What is a Steiner Academy?

Oct 16, 2013

Exactly what is a Steiner Academy? It's a question that keeps coming up, both from parents with an interest in Steiner education, and from those within mainstream education who are uncertain about this new kind of school.

Well, what we're trying to do is to create a new kind of school, that combines the ethos and values of Steiner education with the professional management of mainstream education. The steering group for Steiner Academy Bristol (who will form the nucleus of the Board of Governors when the school opens) are all strongly committed to Steiner education - several are experienced Steiner teachers; most of our children are attending Steiner schools; and several of the group attended Steiner schools themselves. However, we feel that this unique education should be available to anyone who wants it, not just those who can afford to send their children to an independent school. So we're setting up a school of our own...

This won't be the first Steiner Academy - there are schools open in Hereford, Frome and Exeter. The four Steiner Academies have worked together to negotiate with the Department for Education so that we are not obliged to carry out the same level of SAT testing as mainstream schools; OFSTED understand that we are trying to achieve different outcomes, so they judge our schools differently. And as a free School, we do not have to follow the National Curriculum. This means that we are substantially free to provide the education that we want to provide, without excessive testing or a National Curriculum which has recently been something of a political football.

However, Steiner Academies are not by any means flaky, 'alternative' schools in which children can do whatever they want. Our school will provide an education which stretches and challenges all children, stimulating their imaginations and building motivation, confidence and self-direction. Steiner Academy Hereford has shown that this type of education can also provide excellent GCSE results, with 80% of their 2013 cohort achieving five or more GCSEs including Maths and English, and around 50% of grades being either A or A*. And Steiner school pupils can be high achievers - over the last three years, the independent Bristol Steiner School has seen a consistent 7-8% of pupils go on to Oxford or Cambridge, against a national average of 1.5%.

So we feel that a Steiner Academy has huge potential to provide a great education in Bristol. But there have been some tough decisions to make in how to run the school. We recently recruited a Principal, and we're thrilled that Angie Browne is going to be part of our school - she will be an inspiring leader. But we had to decide whether we should be open to mainstream candidates -  Steiner schools don't normally have head teachers, so there are very few people in Steiner education with the right experience to run a big, state-funded school. In the end we decided to be open to applications from candidates from a mainstream background; we will now recruit a Vice Principal with strong Steiner experience, to act as head of education. We hope that this might just give us the best of both worlds...



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