How can a school run effectively without a Head Teacher?
Can children get into university with a Steiner Waldorf education?
Yes. Pupils at this school sit GCSEs and Open College Network examinations and then go on to higher education. See Upper School for more information.
How do children adapt to mainstream education once they've been in the Steiner Waldorf system?
Our experience is that children of all ages adapt very well moving in either direction. The Steiner Waldorf Curriculum and the mainstream curriculum essentially cover the same work; the key difference is in the teaching approach, methods and timing rather than subject content. The one exception to this is senior level science where the needs of the mainstream curriculum are met by extra science lessons in Upper School.Differences in the timing of curriculum delivery tends to result in the children being ahead in some subjects and behind in others. Over a year these differences tend to iron themselves out but it is useful to ensure that teachers at the new school understand the possible differences. Showing main lesson books to new teachers is highly recommended.
The Steiner Waldorf teaching approach, by being based on the individual child, develops early, deep-rooted self-confidence and strong communications skills. On moving to mainstream schools, former pupils have reported no more difficulties in settling and making friends than the normal adjustment that results from moving to any new school. Indeed most make the transition with no difficulty at all.
One of the key differences in method is that Steiner children mostly remain in their own classroom and the subject teachers come to them. A common fear when a child moves to the mainstream is navigating a big confusing building under time pressure. Again, in practice, this problem resolves itself when the children realise they are not alone, and the other children find this equally confusing.
What is wrong with the National Curriculum anyway and why should the Steiner Waldorf Curriculum be any better?
Taken as a whole, most subjects that appear in the National Curriculum are also part of the Steiner Waldorf Curriculum. The key question is at what age a given subject or educational approach is appropriate? The Steiner Waldorf Curriculum is based on a detailed model of child development encompassing physical, emotional, intellectual and moral development. Each subject is brought to the children at an age when it will be beneficial to their overall development.
Why does the school have rules about the type of food that can be brought into school?
There are a number of reasons for having rules about what the children eat when they are at school. Firstly, the children have a full and active day and it is important that they receive wholesome and nourishing food. Secondly, foods containing large amounts of additives such as sugar are not only unhealthy, but also often lead to hyperactive behaviour, which impedes the learning experience of the whole class. Thirdly, elaborately packaged or novelty foods, particularly those aimed at the packed lunch market, can lead to unfriendly and competitive behaviour amongst the children.
As it's a fee-paying school, isn't it rather elitist?
Yes and no. Fundamentally, Steiner Waldorf Education is non-selective and should be available to any family that wants it. Steiner Schools are state-supported in many countries around the world; however, in the UK this is not yet the case and as such Steiner Waldorf schools are obliged to charge fees in order to operate. The level of fees is tied closely to the actual running costs and we try to accommodate families from a range of socio-economic backgrounds. The Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship is constantly campaigning to gain state recognition for Steiner Waldorf education and thus remove any financial barriers.
What happens if we really want a Steiner Waldorf education for our child but can't afford to pay the fees?
The Steiner Waldorf movement has, as an ideal, that children who would benefit from this education should not be refused entry on the basis of lack of money. Therefore all schools in the UK (where state funding is not available) offer some form of discounted or reduced fee. See Finance for more information.
My five year-old can already read and write. Won't she be bored at the Steiner school?
The range of activities at this age group is much wider than a focus on reading and writing. The children engage in painting, crayon drawing, singing, gardening, puppet shows and stories. Thus the skills already attained will be strengthened and deepened in an exciting and interesting way.
If the school does not test its students, how can parents know that standards are being met?
We do assess children in basic literacy and numeracy skills through annual class screening as well as individual assessment by teachers. As students progress through the school there is regular monitoring of pupils’ progress and this is reported to parents on a yearly basis. Parents and teachers are also encouraged to communicate directly if they have concerns about a child’s progress.The closer relationship between parents and teachers in a Steiner Waldorf school means that teachers are generally more approachable. With the introduction of GCSEs and now OCNs (see the Upper School for more information) we have an objective standard to measure our pupils’ progress and this has been very encouraging, with on average 79% of GCSEs being passed at A-C, and no failures.
