Save Steiner Schools Camaign (UK)

We recently received an e-mail forwarded from the newly-created Save Steiner Schools Campaign in the UK. A new law coming into effect in the UK will effectively make it illegal for kindergartens and pre-schools not to teach children aged 4 and 5 to read and write! What is more, this threatened ending of the right of Steiner schools (generally known as Waldorf schools in the US) to practice a key aspect of their educational methodology (delayed literacy and numeracy) is being put into place within a context of what the British government calls “choice for parents” – talk about Orwellian use of the English language (choice = taking away choice)!

I am afraid to say that some people will be left with a very bitter feeling of “told you so”. The Steiner/Waldorf movement in the UK has, for a number of years, pursued a policy of accommodation to the government – for example, translating Waldorf practices into the language of the government’s educational “standards”. This has, in part, been pursued in the hope of gaining government funding, allowing students to attend Waldorf schools regardless of their families’ means. This is, indeed, one of the ideals of Waldorf education (that it is for all children). However, the danger of such a strategy is to the even more essential ideal: educational freedom.

In both the UK and the US we have seen a relentless encroaching by the national and federal governments on educational freedom – exemplified by the “national curriculum” in the UK and “No Child Left Behind” in the US. I haven’t been following it but I believe the UK government has also been taking steps to limit the educational freedom of homeschoolers.  [* See Comments for a clarification of this – thanks, Fatima!]

Donna and I feel very strongly in doing all we can to protect educational freedom from the predations of the centralized political state. That is why we signed the ‘We Stand For Homeschooling’ resolution a few years ago and fully support the Association of Waldorf Schools of N. America in their decision not to allow public schools and charter schools (which are, in reality, public schools) to be members of AWSNA. And, incidentally, it is also one reason among many that both of us favor this man in his bid to become President of the United States!

So, the UK schools are hoping for a legal exemption from the state when it comes to meeting the requirements of the latest educational dictate. And we for sure hope they are able to obtain it. It will be very interesting to see what happens if they don’t. I cannot believe that the Steiner/Waldorf schools will start teaching kindergarten children to read and write…

The e-mail we received follows.

— Paul

Save Steiner Schools Campaign
Campaigning for an opt-out of Early Years Foundation Stage


The Issue
November 7th, 2007

This website has been created by parents to provide a focus for campaigning to stop the UK government forcing all Steiner Waldorf and other kindergartens and nurseries to implement the Early Years Foundation Stage requirements.

Most of the framework is both positive and uncontentious. The problem is that some of the development goals and assessment run contrary to existing forms of education that thousands of people in the UK and many more in Europe have been championing for decades.

Mandatory reading, writing and numeracy at age 4-5

The new legal requirements introduced by the Childcare Act 2006 will come into force from September 2008 and threaten to disrupt established educational methods such as the Steiner Waldorf curriculum that are based on childrens’ natural development processes in an environment that is not formally assessing them.

Steiner Waldorf kindergartens do not teach literacy at all at age 4-5 as this is covered very well in the initial years in the main school at a time (beyond age 6) at which it is believed to be more appropriate for children to learn it. Therefore this change will completely alter the landscape of Steiner Waldorf education principles in the UK. Many European countries have excellent literacy rates and yet do not have mandatory education until ages 6 or even 7 years.

The EYFS is part of a ten year strategy called “Choice for parents, the best start for children”, even though as it stands EYFS is set to remove choice for parents and represents a different start for children, one which some experts do not believe is the best.

Mandatory assessment at 5 years old

The EYFS includes contains 117 different points against which kindergarten and nursery teachers will have to assess every single child in their care. This report will be given to local authorities and parents when each child is 5 years old. This assessment is a legal requirement, and the implementation of it is subject to OFSTED inspections and/or Local Education Authority inspection.

If you are unhappy with the increasing pressure on young children to learn reading, writing and arithmetic at such young ages and the encroaching mandatory assessment that may affect the quality of their education, please join our campaign and take action.

Posted on December 18, 2007 in Kindergarten (and pre-K), Waldorf Curriculum

  • Carle says:

    Please can I foward this article to My HS group
    please check the link below for my group info [if necessary]
    You can let me know on

  • donna says:

    Yes – please do. I am always pleased when people find our work helpful. All I ask is that you credit it to us and also include our details!

  • Carle says:

    Of course, you do wonderful work! I will post your link.
    I will continue to post articles that are relevant to my group and thank you for your constant focus on Education through understanding.

  • Fatima D'Oyen says:

    Regarding this statement from the posting above: “I haven’t been following it but I believe the UK government has also been taking steps to limit the educational freedom of homeschoolers.”
    This isn’t actually true. After a lengthy consultation with homeschoolers and others earlier this year, the government has decided to continue to fully support the right of parents to home educate their children, as it is called here. One of the main homeschooling organisations in the UK is Education Otherwise; their home page has a link to a pdf form of the most recent guidelines for local authorities about home education. See:
    Besides Steiner/Waldorf supporters, a large number of child development experts have been voicing their objections to the new regulations and have started an online petition, open for British citizens or people living in the UK to sign. The website is:
    An article describing academics’ objections to the new legistation can be found here, on The Times site:
    Best wishes,

  • Paul says:

    Hi Fatima,
    Thanks so much for your clarification/correction. And thanks for the useful links.
    — Paul

  • Sumiyeh says:

    Before clicking it,I knew that your link for “this man” was going to lead to Ron Paul!!!
    Go Ron!!! and thanks to you, Paul!

  • 1984 says:

    Hello Donna and Paul
    Some of us are very concerned about this Early Years Foundation Stage here in the UK. It effectively means that all pre-schoolers will receive an academic program from their childcare providers, without parents (or the childcare provider) having a choice to follow a different philosophy.
    With reference to the home education guidelines, the UK government were going to curb home education and set up annual testing etc and the possibility of having to use the National Curriculum. It was only due to the concerted efforts of a mass of home educators who responded to the consultation that this was avoided. Germany lost their right to home educate a couple of years ago!
    Please, do pass on news about the save the steiner schools campaign to other homeschoolers and also to parents and teachers in Waldorf schools in the States. Lobbying from outside the boundaries of the UK (e.g. to the British Embassy etc) can help raise awareness of this totalitarian… erm Early Years Foundation Stage. It’s not just about the Steiner curriculum. Legislation like this can filter down into everyone’s lives. It is already a struggle to home educate in a society where school is seen as the norm. If early academics with tests for just turned 5-year olds becomes not just a guideline but a compulsion then I hope my own child doesn’t have children because it gets into Orwellian territory. The consultation that the Government issued was very misleading in its wording and didn’t truly convey the outcome that there will be little in the way of respect for diverse child development and care programs. Nor did it highlight that parental choice will be ignored altogether.
    It is worth reading the goals and outcomes for the EYFS – some of them are reasonable and are to do with basic care and wellbeing. However, when it gets into educational territory then it becomes academic. How appropriate is it for a just turned 5-year old to know basic punctuation? They seem to have missed play for play’s sake or “Child is happy” as a piece of data.
    Here’s a link that will take you to the EYFS (which is statutory under the Childcare Act 2006):
    Kind regards and seasonal greetings

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