Those of you who are familiar with my recent posts about the current intensive Ofsted inspections of Steiner schools in England will be aware that I have my suspicions about the motives behind this scrutiny blitz by inspectors.
One of the puzzling features is that schools which have previously been awarded a ‘Good’ rating are now being told that they are ‘Inadequate’. A recent example is that of Michael Hall in Forest Row, East Sussex, often seen as the flagship Steiner school in the UK, which in October 2018 was found by inspectors to be ‘Good’ in five areas and ‘Outstanding’ in Early Years; and just six months later was suddenly ‘Inadequate’ in four out of eight areas. What lies behind this sudden 180 degree turn away from previous inspection findings?
Ofsted would no doubt say that the main factor behind this change is that they have taken back in-house the inspections of Steiner schools previously carried out by School Inspection Service Ltd (SIS), whose inspections were themselves inspected annually by Ofsted and found recently to be insufficiently rigorous. SIS has now apparently taken the decision to close itself down, though there is nothing to indicate this on their website.
Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman wrote to Damian Hinds, the Secretary of State for Education (ie the government’s education minister) that: “The results of our monitoring work of SIS (…) gave me cause for concern: the inspections we monitored lacked rigour, particularly in relation to safeguarding. (…) I am aware that SIS has taken the decision to cease operating. I know our officials are already working together, along with the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), to ensure that all schools previously under the SIS umbrella are inspected by an alternative inspectorate.”
I have to declare an interest here, as for a brief period in 2014/15 I was a lay inspector with SIS and accompanied the inspectors on a few of their visits to Steiner schools. Part of my role was to advise these very experienced inspectors on aspects of Steiner Waldorf education with which they may not have been familiar, but my work was not a statutory part of the inspection process. As readers of previous posts on this topic will know, I formed a high opinion of the inspectors with whom I worked, all of whom were formerly Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Education (HMIs) and who were led during my time by Simon Bennett and then by Mrs Jane Cooper, herself a former principal officer at Ofsted.
Indeed, Amanda Spielman wrote to Jane Cooper in March 2018 enclosing a copy of Ofsted’s report on the inspections carried out by SIS and said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your professionalism during the year”. This may be a standard sign-off but it is hardly the comment one would expect to see about the head of an organisation whose contract Ofsted were about to close down.
So what happened that made Ofsted decide to terminate SIS? In a nutshell, the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley happened. My assumption is that, following concerns expressed by RSSKL parents writing to Ofsted and the government minister about safeguarding and other issues, Ofsted took over the inspections at the school which had previously been carried out by SIS. The school then failed several inspections in the period up to its closure in July 2018. The failures of RSSKL inevitably put Ofsted’s spotlight on all the other Steiner schools in England (the other UK home nations have separate school inspectorates), with the results we are seeing today.
These results, although definitely a cause for concern about the future of Steiner schools in England, are somewhat mixed. To give just two examples, St Paul’s Steiner School in Islington, North London, was inspected in March this year and was rated ‘Good’ in all areas – a wonderful achievement for a small school housed in a redundant church building and facing all kinds of difficulties. By contrast, Wynstones School, on the outskirts of Gloucester, founded in 1937 and one of the longest-established Steiner schools in the UK, was also inspected in March 2019 and was rated ‘Inadequate’ in each category. At its previous full inspection in 2016, it had been rated as ‘Good’.
The inspectors found that Wynstones had failed to carry out all the necessary checks and training for staff and volunteers, and had not adequately monitored the quality of teaching, learning and assessment – the latter being a common finding in Ofsted’s recent inspections of Steiner schools. They also noted that the pupils’ “spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is strong”. This is also a common finding during inspections of Steiner schools. The pupils are in very good shape, despite what Ofsted perceives as failings in teaching, learning and pupil assessment.
It seems unlikely that this situation has occurred only recently, so how was it that SIS apparently missed these shortcomings and Ofsted has since picked up on them? One clue to why this may be so can be found in the latest report on Michael Hall school, in which the inspector noted, among other things:
- Leaders and trustees have an overgenerous view of the quality of education that the school provides. In particular, leaders’ monitoring of teaching and learning is ineffective.
