Axe falls on only Steiner undergraduate course

6th November 2009 at 00:00
But university insists it remains committed to niche subject

The only university undergraduate course in Steiner teaching has been closed "due to a lack of interest", The TES has learnt.

The University of Plymouth took the decision to kill off the course because of poor recruitment and retention of students over the past three years.

In Steiner education, children keep the same teacher for a number of years, there is no formal hierarchy among staff and no formal learning until age seven. Its advocates claim that its fundamentals are based around creativity and co-operation.

There are 24 schools in England which are members of the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship, and all but one are independent. There are also many more kindergartens.

Despite the course's closure, Professor Michael Totterdell, executive dean of the university's faculty of education, insisted there was a possibility of a Steiner option in its BA Education Studies degree.

He said Plymouth remained "strongly committed" to Steiner education and still offered postgraduate and research opportunities in the subject area.

Professor Totterdell added that he was actively engaged in discussions with the international Steiner Waldorf community about "ambitious plans for a range of academic and professional practitioner offers".

He added that current students will be able to complete their degree programmes.

Research into Steiner education in England funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families in 2005 found that just over a half of teachers in Steiner schools hold a qualification in Steiner education obtained through a school-based training scheme or through a training route provided by Steiner institutions. However, an increasing number of teachers were trained by the University of Plymouth.

Most Steiner teachers do not have qualified teacher status; those who do are former state school teachers.

The research from the University of the West of England also found "a common factor amongst schools which cannot fail to impress the outsider is the level of dedication by teachers who work for substantially less than the agreed national salary scales".

The movement's stance on early education has brought it into conflict with the Government.

The new early-years foundation stage is a requirement for all institutions, whether independent or state. But North London Rudolf Steiner School and Wynstones School in Gloucestershire have now been granted partial exemption from the EYFS, allowing them to postpone literacy teaching. Under the framework this should start by age five.

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