Spielman brands majority of Steiner schools 'very weak'

In a letter to Damian Hinds, the Ofsted chief inspector highlights poor-quality provision in many Steiner schools

Catherine Lough

Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman has called on DfE to shut down failing Steiner schools

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman has expressed concerns over the quality of education provided at Steiner schools, after 77 per cent of the schools were rated less than good by Ofsted in the 2018-19 academic year.

In a letter to education secretary Damian Hinds, Ms Spielman described the inspection results for both independent and state-funded Steiner schools as “very weak.”

Related: Knitting not enough in new Ofsted Steiner failure

News: Steiner supporters call to scrap 'bullying' Ofsted

Ofsted: Two more Steiner schools warned to improve

Out of 26 Steiner schools inspected, 13 were judged “inadequate”, seven were judged to “require improvement” and six were judged as “good”, meaning that 77 per cent of Steiner schools were less than good, compared to 15 per cent of state-funded schools.

In addition, 15 of the 22 independent Steiner schools failed to meet the Independent School Standards.

Ms Spielman said that “the performance of Steiner schools overall remains poor”. She also raised concerns over the ineffective safeguarding procedures identified in many of the schools by inspectors.

Ofsted found that over a third of Steiner schools had ineffective safeguarding, with some schools failing to check that staff or host families for boarding pupils were safe to work with children.

“In the worst cases, schools failed to make appropriate and timely referrals to the local authority when pupils were clearly at risk of harm,” she said.

In one school inspectors witnessed inappropriate physical interventions with early years pupils, with staff pulling pupils from the floor, carrying them across the room and forcing them to sit upright.

Ms Spielman said teaching and learning were of poor quality in the majority of schools inspected, with fewer than a third of schools judged as good in this area. Provision for pupils with special educational needs and disability was also found to be weak in many schools, and in some schools, “children with SEND were found to be disproportionately excluded or absent.”

The letter follows a previous letter from Ms Spielman in January this year, where she called on the Department of Education to shut down inadequate schools that did not show rapid improvement.

In response, Mr Hinds asked Ofsted to report back on common themes drawn from its inspections of independent Steiner schools.

Steiner schools have consistently received poor inspection grades from Ofsted.

In June, Beechtree Steiner Initiative, in Leeds, and the Brighton Waldorf School were given notices to improve after inspections found they had serious regulatory failings.

And in July, York Steiner School, a private school for three- to 14-year-olds, was rated “inadequate” by Ofsted when its curriculum was found to be too narrow to allow pupils to develop sufficient knowledge and skills.

Earlier this month, Steiner supporters called for Ofsted to be scrapped, saying the inspectorate should be replaced by one that “empowers, rather than punishes, bullies and publicly humiliates.”

In the letter, Ms Spielman said that “several schools had recognised their leadership issues and have begun to tackle their problems.”

“We can see that some schools want to improve, which is welcome news. However, the desire for change has to be accompanied by the capacity and capability to do so,” she said.

In a statement from the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship, they said they welcomed "the informed feedback Ofsted provides" and were pleased to see a “considerable change” had taken place in areas  identified as requiring improvement.

"Amanda Spielman’s letter highlights several of the steps that SWSF is taking to guide school improvement and we 'share a common purpose' to ensure all our children are well-educated and safe. There is no compromise where the education or safeguarding of pupils is concerned," the statement said.

"The Fellowship notes that Ms Spielman recognises SWSF is 'working effectively with schools'."

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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