- Teaching, learning and assessment are weak in some phases of the school. This means that many pupils do not make the progress they could.
- Systems to assess pupils’ progress are underdeveloped, impacting negatively on the progress pupils make.
- Too often, teachers plan learning that does not meet the needs of pupils of different abilities.
On the other hand, the inspector also recorded that:
- The sixth form is effective. Students do well because the quality of teaching and learning is consistently good or better.
- Pupils’ social and emotional development is served well by the school’s curriculum.
- Safeguarding is effective. Pupils’ welfare, health and safety have a high priority at the school.
- The curriculum provides particularly well for pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. There are also strengths in certain subjects that are delivered by specialists, including languages and gymnastics for instance. Dance, drama and music are also strengths, as is the delivery of eurythmy.
- The school’s extra-curricular offer is strong. Pupils enjoy a wide range of trips and educational visits to enrich their main lessons. The lead inspector enjoyed an impressive choral performance given by the upper school during the inspection. Older pupils look forward to their annual tour of Italy towards the end of their time at the school. Younger pupils benefit from the use of the school’s extensive grounds and gardens.
- Pupils are increasingly well prepared for life in modern Britain. The school’s curriculum promotes tolerance and respect well. Pupils’ understanding of equality and difference is strong. This is particularly the case with older pupils, who are eloquent and well equipped to understand the different issues that living in modern Britain brings.
It is inconceivable to me how a school which has achieved all of this for its pupils can be characterised at the top of the report by the phrase: “This is an inadequate school”. It is clear that this verdict is grossly unjust.
Putting aside my suspicions of an instruction from government ministers to Ofsted to fail a few Steiner schools pour encourager les autres, what it indicates to me is that, while the SIS inspectors were of course aware of disparities between mainstream expectations of teaching and learning and the practice in many Steiner schools – and took good care to point these out as areas for improvement – they also took a holistic view of Steiner education, because they could see the results in the pupils at the top of the school. SIS inspectors made great efforts to understand the education and what the teachers are trying to achieve, and so could take a rounded view of the outcomes; while perhaps it is possible that Ofsted inspectors come in to the schools with their standard model and assumptions and find that Steiner education does not conform to it.
Now I am not arguing that there are no inadequacies in Steiner schools, because there most certainly are. As I’ve written elsewhere, my view is that the College of Teachers model of school management, unless very carefully carried out by people of great integrity and selflessness, is not fit for purpose in today’s conditions; and in particular the College system tends to bring about situations in which there may be insufficient leadership of teaching, learning, assessment and curriculum development in some Steiner schools. My contention is that, if Steiner schools in the UK can find a way to overcome their reluctance to allow individuals to exercise leadership in key parts of the school, then some truly wonderful achievements will come about that could offer inspirational examples for other parts of the education sector. If Steiner education is to survive in England under the Ofsted inspection regime, amended leadership models and wider professional development work will have to become an imperative.
Amanda Spielman has written: “Across the state and independent sectors, there is a wide variety of educational philosophies, and successful schools can be run in a variety of ways. Ofsted does not have a preferred model. However, there are fundamentals that need to be in place: good governance, clear lines of responsibility and effective safeguarding procedures”.
Ofsted may not have a preferred model and Ms Spielman’s points about good governance etc are well made; but I question whether Ofsted understands or is really open to systems which are different from what is found in the mainstream. Take, for example, this experience of an Ofsted inspection as related by a Montessori school. This is a highly detailed and forensic taking-apart of the inadequacies of an Ofsted inspection as applied to a school in the Montessori system and it raises questions in my mind about whether Ofsted can usefully inspect an education method if it does not fully understand it. I could wish that some Steiner teachers would apply a similar analysis to their own experiences of recent Ofsted inspections.
