The Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley’s Fight For Existence

School Kings Langley Hires Princess Diana's Lawyer to Appeal Closure

The Telegraph reports in an ‘exclusive’ that Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley (RSSKS) has been ordered to close by the government. Six weeks ago, I reported on how the School had received a series of terrible inspection reports that resulted in the school being unable to take on new pupils. The Secretary of State for Education has now issued a notice for the school to be deregistered and closed.

The last Ofsted inspection report was damning and horrifying. At the heart of the problems were failures in child protection issues. One teacher, Denis McCarthy, was sacked for ‘gross misconduct’, although the nature of the misconduct has not been made public.

The School was due to close last week, but has lodged an appeal and will open for the new term today.

A central part of the concerns were over “a culture of close relationships” between pupils and teachers. These relationships extended beyond the professional relationships you would expect in a school.

Anyone with knowledge of the philosophy of Steiner Schools will understand that “a culture of close relationships” is a feature of Steiner Schools generally and not a single isolated aberrant example in this school. A defining attribute of Steiner Schools is how one teacher may stay with a class for many years and is encouraged to develop strong and personal bonds with children.

Kevin Avison, who is an ‘Executive Officer’ of the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship UK (the body that oversees Steiner standards), has written in ‘A Handbook for Waldorf (Steiner) Class Teachers’ exactly what is required of them in their relationships with pupils. For example, in a chapter entitled “How to make it difficult for anyone else to teach your class – ever!”, Avison says,

Tell the class frequently that they are a very special group (they must be to have you as a teacher) and let them know implicitly and explicitly that you are the only person fit and able to teach them. Alongside this, it helps to hint frequently that no-one else can or could handle them as you do.

Make a particular point of cultivating the strongest leaders in the class so that they see you as their special ally, the only adult who understands them.

Ensure that class evenings have as much as possible the quality of a party held in your own home.

Rewards, for example chocolates (especially if the school rule is no chocolate), should be awarded to indicate how pleased you are with an individual (and, of course, it’s “our secret”).

The Steiner Education approach is based on the clairvoyant visions of the mystic and esotericist Rudolf Steiner. His occult religious movement ‘Anthroposophy’ underpins all aspects of the school curriculum and approach. I have previously written about how the closed, cult-like movement behind these schools provides a dangerous environment for children. Although the schools often say that they ‘do not teach Anthroposophy’, Steiner Schools are indeed Anthroposophical Schools in that every aspect of the curriculum, school structure, teaching methods and governance is determined by the occult teachings of Rudolf Steiner on education, including the need to build these ‘close relationships’.

Whistleblowers have reported how this ‘close relationship’ cultivated within Steiner Schools can lead to obvious problems. Grégoire Perra has written extensively about his experiences in a Paris Steiner School and the “Questionable Closeness Between Students and Teachers”. It is worth quoting him extensively (with my emphasis),

One aspect of the insidious indoctrination in Waldorf schools is based on the establishment of a very close relationship between the teacher and his or her ​​students. Firstly, this proximity is enhanced by the fact that the same class teacher can follow the same group of students for six to eight years. This obviously contributes to the creation of relationships that are more familial than professional. In addition, measures are deliberately taken to create the conditions for increased closeness. For example, it is common that some students become babysitters or housekeepers for their teachers to make some pocket money. And I worked in a school where the students knew absolutely everything about the private lives of their teachers. Teachers’ private lives had become a common topic of discussion in the playground, due to the feeling of living in a kind of extended family.

This continuing proximity of students with their teachers is such that it does not seem abnormal, unless significant missteps sometimes lead school officials to take some limited measures. Having been both witness and victim, I can say that unusual closeness is part of the rationale of these schools. This is why there is rarely any strong resistance against the excesses that may arise, but as much as possible they are tolerated. Some examples of these abuses that I have witnessed: It was not uncommon that some teachers went to a cafe with students for conversation and a glass of wine after school, or teachers invited students to come shopping with them. I also remember a high school teacher unashamedly distributing a postcard from her latest theatrical performance, where she was seen in a bathing suit. Yet this act amounted to distributing pictures of herself in underwear without realizing the trouble it could cause, encouraging developing adolescents to visualize the naked body of their young teacher.

