Knitting not enough in new Ofsted Steiner failure

Inspection report says Waldorf Steiner curriculum allows pupils to develop practical skills in sewing but not in science

John Roberts

Ofsted has failed another Steiner school and highlighted shortcomings in its curriculum

A private Steiner school has been rated as "inadequate" by Ofsted in a report that criticises its teaching and learning, curriculum and pupils' results.

The inspectorate said that the York school’s Waldorf Steiner curriculum was too narrow and does not allow pupils to gain sufficient knowledge and skills.

The report published today comes after supporters of Steiner schools called for Ofsted to be scrapped and suggested the inspectorate was not equipped to be able to fairly inspect these schools.


Quick read: Ofsted to inspect private Steiner schools over safeguarding concerns  

Row: Steiner supports call for Ofsted to be replaced

SpielmanOfsted chief calls on DfE to shut down failing Steiner schools


Almost half of the Steiner schools which have been inspected by Ofsted have been rated as "inadequate".

Of 23 published inspection reports, 11 schools were rated as "inadequate", seven were judged to require improvement and five were judged to be good

York Steiner School is a private school for three to 14-year-olds.

The report published today rates the school’s leadership and management, teaching and learning and its pupil outcomes as "inadequate".

The personal development, behaviour and welfare of pupils and the early years provision were found to require improvement.

The Ofsted’s report states: “The school curriculum follows the Waldorf Steiner model of learning. In some classrooms this enables pupils to make progress and develop some skills and knowledge. 

“For example, in handcraft lessons pupils develop a range of skills in knitting and sewing. However, in other subject areas the curriculum does not allow pupils to gain sufficient knowledge and skills. For example, in science, secondary pupils have too little opportunity to develop practical skills.”

Inspectors said that the school had not put in place an effective system to assess pupils’ starting points and measure their progress over time. 

The report says that as a result, pupils’ attainment and progress could not be accurately measured.

Inspectors found that the work set for the most able pupils did not always stretch and challenge them. 

And Ofsted said that the current medical room was not adequate and situated too far away from the toilet.

However the report praises the “very newly formed leadership team” for having a clear vision for future improvement.

Ofsted also said that pupils’ personal development and wellbeing is a clear priority to staff and leaders and that this was a strength of the school.

 A spokesperson for theYork Steiner School said: "We are naturally disappointed with the overall rating of Inadequate. However, we regard the inspection process as a learning opportunity and welcome the feedback received. This has been used already to drive our school’s improvement.

"There are several positives to be taken from the inspection report. We are pleased that pupils’ personal development and welfare is “good”, evidencing the quality of our school’s safeguarding procedures. The report recognises that “pupils’ personal development and well-being is a clear priority to staff and leaders”.

The statement said that inspectors were clear that the school’s management had the capacity to deliver the improvements required to achieve a good rating in future.

It added: "The trustees and staff have begun already the work to implement changes required to respond to the key findings and we are confident that a number of improvements have been completed since the inspection.

"In particular, significant progress has been made in order to enable us to demonstrate the breadth of the school’s curriculum and to monitor pupils’ progress."

The latest inspection report comes amid criticism of the way Ofsted inspects Steiner schools.

An open letter signed by 50 educationalists including Tim Brighouse and the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, suggests Ofsted be replaced with a body “that empowers, rather than punishes, bullies and publicly humiliates”. 

The letter, which has been sent in response to criticism of Steiner schools, accuses Ofsted of being inconsistent, unreliable and having a profoundly negative effect on teaching.

It also says that Steiner schools have a fundamentally different ethos and pedagogy “which Ofsted’s managerialist bean-counter approach is distinctly ill-equipped to comprehend, let alone assess in an informed way”.

Ofsted responded to say that it had a duty to report as it finds when inspecting schools.

Earlier this year, chief inspector Amanda Spielman called on Damian Hinds to close down all "inadequate" Steiner schools that did not show rapid progress, after inspectors highlighted widespread failings during a special inspection of a group of schools.

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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