I mentioned Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley earlier. It was the school that educated my daughter and where I worked for several years and which was a huge part of my life from 1998 to 2014. The school is now planning to re-open in September 2019 as the Langley Hill Independent School under the sponsorshipship of the Avanti Schools Trust, which is also a sponsor of state-funded Hindu faith schools in the UK. Langley Hill describes itself as a Waldorf-inspired school. This may be a path on which a number of Steiner schools strike out in the future and reminds me irresistibly of Graeme Whiting, a former teacher at RSSKL who, with his wife Sarah, wanted to start a Waldorf-inspired school without the complications of trying to manage it through a College of Teachers. Their school, the Acorn School at Nailsworth in Gloucestershire, is very successful, as the latest Ofsted report attests.
RSSKL’s sad fate, coming after my own testing times there, has been a source of frequent angst and agonising for me. Recently I decided that I needed to bring some kind of closure to all this and so resolved to get rid of all my documentation relating to RSSKL. One evening I lit a fire in our garden and then solemnly burnt every single file and paper relating to my time at the Kings Langley school. Perhaps it was just coincidence that the next evening I got a call from a friend, a very experienced former teacher at RSSKL, who on the night of my bonfire had attended a public meeting at the school to meet Adrian Hubbard, who she told me had just been appointed as the first Principal of the new school. Mr Hubbard, whom I don’t know and had never heard of before, has been teaching in China and flew back there after this meeting. When he introduced himself to the assembled parents and friends of the school, he began by saying: “I owe this job to Jeremy Smith. I have been reading his blog while in China and decided to find out more about the school and in the process discovered that it is seeking to re-open and was advertising for a principal. I applied and here I am.”
I told my friend that Mr Hubbard will have done himself no favours with some of the people there by mentioning me – but of course I was delighted, as this seemed like a natural and positive completion of my own long, karmic journey with the school at Kings Langley. And as Mr Hubbard is apparently a follower of this blog and may be reading these lines while still in China, I hope he will accept my very best wishes for the successful renaissance of a good and special school – no longer a Steiner school but nevertheless a Waldorf-inspired one, which will always have a place in my heart.
26 responses to “How objective are Ofsted inspections of Steiner schools in England?”
This a fine post Jeremy, and a wonderful bit of serendipity that the Principal-in-Waiting for the Langley Hill Independent School has been reading your blog. As I have said before your blog contains the most apt and sensible observations about the state of Steiner education in England to be found online.
I find one phrase which makes me uncomfortable,
“It is clear that this verdict is grossly unjust.”
The verdict is given according to the criteria used by OFSTED to evaluate all schooling whatever the inspiration behind it. One may feel that the verdict is wrong, but to show that it is unjust would need a very detailed analysis of all the information collected and the interpretations made from it.
The forces of opposition do have a great interest in provoking feelings of unfair treatment in people. These feelings can be a distraction from addressing the real changes that need to take place to strengthen the presence of anthroposophically inspired activities in the world.
I feel that all available creative energy needs to go into delineating exactly how to make the Waldorf approach to education effective and worthwhile in the eyes of the wider world, the world that includes government agencies whose brief is to defend the need of all children to receive an appropriate and effective education.
Recent inspections seem to show that a number of the Steiner/Waldorf schools are now managing to do this. They are meeting the OFSTED criteria whilst remaining true to their inspiration. The St. Paul’s School and the Ringwood School have both received good OFSTED ratings.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you, Tom. Someone I know and highly respect who used to work at Michael Hall has taken a similar line to you. What he said in response to my post was: “I see no evidence of bias in the Ofsted report – indeed they have accurately picked out both the areas of weakness and the areas of strength that I would have identified when I worked there. That to me suggests a lack of bias rather than the opposite. I can’t comment on the degree of weakness they have assessed (i.e. inadequate vs needs improvement) but the overall impression I get is of an insightful assessment”.
So to make it clear, what I found grossly unjust was to put at the head of the report: “This is an inadequate school”, when it clearly isn’t. It wasn’t inadequate six months earlier and it wasn’t inadequate in February of this year, when the boarding report (by an Ofsted inspector, not a SIS inspector) found that the school was Good in three areas:
1. Overall experiences and progress of children and young people
2. How well children and young people are helped and protected
3. The effectiveness of leaders and managers
Go figure, as the Americans might say.
