Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 02 Oct 2008

Is my local Steiner school a hippy sort of place, or worth thinking about for our daughter?

Hillary's Advice

This parent is put off by what she calls “off-puttingly fervent” parents banging on about the wonders of their Steiner school, but intrigued by the school’s popularity.

Some Steiner supporters do indeed carry on as if they alone know the secrets of the educational universe, and there are some very odd things about Steiner education. It’s theosophical foundations, for one thing, which seems very quaint and 19th century, and its insistence that, in art, children be introduced to one colour at a time.

But there are attractive things, too. Steiner schools allow children to develop their imaginations and gain respect for the world they live in. Their emphasis on physical and craft activities, on rhythm and music, and on taking education slowly, giving their pupils time to fully digest what they are learning, are all admirable.

One Steiner school, in Herefordshire, has now become a state-funded Academy, and when I visited it a couple of years ago I was deeply impressed by the pupils who seemed to be growing up into extraordinarily nice young people, thoughtful, well-balanced, and no more weird than any other group of teenagers. They spent little time on computers and many did not have televisions at home, so they were obviously drawn from what this reader might consider a hippyish population, but so what?

More worrying, I thought, was the idea of having the same teacher for several years in a row. Which is fine if that teacher is good, but not so great if he or she isn’t.