Steiner advocates resigned to being misunderstood

7th February 1997 at 00:00
That two small kindergartens should be a front page story (TES, January 24) is news in itself, but also symptomatic of the quandary early years provision is now facing.

The opposition shown by the Department for Education and Employment and other official bodies to our educational philosophy is short-sighted and detrimental to the well-being of children at their most susceptible time. As Steiner Waldorf schools and kindergartens, we respect the right of children to experience the world as children and not to be trammelled with the undue pressure of an academic learning that is given later on.

This is not a romantic notion but a justified and reasoned assessment of the developmental stages of early childhood when opportunities to foster wonder, curiosity, social tolerance and imagination are at their peak. If these are diminished or negated at this age the effects can be felt throughout adult life. Does it not occur to those who have dreamt up the present policy that the experiences of early childhood cannot be divorced from later problems?

We welcome the national debate on these issues, but we are resigned to the fact that our submissions will be ignored and parental rights for choice on these matters will be severely limited. All parents know that their children need a secure and warm environment in which to learn linguistic and bodily skills, emotional literacy, and develop technological skills through creative play. It is an added irony of the present situation that in an attempt to keep up with our so-called European competitors we jettison the clear understanding of this process.

CHRISTOPHER CLOUDER Chairman Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship Kidbrooke Park Forest Row Sussex

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