LikeLiked by 3 people
Best of luck to Adrian Hubbard!
As a former RSSKL pupil (1960-71) I was heartened to read the last two paragraphs of your blogpost Jeremy. Your words underscore my notion that we live in a conscious universe steered by beings with a sprightly sense of humour. Some kind of phoenix is poised to rise from the ashes and I’m glad to hear that at least some elements of Waldorf pedagogy with be included in the new endeavour.
Steiner education worldwide is going to have to make changes and compromises such as are occuring at the Kings Langley school for better or worse. Business as usual seems less and less tenable as the years roll by
I myself am associated with a small new school located in the Peruvian jungle city of Tarapoto called ‘Selva Azul’ (Blue Jungle). My wife Lourdes, as a retired Waldorf teacher of many years experience, acts in an advisory role helping young local teachers learn a few of the elements of Waldorf education for classes one through five, while my step-daughter Lucia, who is a trained Waldorf kindergarten teacher, starts the youngest children off with a full Waldorf experience. That’s the way this particular school has made its start.
I tend to take the attitude that ‘something is better than nothing’ when it comes to intruducing elements of Waldorf education, although I know there are plenty of purists who shudder at any kind of compromise with Waldorf orthodoxy.
What do you think?
saludos desde Peru
Wonderful to hear from you, Martin! I think that those young children in the Peruvian jungle are very fortunate to have you, your wife and step-daughter to give them a Waldorf-inspired start to their education.
The time for Waldorf purism, whatever that may be, has long gone. What matters now is to understand the essence of what Steiner had to bring and to interpret and express that in ways that make sense to the people and conditions of today.
Very best wishes to you and everyone at Selva Azul!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks for your comment and good wishes Jeremy!
Yes I agree, the essence is what it’s all about.
I enjoy your blog – please keep sending and if you are ever in Peru please drop by.
I would argue that the recent Ringwood Waldorf School Ofsted report:
Click to access Ringwood-Waldorf-School-OfstedFinal.pdf
strongly suggests that those Steiner-Waldorf schools that have been deemed “Inadequate” are just that. We were told years ago that Safeguarding would be a sine qua non for a successful Ofsted inspection and it is abundantly clear, to me anyway, that several schools simply have not taken this seriously enough. (You already know that I don’t share your opinion of the rigour of SIS inspections, so I guess we don’t need to revisit that point.)
Also, merely because high-achievers and pupils in class 12/13 (Ofsted “sixth form”) do well, it does not mean that all pupils throughout the school are well served, so you really can’t use those to inform the overall effectiveness of a school.
The Michael Hall trustees appear to agree with you. Here is an extract from their letter to parents following the publication of the Ofsted report:
“In the last eight months, the School has been inspected three times. Once by the School Inspection Service in October last year, and twice by Ofsted – in February and March. The February inspection was a boarding inspection and focused on safeguarding, which was assessed as good. The inspections in October and February were full inspections that included the quality of education. While the School Inspection Service assessed the School as good overall and outstanding in some areas, Ofsted has assessed the School as inadequate overall and only good in some areas. We are required to submit an improvement plan to the Department for Education and will be subject to a monitoring inspection from Ofsted in the next twelve months.
It has been suggested by some that we should challenge the Ofsted report. We disagree. While we can be unhappy with how the Department for Education and Ofsted have chosen to focus on Waldorf schools in the way they have, the Ofsted report contains a core truth in that the School’s standards of teaching should be higher and that the work to improve standards has moved too slowly.
Ofsted in the inspection report says: “Leaders and trustees know that aspects of the School need to improve rapidly and are keen to make this happen. [However], Leaders and trustees have an overgenerous view of the quality of education that the School provides. In particular, leaders’ monitoring of teaching and learning is ineffective.”
The substance being: “Teaching, learning, and assessment are weak in some phases of the School. This means that many pupils do not make the progress they could. Systems to assess pupils’ progress are underdeveloped, impacting negatively on the progress pupils make.”