Here I must be very clear and also mention legally reprehensible behavior. Indeed, some ethical rules seem to be disregarded in the Steiner-Waldorf schools, and there are cases of sexual and romantic relationships sometimes occurring between students and teachers. For example, when I was teaching, I witnessed in one of these schools an illicit relationship that had begun between a teacher and a student of the upper classes. They started dating when the student was in 10th grade (Third) and the situation continued until the 12th grade (First or Terminal). All class teachers of the high school knew about it, including some who were members of the board of the school. How could they ignore it, since this teacher and this student had come to live together in the same apartment? When this teacher left school after completing certification to teach elsewhere, all teachers of the upper classes — except one who probably wanted to be cautious, but who like the others who knew what had happened — came to a party in the apartment. Among themselves, teachers and students pretended to ignore or hide what was an open secret.

It is worth mentioning this at length because I am quite sure the issues raised at Kings Langley are intrinsic to the nature of Steiner education and not an example of extraordinary circumstances. The issues raised here will be present in many, if not all, Steiner Schools in the UK, including those opened recently by Michael Gove under the Free School programme. This would perhaps explain the school’s responses to the series of inspections and their failure to deal with the issues raised. The last report accused the school of failures to address these issues and of misleading parents.

The report says,

Leaders have failed to identify that the culture of close relationships at the school puts pupils at risk. Professional boundaries between staff, parents and pupils are not maintained. Staff, including senior leaders, do not follow the school’s own policies on social media access. Parents arrange for pupils to see their teachers, and former teachers, off the school site. This culture is unchanged, despite known serious safeguarding failings.

Leaders have underplayed and misrepresented the school’s safeguarding failings to parents. On more than one occasion, they have publicly stated that the failure is simply one of ‘record keeping’. They have also stated that ‘no transgressions or wrongdoings were found to have taken place’ and have implied that former parents who expressed concerns have misrepresented the position. These messages are not supported by the inspection evidence.

It is possible that Kings Langley and other Steiner Schools have got away with this for so long because of serious failings in the inspection regime. The Steiner movement successfully lobbied the government to have independent Steiner School inspected by a special body and not Ofsted. The School Inspection Service was set up to inspect these schools of a ‘special nature’. Their website says, “SIS professional inspectors are trained to conduct the inspection of Steiner Waldorf schools and understand their ethos and the special features of their curriculum”. Inspectors have intimate knowledge of Anthroposophy and Steiner Schools and may take for granted aspects of the schools that would be very abnormal outside. Steiner Schools have tended to get glowing reports. However, it would appear at Kings Langley that persistent complaints from ‘whistle-blowing’ parents have resulted in Ofsted stepping in.

The Government have known for many years about problems within the schools. One blog post on DCScience reports one disturbing incident of racist anthroposophical views leaking into the classroom. I reported on a meeting between Steiner School lobbyists (including Jacob Rees Mogg’s sister, Emma Craigie) and Michael Gove’s advisers on how to manage the PR problems that might arise if the racist doctrine of Rudolf Steiner was to make the news (notes here).

The School has stated that it is appealing the decision to close and while it does so will remain open. They had 28 days to submit an appeal and will have done so by now. The government will have another 28 days to respond before the case then goes to a tribunal hearing. In reality, this means that the School has at least until Christmas, and maybe longer with further appeals and negotiation with the DfE. To show that the school is committed to change, it is taking on a new headmaster, probably from another Steiner School, and appointing new trustees. All this change should have been done months ago after the first inspection failures and now looks like shutting the barn door a little too late. But the future of the Steiner movement in education in the UK is at stake here.

To this end, the school has appointed some very serious lawyers from the firm Mishcon de Reya. Their chief lawyer, Anthony Julius, is very high-profile and was Princess Diana’s divorce lawyer. He also successfully defended Deborah Lipstadt in the libel trial brought by holocaust-denier David Irving. This has now been turned into the film ‘Denial’ starring Rachel Weisz.

Hiring such lawyers will not be cheap. Indeed, it is amazing that the school in itself could afford to do so. Steiner Schools are run on a shoestring with private fees being typically much less than other private schools. However, the Steiner movement itself has lots of cash with many profitable businesses associated with Anthroposophy and Rudolf Steiner, such as Triodos Bank, Software AG and Weleda healthcare.

As well as the financial and legal threats to the school, it must also now face the reputational crisis of the threatened deregistration. In short, it must hang on to fee-paying pupils. Typically, in Steiner Schools, many parents will be wedded to the ethos and have nowhere else to go. There will be many parents though with a more peripheral engagement with the Anthroposophical movement and may well be thinking of contingencies to move their children. Furthermore, the school not only has a deregistration order against it, but is also barred from recruiting new students. Time will be ticking fast against the school if it cannot find new fee paying parents. It may also be hard to properly insure the school right now.

