I was reading this recently and feel that I would like to respond as I am also
in the UK and have had quite a number of years connected to Waldorf. Originally
I trained as a KG teacher and also placed both my children in KG, truly
believing it would be such a gift to them. I won't go into the details of our
"fall from grace" as it were but it was extremely painful. I learned a salutary
lesson particularly regarding believing people because they were nice!
The main reason I have chipped in though is to point out that Steiner Waldorf
Schools in the UK do operate under the umbrella of and (used to) pay a
subscription to The Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship, they are independent of
government funding for the moment.
Teachers receive specific Steiner training (sometimes to degree level) but are
not qualified to practice in mainstream education. My own KG training was
completely inadequate as regards understanding and managing children in anything
other than the Waldorf Way. I was seperately qualified to work with children in
another setting and when directly working in KG that is what I relied on.
It was the reality of the schools themselves (we tried two) that led to us
leaving and our continuing disappointment in the way teachers taught and handled
the children. Both schools continued to employ teachers who had been directly
observed to physically assault children and yet parents would not complain to
outside agencies. The families either just left or attempted to acheive
resolution within the school. There was a real culture of avoiding anything
negative getting outside the school and becoming known. We were even told in
writing to be careful of what we said about the school! I believe the big fear
was in becoming ostracised by the school community which many parents relied on
Anyway, as I don't know if this post will even work yet I will stop there. Maybe
it seems odd but I still feel uncomfortable about "speaking out"!
Thanks for listening,
During my training it seemed to me that Waldorf was one big worldwide community.
That was one of the things that I liked; this sense that right around the world
there were people who cared so much about children that they were prepared to
stand out from the crowd.
Because I was so passionately interested in a concept of a natural and
unpressured childhood with myself as an Earth Mother growing our food , baking
and crafting homemade toys and creating beauty all around for our children that
I confess I took less notice of the Anthroposophy and more of the practicalities
of creating a beautiful environment for children. Although in truth the course
did focus more on that too.
It is still the biggest betrayal for me that I witnessed the children's
protection being placed a poor second to the Anthroposophical ethos of the
schools we attended. Even though neither of my children could even remotely read
at 9 years old and still had not had any formal instruction in reading it is the
disregard for their safety that most affects me. I had no gurantees that the
Waldorf method of education would work but I had believed that the children
would be safer in Waldorf than anywhere else.
Sorting out the reading took just a few months of effective teaching but the
emotional effects of the Waldorf years for all of us seem to linger on.
Only after leaving the second Steiner school did I turn back to my books to try
to see where things went wrong. I thought at first that the teachers were not
following Steiner and wanted to identify just what he had said. However, when I
read his words I began to see how the teachers were able to justify themselves
and their behaviour and how the schools themselves were rather closed off from
the outside community. I am certainly not claiming that Steiner condoned child
abuse but I could see how the teachers view of the karmic relationship with a
child could lead to a struggle taking place and that struggle being viewed as
A friend also reported a conversation she had had with a trainer of Waldorf
teachers who stated that whatever the problems it was very important that the
teacher and the child remained in that relationship. Seeing in my reading that
the child had chosen their relationships and their experiences means that from
the way I see it perhaps the school has little incentive to correct unhealthy
relationships. Perhaps even believing that this could be harmful to their soul
development. However, this does not really alter the fact that they do have a
legal responsibility to protect children and here in the UK teachers are not
allowed to shove, slap or kick children or have sexual relations with students.
To my mind dealing with these things within the school, if they are dealt with
at all, is just not good enough.
Anyway, I am sorry for rambling on, as you can see the child safety aspects
still bother me! The Labour government is going to pilot a state-funded
SteinerWaldorf school here so I really hope that there will be the kind of
supervision from outside that could prevent quite so much being "swept under the
carpet". Better still, not taking place at all!