As Trustees we accept this assessment. Together with the School’s management, we apologise for what has happened and, with your support, we will work tirelessly to bring positive and lasting change.”
The Trustees intend to appoint an ex-headteacher, either to their board or as an external adviser; and they will be appointing a principal and vice-principal in January 2020.
I feel sorry for the teachers at Michael Hall – their demotivation must now be a serious issue for the school.
WC rumor has it that Kings Langley will be taken over by the Avanti Schools Trust and reopened in the fall as a Hindu Faith School.
If so, might this be some kind of “historical payback”, perhaps a form of karmic recompense for Rudolf Steiner’s racistic rejection of that “Hindu lad” Krishnamurti in 1908? Or else a positive regression of the school “back to the basics” — a kind of “reset button” to start afresh with the universal Krishna consciousness of the First Post-Atlantean epoch called the Hindu Epoch?
I quote from the wiki site:
Avanti schools aim to promote “educational excellence, character formation and spiritual insight.” Avanti schools follow the standard national curriculum of the government-run schools of the United Kingdom. In addition to the standard curriculum, Avanti schools feature Sanskrit language teaching, meditation and yoga practice, ethics and philosophy education, and inclusive religious instruction. Religious education is evenly split between Hinduism and other world religions.
Tom, I think Jeremy addressed this in his essay when he wrote:
“I mentioned Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley earlier. It was the school that educated my daughter and where I worked for several years and which was a huge part of my life from 1998 to 2014. The school is now planning to re-open in September 2019 as the Langley Hill Independent School under the sponsorship of the Avanti Schools Trust, which is also a sponsor of state-funded Hindu faith schools in the UK. Langley Hill describes itself as a Waldorf-inspired school. This may be a path on which a number of Steiner schools strike out in the future and reminds me irresistibly of Graeme Whiting, a former teacher at RSSKL who, with his wife Sarah, wanted to start a Waldorf-inspired school without the complications of trying to manage it through a College of Teachers. Their school, the Acorn School at Nailsworth in Gloucestershire, is very successful, as the latest Ofsted report attests.”
So, I can see this as a kind of karmic retribution for the Krishnamurti affair, which caused the German Section of the Theosophical Society to be expelled in 1912, but it is interesting today that Steiner schools in England might have to accept the Hindu system in order to maintain their legacy. Would that be progression or regression?
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you Steve for responding so well to my “call for symptomatology” here. We Anthropoppers must indeed learn to read and interpret the “signs of the times” — otherwise the folks at WC will do it for us.
As for the question of progression vs. regression, I would rather re-phrase your dichotomy to use the terms: innovation vs. consolidation. I call upon the wisdom of my late friend, Arthur M. Young (1905-1995), whose Theory of Process allowed me to interpret Steiner’s 7 Post-Atlantean epochs in a very enlightening way.
(For those interested in the man, here is his website:
I quote from his book The Reflexive Universe: Evolution of Consciousness published in 1976.
Odd kingdoms develop from the advanced end of the previous kingdom.
Even kingdoms develop from the beginning of the previous one.
In other words, even kingdoms repeat, odd ones innovate.
In short, odd numbered epochs innovate while even numbers consolidate (or repeat/recapitulate). That is to say, regarding the 7 Post-Atlantean epochs:
1.(Hindu), 3. (Egypto-), 5. (Anglo-Germanic), 7. (American)
2. (Persian), 4. (Greco-Roman), 6. (Russian-Slavonic)
repeat and consolidate.
In keeping to the topic here, the Hindu school initiative represents a necessary and welcome innovation to the previously over-consolidated Waldorf school system (can you say “versteinert?”). Thus I would say that the Waldorf school movement in the UK is indeed progressing by a seeming regression. But what you call a regression is really an innovation, a new impulse that is developing from the end of the previous epoch or kingdom, in this case, from a more micro-cosmic or localized entity called a Waldorf school.
(Stay tuned for an eye-opening quote from Rene Querido on this very subject of the future of Waldorf schools.)