What we do not have is a culture of testing in the classroom whereby children learn only to value the educational process in terms of a test result. Education has, after all, a much wider scope than that and our aim is for pupils here to enjoy a real educational process.
I've heard children can just play all day if that is what they choose.
This is not true. The school day is structured according to a timetable and all pupils have to attend all lessons. Children are supervised as soon as they arrive in school. There is an emphasis on play in the Kindergarten to foster social skills and form the building blocks for learning but again the day is structured and supervised.
Is the school full of hippies?
Brighton Steiner School attracts families from a diverse range of backgrounds who all share the common goal of wanting their child to experience the richness and creativity offered by Steiner Waldorf education. Some parents favour a more ‘alternative’ lifestyle. Some are lawyers, accountants, teachers, nurses, managers. Others are involved in the arts, media and performance.
My child is dyslexic. How will this be addressed at the school?
As a small independent school, we do not have the wealth of resources available to the maintained sector to support children with learning difficulties. We therefore assess children very carefully prior to admission so that we can be confident that we can meet a child’s needs. Our Special Needs Policy provides for Individual Education Plans and a regular review process to monitor progress. If at any time we felt unable to support a child we would work with the parents to look at an alternative placement. Through the curriculum and the different approach to learning in a Steiner Waldorf school, children who have struggled in mainstream schools can often flourish here despite their learning difficulties.
If a child has the same teacher all the way through school, what happens if they don't get on?
The prospect of teacher and child spending many years together brings with it an attitude that fosters resolution if problems do arise. If a teacher only teaches a group of children for a year, relationship challenges may well simply be endured until that child becomes someone else’s responsibility. In the Steiner Waldorf system, children are spared the stress of building a new relationship with a new teacher each year.
Why do I have to pay fees and help out in school with things like classroom cleaning?
At all Steiner Waldorf schools parents are positively encouraged to join in with many school activities and one of the ways is for parents to help clean their child’s classroom. This arises from the premise in Steiner Waldorf education that school is a place where teachers and parents should work together to support the children.Other requests for help are around community events like the Christmas Bazaar and the London to Brighton Cycle Ride. These fundraisers do make money for the school, but there is also value in the whole school community working together. It really does make the children feel good to see their parents participating in school events and most parents enjoy getting involved.
How can I participate in the life of the school if I am working full-time?
Many of our families have two working parents. It is obviously harder for them to participate during the day than for a parent at home with young children (for those that are, the school welcomes younger siblings at most events). Some events and parent groups take place at weekends or during the evening and our intention is that all parents find a level of involvement they feel happy with and are able to sustain.
Isn't the school just full of problem children who can't cope with mainstream education?
No. We monitor the percentage of our pupils on our Learning Support Register and we have an average number of pupils with some form of difficulty. The vast majority of our pupils are of average or above average academic ability and many also have considerable talent in the creative arts. Pupils staying on to Upper School have achieved great success at GCSE and transferred easily to higher education.
How much homework do students get?
At the discretion of the class teacher homework starts usually around Class 5. Subject teachers consult with the class teacher on frequency and quantity of homework when they want to introduce homework. To give a couple of examples, Class 6 undertakes 20 minutes once a week at the beginning of the year leading to 20 minutes three times a week at the end of the year. Class 9 undertakes 1 hour a day at the beginning of the year leading to up to 2 hours a day at the end of the year.
My son loves competitive sports. What sports does the Steiner school do?
The games and sports curriculum in a Steiner Waldorf school, as with the academic subjects, is derived from a detailed model of child development. The games and sports played reflect the child’s gradual development from a group-centred consciousness in the early years to an individual consciousness that emerges in later years. There is a strong focus on athletics in Class 5, which coincides with the study of the Greek Olympics. The school has a basketball court and the children can also use this during break. In general, the emphasis is on co-operation and social development rather than focusing on individual victories.