bbc news on exeter steiner school

Free schools are one of the coalition government’s flagship policies, promising more freedom for teachers and more choice for parents.

We’ve been discussing the already existing Hereford Steiner Academy lately as well as the new Frome Steiner Academy that opens next autumn (if things go as planned). Today, BBC News has an article about a possible state-funded Steiner school in Exeter. The quote above is from that article. The ship of fools has been borrowed from wikipedia. (I don’t know what made me think of it. Ships, flagships, et c. Wasn’t Hereford the Steiner movement’s flagship school? How’s it sailing? Well, I digress… Exeter, at least, has almost a seaside location. Just because one likes gnomes, doesn’t mean one has to get lost in the woods. One can set sail instead.)

Interestingly, the BBC article just so happens to sound much like an advertisement brochure written by SWSF. They quote someone, but it’s not apparent whom it is:

A Steiner education aims to provide equal attention to the “physical, emotional, intellectual, cultural and spiritual needs of each pupil” in a system “designed to work in harmony with the different phases of the child’s development”.

They also call Steiner an ‘educationalist’. There is more to it than him being an ‘educationalist’, really. And then:

Administrator Jenny Salmon said: “There are a lot of people in Exeter who would benefit from it but they can’t afford to come here.

They would benefit, she claims. Does she know? How?

“I feel it is a fantastic education. One style of education does not suit everybody.”

I have no doubt Steiner proponents feel it’s a fantastic education. The question is if it really is. I don’t even need to say it isn’t — I just wonder why the media all to rarely seem to question statements like those.

The proposed school, which will prepare children for GCSEs, will be inspected by Ofsted, but will not follow the national curriculum.

Not by the SIS then? Prepare for GCSEs, but there was at the same time another article, also BBC, which questioned how these academies handle the GCSEs. Steiner parents may be happy anyway — some of them, I’ve heard, have seemed prepared to let their children remain at home on days when tests have been administered. It would be interesting if the BBC asked a few more hows and whys.

15 thoughts on “bbc news on exeter steiner school

  1. Who wants to see a kitten being killed?

    There has been quite a few posts here about highly questionable media coverage of waldorf schools. So why are journalists (and parents, academics and school authorities) so often gullible and/or unprofessional when faced with waldorf schools? I’d really like to ask the journalists themselves. Perhaps you could do it by email?

    I have three pet theories here:

    1) Direct contacts. The journalist writes something as a service to a friend.

    2) Time constraints. When you write a press release it’s usually a good idea to make some parts of it directly quotable. As long as the journalist can edit out some small parts of the text, she will feel as if she has done her job.

    3) The Kitten Killing Effect. Who wants to destroy the hopeful image of happy, free and creative children that waldorf shows the world? I guess journalists need some relief from the cheap conflict-ridden drama they have to use too often. And in a way it’s good that we really WANT to believe good news about children enjoying Art and schools in cute colors, obviously designed by fairy-tale architects. And especially with a local newspaper, readers might want some happy news. The Waldorf Brand is perfectly suited for that job. I’ve met similar reactions among some of my friends too.

    On the other hand, waldorf should be an almost too easy subject for investigative journalism (in swedish often nicknamed “digging journalism”). But that would perhaps demand the courage of facing an army of irresistible kittens?

    [I’m sorry for using a felineosophical metaphor, but I think kittens are more dangerous for your brain than puppies. See e.g. http://www.snopes.com/critters/crusader/bonsai.asp ]

  2. ‘Who wants to see a kitten being killed?’

    Who does not? Yes, kittens are very bad for your brain. No, I don’t understand the metaphor; it’s very strange. Seems unrelated to the rest of the paragraph. Hmm. Odd. This calls for canineosophical-spiritual investigation. The army, perhaps, could be organized by dogs. I don’t think humans could do it. /mr Dog, canineosophy guru & expert.

    ‘I’d really like to ask the journalists themselves. Perhaps you could do it by email?’

    I think people ought to do that more often. (I don’t. Partly because it’s a role I don’t want and partly because it takes time I don’t have… it’s like either that or blogging, and I have more fun blogging. But, yes, I think people certainly should write and ask why they don’t take a more critical approach to reporting these topics.)

    ‘1) Direct contacts. The journalist writes something as a service to a friend.’

    Or, sometimes, as a service to a cause they themselves are proponents of.

    Totally agree with the other two points as well. They do present a picture people want to see, want to believe in… also because it contrasts so nicely with mainstream schools — if you exaggerate and make a few things up, invent a few horrors of mainstream education, it works even better. There’s human drama in there.

  3. How about… Who wants to have their dreams dashed? It would be WONDERFUL if there were schools like what Waldorf advertises. People want to convince themselves that the Waldorf of brochures actually exists.

    ’1) Direct contacts. The journalist writes something as a service to a friend.’

    I absolutely believe this is the reason for the proliferation of positive Waldorf articles from clueless journalists.

  4. ‘People want to convince themselves that the Waldorf of brochures actually exists.’

    Indeed, and journalists ought to think about this before they write (or copy some promotional material into their articles)… can they (the schools) deliver what they promised based upon the teachings of… whom exactly (another issue they need to be careful with, apparently).

  5. We sometimes wonder if the movement’s friends are too influential for anyone to kill their particular kitten, but it seems unlikely anyone has that kind of influence.

    It’s also getting certain articles accepted, copying a PR release is easier than writing anything riskier. If journalists want to suggest that something’s wrong, adding ‘critics say’ is safer than stating their own view. A newspaper editor may be interested and understand that there’s a story about the schools themselves, not just about ‘some critics’ – it’s far more complex and fascinating. But the lawyers say no.

    I suppose editors have to decide that the issues are important enough to warrant taking a risk and that whoever is making the analysis is trustworthy. It isn’t something you can research in an afternoon.

  6. I suppose in the UK, they will have libel threats launched at them if they take any risks with waldorf/steiner. It’s way too easy. And obviously this is a great democratic danger — what politicians and other powerful folks do in controversial issues (or with topics where libel charges are happily made) remain in the dark… and thus unchallenged.

  7. Oh damn! Is it about cats? That would never get through mr Dog’s censorship. He’s got this kingdom in a firm paw. To keep us safe from cats. Oh damn again, I must sleep.

  8. @Lovelyhorse – it would be best not to get Exeter Steiner School confused with the Steiner Academy Exeter. :)

  9. Many top-flight BBC jounalists are based, or have been based, in the Westcountry and many are sympathetic to Steiner. BBC’s local ‘Spotlight SouthWest’ magazine and news programme was for many years a source of fast-tracked presenters and jounalists who are now nationally known and the local BBC news service was very sympatheitic to the racist Devon Flag campaign. In my view, the local BBC has been supportive of New Age nonsense for years.

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