In Steiner’s view (1910), cultural epochs change every 2100 years (GA013_c07), depending on the earth’s precession. The Hindu (Vedic) culture appeared in the third epoch, and mirrors the fifth epoch:
“During the unfolding of these second and third post-Atlantean cultural epochs, ancient India also experienced a second and a third cultural period. What is usually spoken of as ancient India originated in this third epoch. … Another aspect of this ancient Indian culture is what later led to a division of men into castes…” (GA013_c04-06), cf. Mehrgarh in present-day Pakistan
“What the third, the Egypto-Chaldean cultural period, has bestowed upon human evolution repeats itself, in a certain way, in the fifth period.” (GA013_c06), cf. GA015_c03
Steiner clarified this distinction even further in his lectures on The Gospel of St. Mark, GA139, in lectures five and six, in which he talks about Krishna, the predecessor of Gautama Buddha. He says that by the time of the 3rd cultural epoch, which was largely Egyptian, the original ancient Indian epoch, had progressed two stages, and needed to establish a Hindu deity as a kind of personal god, and this was Krishna.
Then, when the third epoch passed into the fourth, the Christ entered earth evolution. Innovation meets Consolidation. In other words, Christ meets Jesus at the baptism. And who was this Jesus? None other than Krishna!
So, it seems we have a remarkable integration of innovation and consolidation at this point in time, and wherein the odd-numbered epochs and the even-numbered epochs reach a kind of fulcrum. This is why it is said that the fourth stands alone, while the 1st is recapitulated in the 7th, and the 2nd is recapitulated in the 6th, and the 3rd is recapitulated in the 5th.
Food for thought.
Tom, didn’t Steiner tacitly recognise the Hindu boy Krishnamurti as the coming Bhoddisattva of the Word, while rejecting the absurdity of a second coming of a Messiah in the flesh? Only after Steiners death in 1925, when Krishnamurti (1895-1986) reached the age of 30, Krishna became spiritually independent of the Theosophical Society and its messianic expectations.
Ton, I don’t think that Steiner ever recognized the Hindu boy Krishnamurti as anything but a ploy of the theosophical society of Annie Besant to proclaim the return of Jesus. He [Krishnamurti] even dismissed the notion himself by the tine he reached thirty years of age. Now, what Steiner had to say about the incarnation of the 20th century Bodhisattva is contained in these three lectures, which we went over last September-October in the discussion on the “Bodhisattva Question”.
Sure, but I don’t think Steiner or Krishnamurti dismissed the notion of Krishnamurti being a bodhisattva at thirty, or did they?
As often seems to happen when Tom Mellett sends in a comment, we are getting dragged away from the topic of this post; so, interesting though these digressions may be, I don’t intend us to go any further down these byways right now.
I would say to Tom, however, that I think he may be misunderstanding the nature of the involvement of the Avanti Schools Trust with the Langley Hill Independent School. The new school will not be a Hindu faith-based school, (although the establishment of such schools has up until now been the purpose of the Trust) but a Waldorf-inspired school. What that will mean in practice we shall no doubt be able to see from next September onwards.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Ah, Jeremy! On land, you are the Anthropopper, but whenever I swoop in to recruit sailors for digressions onto the Sea of Anthroposophy, then you become Captain of the Good Ship Anthropop and you deftly steer us back to shore again.
However, the Querido quote I promised is most definitely on topic here so I shall add that in a new comment thread.
Well, certainly Steiner drew the concern about Krishnamurti when he was just a boy being used by the Theosophical Society, c. 1912. Then, Krishnamurti himself would disavow any relationship to Jesus by 1928, and this is supposed to have broken the heart of Annie Besant.
So, how do you think this could still make him the Bodhisattva?
40 years ago, I attended the Waldorf Teacher Training year at Rudolf Steiner College in northern California when its president was Rene Querido.
Whenever the topic of the future of Waldorf Education would come up in class, Rene would invariably recite this quote from Rudolf Steiner.
