Safeguarding fears mount over controversial Steiner schools
THEY are favoured by bohemian, middle-class parents and boast celebrities, actors and musicians among their alumni.
But an investigation by The Sunday Telegraph has revealed that inspectors have raised concerns about safeguarding at almost half of Steiner schools in the country in the past four years.
Several of the 22 independent schools – which charge up to £12,000 per year in fees – have faced regulatory action by the Department for Education (DfE), amid fears over child safety.
An analysis of reports by the School Inspection Service, which was commissioned by the DfE to inspect Steiner schools, showed that emergency inspections had been ordered at eight of the schools.
It comes after Britain’s flagship Steiner school was ordered to shut down, following a series of damning Ofsted inspections which uncovered a raft of safeguarding failings.
Earlier this month, The Sunday Tele- graph revealed that the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley, which is appealing against the order to close, issued an apology to children and their families for “real and serious failings going back several years”.
It acknowledged that it failed to act on “repeated concerns raised by parents” over safeguarding.
A source close to the Steiner movement said there had been longstanding safeguarding issues at a number of schools, but “people are afraid to speak out”.
A Steiner education, which is based on the spiritual philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, called anthroposophy, emphasises child creativity and the importance of rearing “free-thinking individuals”.
Richy Thompson, director of public affairs and policy at Humanists UK, said it was worrying that there was a
‘This is something we have been concerned about for a number of years, having found serious issues’
high proportion of safeguarding issues in Steiner schools.
“This is something we have been concerned about for a number of years as a result of having found serious issues in the past,” he said.
“Given that some in the Steiner movement hold certain beliefs around anthroposophy, unfortunately it is not surprising that these beliefs result in the kind of safeguarding concerns that we are now seeing.”
Briefings produced by civil servants raised serious concerns about Steiner schools years ago, when the DfE had dozens of applications to set up statefunded Steiner free schools.
Ministers have approved four statefunded Steiner schools since 2010.
A spokesman for the UK Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship said that pupil welfare and safety were of “paramount concern”.
“Procedures are reviewed regularly, and inspectors’ recommendations or requirements promptly addressed,” the spokesman said.
“Steiner schools are secular, non-religious schools, which do not teach the philosophy of anthroposophy.”