Safe­guard­ing fears mount over con­tro­ver­sial Steiner schools

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Camilla Turner ED­U­CA­TION EDITOR and Flora Carr ughter y he ayed,”

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.”

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