The problem is that I have not been able to find the quote in the GA. I believe that the source is Herbert Hahn who was the original French teacher at the Stuttgart school in 1919 and the person whom Rene considered his very best friend and mentor in anthroposophy and WE. So it is most likely Herbert relating to Rene a private conversation he had with Rudolf Steiner.
Anyway, I heard the quote so many times that I can still reconstruct it here with some padding I’m sure from the 4 decade memory gap, but the meaning is still quite clear:
Waldorf schools will continue to exist as independent separate entities until the impulse that lives in Waldorf Education permeates ‘education-at-large’ — at which point separate Waldorf schools become unnecessary.
LikeLiked by 2 people
Steiner made a very significant remark along these lines when he gave the lectures on the history of the anthroposophical movement in June 1923. Coming at the midpoint of the year that began with the fire that destroyed the Goetheanum, and ending with the refounding of the Anthroposophical Society in December 1923, it can be shown here that Steiner also advocated for a future time when a thousand anthroposophists could become a million. Here, he invokes the living being, “Anthroposophia”, as someone seen in his perceptual field working actively amongst the individuals listening to his lectures.
He called it an important consolidation of a person living for the cause, and who he once knew in a spiritual form when he was a little boy. He found out about her by seeing his father bereaved by the loss of someone young who was close to him. He felt it himself as a kind of loss of affection, which had been transferred to the niece.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Jeremy, I have been holding on to something of significance concerning this topic for a few days now, and I see now that it might be the most important event in your career with the Steiner school movement in England. It concerns the decision to burn all your papers and other documents in a bonfire, which seemingly could correlate to the Mayday festival of purification. You wrote:
“RSSKL’s sad fate, coming after my own testing times there, has been a source of frequent angst and agonising for me. Recently I decided that I needed to bring some kind of closure to all this and so resolved to get rid of all my documentation relating to RSSKL. One evening I lit a fire in our garden and then solemnly burnt every single file and paper relating to my time at the Kings Langley school.”
I think that this event proved to be a really cathartic moment for you. And then, as you say, you got the call the next day. Extraordinary stuff, indeed, in the realm of serendipitous synchronicity.
Hazel wrote something recently on the festival which celebrates the second cross-quarter day of the year, which occurs around May 1st, the Night and Day of Walpurgis. Maybe you felt something of this in your purge of past papers, and feeling the need to move on. This is when a spotlight shines.
Hans van Willenswaard has had difficulty in posting the comment below via WordPress so he has sent it to me and I am now posting it on his behalf:
‘Before making a point on Ofsted’s objectivity I’d like to revert to the blooming gage tree (a kind of prune?) in Jeremy’s orchard. And whether, to be seen as a nice guy, I made up for the occasion it was an olive tree. In a series of pictures “Is biodynamics coming closer to mainstream acceptance?” Jeremy described empathically a healing procedure for affected trees. One caption says:
“The finished tree paste should have the consistency of pancake mixture, sloppy enough to apply to tree trunks with a paintbrush. (Here it is being applied to an olive tree in a pot).”
Anyhow, they are all trees.
So, 31 January 2019, Amanda Spielman, Head of Ofsted, wrote a letter to her boss, the Secretary of State for Education, in which she not only complains about Steiner Waldorf schools in England, but to the dismay of Jeremy, raises the question whether the many insufficiencies could be caused by the very principles of Steiner Waldorf education. Although the question initially may be unsettling, it opens an opportunity and challenge to newly explain these principles, not only for the authorities, but for all stakeholders (children, parents, teachers, administrators, citizens, employers, politicians).
Maybe we have to understand and explain newly what trees are.
And given various reactions, including from Michael Hall school, I less and less felt I could follow Jeremy’s suspicions towards the objectivity of Ofsted.
