular we utterly reject his ideas on race.
I should also emphasis that as a group we are very diverse in our opinions of Steiner's work. Within our group, some of us are interested in Steiner's spiritual ideas but some are atheists and Humanists, and some (like me) are thoroughly agnostic. A good few of us have a science background including one person who is involved in NHS research so I can promise that there will be no pseudoscience in our school. Likewise, our curriculum will not be in any way based around Anthroposophy. Steiner's ideas influence how we will teach but not what we will teach.
If you're interested in discussing any of this, please do get in touch. We're currently waiting to hear from DfE as to whether the project has been approved, but if we are given the go-ahead we will be running more consultation events, so you would be very welcome to come along and meet us and talk about it all. You can email us at http://www.steineracademybristol.org.uk and there's the link to our website above. We're really happy to discuss all of this and we welcome the opportunity to put our side across.