But this is a fight the Anthroposophical movement cannot afford to lose. The School has said to parents it is committed to delivering a full Steiner education. I would contend this is impossible if it wants to succeed in an appeal and pass future inspections. The failings in the inspections and due to the intrinsic nature of the Anthroposophical curriculum and belief system. There will be great tensions between the anthroposophical committed members of staff, the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship who oversee such schools, and those progressives in staff and parents who want the school to move on. This is a battle that always rages in Steiner education between those who simply want the school to be ‘inspired’ by Steiner and those who demand it adheres strictly to an Anthroposophical approach with all the occult and crypto-religious paraphernalia. So far, the Anthroposophist tend to win. You cannot be a Steiner School without Anthroposophy.


For more information on Anthroposophy and Steiner ediucation:

Ten Things You Should Know About Waldorf/Steiner Schools

 


It may be worth noting one dark irony of the school hiring Anthony Julius to represent them. Julius is well known for his activism and writing against anti-Semitism. Steiner Schools have been criticised for being based on Anthroposophy which carries with it inherently problematic ideas about race. Steiner viewed the schools as where children could properly incarnate into their new souls, progressing through each incarnation into more mature and developed Aryan souls.

The American academic, Peter Staudenmaier, has worked extensively on Steiner’s views on race, Jews and the interaction of Anthroposophists with the German Nazi state. Steiner’s view of Jews was complex and sometimes contradictory. He went through phases of clear anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, but briefly for a year or two, around 1900, appeared to reject anti-semitism and be more humanistic in his philosophy. It is during this brief enlightened phase that supporters of Steiner like to quote him to defend him, and then steadfastly ignore his more common and wider thoughts. Staudenmaier gives a much more balanced and nuanced view of Steiner and his views on anti-Semitism.

According to Steiner’s theory of racial karma, each soul works its way upward through a series of successively higher racial forms over the course of many incarnations. The goal of this process, which might be characterised as a variety of spiritual eugenics, is eventually to escape particular racial and ethnic attributes altogether and achieve a sort of absolute individuality, the “Universal Human”. The German people occupied a special place in this development, as pre-eminent representatives of the fully realised “I” or consummate individuality. The ancient Hebrews also had a crucial role to play in this unfolding drama of cosmic evolution: their “mission” was to prepare the way for Christ, the bearer of universal humanity. In Steiner’s racial theory, however, the Jewish mission-to serve as vehicle for the appearance of Christ in the physical realm-had been fulfilled two thousand years earlier, and ever since then there was simply no more reason for the Jews to exist.

Steiner developed his ideas around education whilst fully immersed in the esoteric ideas he had garnered from the likes of Helena Blavatsky and the Theosophists’ awful views around ‘root races’. Staudenmaier says, “The theosophical movement combined organisational and confessional pluralism with ideological racism and pointed antisemitism. While anyone of any race, nationality and creed was welcome to join the Theosophical Society, central theosophical texts displayed a persistent anti-Jewish bias.  Indeed, Steiner’s education had the specific occult purpose of developing souls through the racial hierarchy, and that Anthroposophy was the way that the Aryan race would be preserved. Steiner saw skin colour and race as central to understanding a person’s spirituality,

One can only understand history and all of social life, including today’s social life, if one pays attention to people’s racial characteristics. And one can only understand all that is spiritual in the correct sense if one first examines how this spiritual element operates within people precisely through the color of their skin.
Steiner’s 1923 lecture “Color and the Races of Humankind”

Steiner’s anti-Semitism and racism was not the genocidal hatred of Hitler. But he saw the Jews were no longer required on the Earth. Anthroposophy was the way Jews could move onto better spiritual incarnations.

“Judaism as such has long outlived itself and no longer has a legitimate place in the modern life of peoples; the fact that it has nevertheless succeeded in maintaining itself is an aberration in world history the consequences of which had to follow.” — Rudolf Steiner, “Vom Wesen des Judentums”

This is the insidious religious motivation of Steiner Schools. It is the secret that is not made clear to parents and pupils. As Steiner himself said,

[W]e have to remember that an institution like the Independent Waldorf School with its anthroposophical character, has goals that, of course, coincide with anthroposophical desires. At the moment, though, if that connection were made official, people would break the Waldorf School’s neck.

No school inspection will pick up this central deceit of Steiner Schools. Ofsted does not have a check box to enquire into racial doctrines of the School’s founders or a remit to uncover the occult purposes of strange school activities like Eurythmy, art-work, peach-coloured walls, or Festival celebrations. Steiner Schools are well practiced in how to deceive inspectors, and they will not pick up the subtle indoctrination that the curriculum is designed to impart.

The Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley has been unlucky in that inspectors have picked up in aspects that they do check, even if the inspectors do not yet understand the intrinsic nature of these shortcomings and failures. This Steiner School can only now survive and continue with an Anthroposophical education through another failure of external inspection to understand the nature of Steiner-Waldorf education – and a large dose of luck. If the school is closed, then the future of all other Steiner Schools in the UK must be called in question.

 

On this theme…

23 Comments on The Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley’s Fight For Existence

  1. WoW! It was 9 years ago that we went to OFSTED and the Dept of Education about this school – with all the evidence. What can we do to help make sure the appeal doesn’t work?

  2. I have never read a more twisted and absolute rubbish report about Steiner schools. I feel very sorry for the pathetic soul that spent the time and effort writing this nonsense. Probably on the same media band wagon accusing all Muslims of being terrorists and Americans being Nazis. I hope you find peace in life to realise the majority of the world don’t listen to your hatred

    • Hello Brave Anonymous.

      I would welcome any example from the above article that you can defend as being ‘absolute rubbish’. It would also be reasonable to state any vested interest you might have in the subject.

      Thankyou.

      • i just wrote a long comment and it deleted. andy lewis, you are a scum bag mate. and you know it. you clearly do not even have the ability to declare or recognise your own vested interests on this topic. ugh. yucky yucky yuck.

      • My condolences on your lost comment, tom. I expect it was a magnificently well thought out and argued critique of my post, was it not?

  3. Geez, Tom. Now you have us all wondering about the long comment. Was it the same comment with a lot more “ugh yucky yucky yucks” or were additional actual words incorporated into it?

  4. This is nanny state nonsense gone crazy, why don’t you sad twats leave people alone to make whatever choices they want, what does it matter to you? There are probably many things about the way you approach things that others may find abhorrent, but they don’t try and “stamp them out”, they just try to let you do your things, and you should let them do theirs, otherwise you are crossing over a line that is very hard to define. I hope you modern day Mary Whitehouses can take the stick out of your backside long enough to look in the mirror and ask where all of this is leading? You (clearly) know very little of this school system and it’s benefits, and the benefits of other school systems around the world, the little englander mentality needs to stop because the country is in a feeble state right now and it has zero power to regain it’s place on the world stage without forward thinking, not this daily mail close world view masquerading as being driven by logic.
    German Chancellor Willy Brandt, who was chancellor in the (extremely) difficult period of 1969-74, and who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971, and who I think we can all agree is a more intelligent, logic driven and noteworthy mind than anyone who has ever contributed to this page as writer or commenter, said this of Waldorf / Steiner education:

    “The advent of the Waldorf Schools was in my opinion the greatest contribution to world peace and understanding of the century .”

    But, of course, why listen to him, when you can listen to some trumped up bureaucratic nightmare organisations ridiculous report? The problem stands, when we can no longer blame Brussels for the nightmare nanny state we’ve become, who will we blame? Will you take the blame for that, fair commenters?

    • Well that is an extraordinarily angry and incoherent comment.

      I have two questions:

      1) Can you find an original source for your Willy Brandt quote?
      2) Do you think society should be concerned and take responsibility for the protection of children in schools by ensuring that there are robust procedures in place to ensure children are protected from harms, both physical and mental?

  5. Those people suggesting that the DfE wants to close Kings Langley Steiner School because of some minor infringement or because of antipathy to non-mainstream schools, need to understand that the safeguarding breaches have been so serious in that school that the DfE have to close it DESPITE the government’s support for Steiner schools as part of their Free School policy. The safeguarding breaches include sexual incidents and drugs – that is not at all to imply these are directly the reasons the teacher was sacked for gross misconduct. However, they have happened at the school and are the subject of many serious complaints to the school from parents whose children have been badly affected. These complaints have not been dealt with by the school. A long with the safeguarding breaches themselves, it is this failure to deal with them and the school’s persistent attempts to cover them up eg telling parents safeguarding breaches were just about poor paperwork, that seems to have driven DfE to act. The families that have been directly affected by the catastrophic failures to protect their children in school, have not come forward to speak publicly, because they need to protect the identities of their children.

  6. Quick question Andy, if you have any kids do you send them to a “bog standard” comprehensive in a rundown sink estate or are you two-faced like most socialists who want to deny choice to ordinary people.

      • Fleur they are addressing concerns after many ignored complaints by parents going back years, several failed ofsted inspections, being stopped from taking on new children and finally AFTER they are no longer registered to be a school. They are trying to address them by taking on a headteacher, which you will know is not the Steiner model.