Until I did some casual internet research and found this article of 6 February 2019, exactly one week after the 31st January letter was released:
“Exclusive: Shock at Ofsted chief’s ‘lack of knowledge’ of peer abuse guidance”
“Mother of victim questions whether Amanda Spielman is ‘fit to be chief inspector’ after she contradicts official safeguarding guidance”
Quote from Tes online https://www.tes.com/news/exclusive-shock-ofsted-chiefs-lack-knowledge-peer-abuse-guidance
“Campaigners against sexual violence have said they are “shocked” and “disappointed” at the Ofsted chief inspector’s “lack of knowledge” about how schools should deal with alleged pupil on pupil sexual abuse.
Appearing in front of the House of Commons Education Select Committee yesterday, Amanda Spielman suggested that schools should not automatically separate pupils if one alleged they had been raped by the other outside of school.
Her comments contradict statutory guidance published by the Department for Education in December 2017, which makes clear that schools should not allow victims of sexual violence to remain in the same classes as their alleged attackers.
One mother of a teenager who was forced to return to the classroom with her alleged attacker, said she was “shocked” by Ms Spielman’s comments and questioned whether she was “fit to be chief inspector”.
Tes journalist Will Hazell adds:
“It is not the first time Ofsted’s approach to peer abuse has been heavily criticised.
In October, Tes revealed concerns about “systemic flaws” in Ofsted’s inspection model after it praised two schools on safeguarding, judging them “effective”, despite being warned of major failures in their protection of child rape victims.
Tes also highlighted serious shortcomings in Ofsted’s systems and processes for receiving safeguarding concerns from parents.”
Apparently Ofsted is not beyond fair criticism. Critique does not immediately fall into a category of conspiracy theories. That Ofsted could tend to apply double standards, for one reason or another, is not impossible. It also raises the question whether appropriate appeal procedures are in place.
However, Michael Hall School may be wise to just swallow the conclusions of the report and simply implement improvements. When I had to work with the government for the first time my senior colleagues told me there is only one rule “civil servants are always right”.
Rather than confronting Ofsted, we may invest our energy in vigorously articulating – even re-inventing – our principles. After “100 Years Waldorf” we live in a new era. Steiner Waldorf education now blooms in an enormous diversity of cultural contexts all over the world including “Hindu care for Waldorf inspired education” in England. Anthropopper blog is a most welcome platform for critical exchanges.
As soon as Steiner Waldorf education had become mainstream, new challenges will arise in infinite waves and will require new answers, new spirit. Bodhisattvas come and go. They are all Bodhisattvas but have their own particular characteristics and missions within changing time and place frameworks’.
You write “I resolved to get rid of all my documentation relating to RSSKL. One evening I lit a fire in our garden and then solemnly burnt every single file and paper relating to my time at the Kings Langley school.” You have broken GDPR rules and the information commissioner may be informed. Your emails featured in the Independent Investigation and were seen as part of the failing culture that allowed children to be harmed. Luckily others have copies of much of what you wrote.
So it really was so bad at Kings Langley Rudolf Steiner School that you needed closure by burning what you wrote? Thank goodness Ofsted identified this and protected children by shutting it down.
Zandra and Vanessa – I don’t suppose you expect a reply but you’re going to get one anyway. The documents I burnt were those personal and private ones relating to my employment at the school, which ended in May 2014. They were of course nothing to do with the safeguarding issues that happened in subsequent years.
Offsted, taking its role as Witchfinder General, represents the role of the British authorities who will only condone those who they approve of. This is the scholastic approach, the material approach that only allows for physical brain thinking. They have imaginative capacities, but these are misused in that they are untrained. With the approach of their brain, they are only able to conceive of things that they are able to – and nothing else. Yet, as we all know, there are different people in our world who have different ideas, but the scholar, the Witchfinder General, will not accept these as he cannot understand them. Thus they are wrong.
They are wrong because the Witchfinder General cannot imagine how they could be right, and has no need to try because he knows that he is right as he feels this in his gut. In the others being wrong, they will have opened themselves to being persecuted by those who are morally just. Worse is when someone attempts to show them the truth, that is when the Witchfinder General’s imagination is set on fire and such a person can imagine any amount of wrongdoing, all of which points to the limitations of their abilities to think. But the Witchfinder General remains in the right because he knows of nothing else.