The first Steiner School was opened in Stuttgart in 1919. Today there are over 1,000 schools and 2,600 kindergartens world-wide, and numbers are continually growing. In Britain and Ireland there are 36 schools.
In many countries Steiner schools are state funded. In England Steiner schools are part of the private sector but there is now a Steiner Academy in Hereford and two public funded schools. Others are planned. This is making Steiner education in the UK accessible to many more families, and as the profile of the education is raised in the UK, the demand for a Steiner-orientated education and care will increase substantially.
All Steiner schools in the UK have several kindergartens for children aged 3 up to Steiner formal school learning age of six to seven. There are also independent Steiner kindergartens and early childhood centres. See www.steinerwaldorf.org
Steiner parent and child groups for parents and their children under three are rapidly growing in number in the UK. These may be attached to schools and kindergartens, or run independently. They provide a calm nurturing setting where parents and their young children can experience many of the unique aspects of the Steiner approach to child care and family life. There is also now an emergence of parent and baby groups which incorporate the Pikler approach and outdoor groups.
Finally there is a growing number of Steiner-inspired or Steiner influenced childminders who are providing “home from home” care for children of all ages.
Unique characteristics of Steiner education include:
- Comprehensive all-through inclusive schools which include pre-school, primary and secondary school years
- Education designed to reach the whole child, physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually
- An emphasis on the relationship between the pupil and teacher and the social life of the class group
- A curriculum based on a profound understanding of child development reflecting what and how the child naturally learns at different ages
- A schooling experience which is not dominated by continual testing and examinations
- A starting age for formal schooling at age 6/7
Characteristics of Steiner care provision for children under seven – childminding, kindergartens and day care.
Here you will typically find:
- A calm, home-like atmosphere where natural materials predominate, including simple open-ended materials and toys for play
- A regular, predictable, unhurried rhythm that helps children feel secure
- Carers providing high-quality conscious care
- Plenty of meaningful “home from home” and artistic activities undertaken by the adult carers which the children will freely imitate and take into their play
- Time and space for child-initiated play indoors and outdoors
- Plenty of singing, movement,puppetry, story telling, creativity and imagination
- Seasonal and other special festivals
Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) was a scientist and a spiritual investigator who focused on bringing his insights into many practical areas of life. Apart from education, including special needs education, he brought new impulses to medicine, agriculture (bio-dynamics), architecture, social therapy, ethical finance, art, drama, movement and others. The system of thinking on which his ideas are based is known as anthroposophy.
For more information about Steiner Waldorf education in Britain, including schools and kindergartens, go to www.steinerwaldorf.org.uk This site also gives details of available training courses.
For more information about Steiner Waldorf early childhood education and care internationally, go to www.iaswece.org