  7. Quick questions for you Robin Banks. If you have kids do you send them to a school where they are subject to sexual assault and take class A drugs? That’s what we are talking about here. Personally my children went to our local comprehensive school and they were safe there.
    Second question. What does paying nearly £10K a year and being selected through interview have to do with choice for most people.?

  8. My children attend a Waldorf Steiner school. I certainly know that the professional boundaries in that school are robustly maintained and if I had any knowledge to the contrary I would equally robustly challenge it . There would be no hiding place for anyone who dared to take advantage of children there . The parents would not allow it and many are professionals with social influence and the knowledge to deal with such a thing . It simply does not happen because the staff are not like that and the parents are would never allow it .

    Guess work , hypothesising about it being a cult environment and all the blah blah blad written in this article is not truely representative of the whole
    Steiner movement .

    Free thinking is a must for society.
    You clearly exercise it in your media views.
    So why condemned the very views you clearly had led yourselves .

    I respect your right be foolish and misinformed. Respect my right to educate my children in the way I believe is in their best interests .

    Those who damn Steiner maybe just had a bad experience . I did and mine was a state school that educated me poorly and left me languishing , until I found my own route to success.

    Thanks is for your site .

    It’s a valuable avenue to educate he alternative to your view.

    Democracy ….. something you should learn about .!!!!

    • Would you care to name the wonderful Waldorf Steiner School that is free from the worries described on this blog? I’m sure everyone would rush to it – if it exists. It must be that mystery Waldorf school that resides in a parallel dimension because nobody seems to be able to identify it by name. Why is that? Is it because as soon as you identify the school, critics will find LOTS of problems and that complaints have been filed against it by parents who don’t see it the way you do?

      People here don’t condemn Steiner schools for what they teach (which is racism cloaked in nonsense BTW) but for not being honest with parents about what they teach and why. No computers and technology – why? Children’s brain development science? Naw… it’s that pesky Ahriman who is the devil associated with technology that drives them to this view. But Waldorf claims “science” is their reason. Same with denying vaccinations.

      The dishonesty is the problem and if you want to be “democratic” you need to start with honesty. Giving people false choices is not a democracy… in fact, the way Waldorf doe it, it’s the definition of fraud. If there’s a new type of Waldorf/Steiner school that has started telling the truth about their beliefs and why they influence children in their care, I’m not aware of it. Again, would you like to name this wonderful school so we can set it as the example for other Waldorf schools?

      • I am bemused by some of the comments here . All anyone needs to do is look at RSSKL’s own website. It has a video of the chair of trustees in which he says there need to be clearer boundaries. It also has a written statement which says:
        • ‘While the School feels it provides a positive experience for children, there have been real and serious failings going back several years, in leadership and management, safeguarding and Special Education Needs and Disability (SEND) provision, as highlighted in the course of the inspections. In particular, the School was found by Ofsted to have failed to always put the interests of the child first – this is unacceptable….
        • In particular, the School wishes to apologise for any suggestion that may have been made in the past by school leaders or staff, publicly or privately, that families who had raised concerns about safeguarding and SEN provision were the cause of the difficulties the School has found itself in. The latter is wholly and entirely of its own making.’
        King’s Langley Steiner School has had many professional parents with high social capital.

  9. This is disgusting the way it’s written and twists the truth to fit a picture you are trying to portray.
    You probably have no experience of Steiner schools, but think you hold a valid opinion of it!
    I won’t waste my energy too much as no doubt it would fall on ignorant deaf ears. However I will say that I don’t believe any education system,healthcare system,or government for that matter ever gets it 100% right. Humans all make mistakes!
    Life now in many ways is harder for children and adults. Despite us having access to so much advanced technology and a good quality of life. Heath and safely has gone to extreme measures and so has society being led to have a “fear factor” for many areas on living.
    We live with so much anxiety, control, fear and anger that I think people lose sight of the big picture and the ability to be objective. People just want to have a “drama” to talk about but it doesn’t mean all is fact!

    • I note you have not given any examples of how I ‘twist the truth’. Are you sure it is nnot just uncomfortable reading?

      I would also be very interested to understand how low you believe ‘health and safety’ standards should go for Steiner Schools. Do you think they should not uphold the same level of child protection available to other children?

  10. Kings Langley Steiner School has clearly failed children in the worst ways it is possible to do so. Children being abused by some teachers and others covering up and supporting abuse for years and years. How long was this teacher Mr Denis McCarthy at the school?

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