Memorandum submitted by the Steiner Waldorf
A first Steiner kindergarten was established
in 1926 in central Europe and today there over 1,700 Steiner Waldorf
Early Years centres in over 60 countries. Key characteristics
of a Steiner kindergarten include mixed age range (from three
years to rising seven); child-initiated play; a unhurried, stress-free
and predictable environment with time to discover the world, and
the absence of computers and formal learning. The Steiner EY curriculum
is based on the principle that young children are not physically,
emotionally and intellectually ready for reading and writing at
the kindergarten stage. The curriculum recognises the interconnectedness
of physical, emotional, social, spiritual and cognitive in physical,
emotional and social development and the learning experience is
integrated, not subject based. The priority is to allow time before
abstract or conceptual academic learning is introduced for the
young child to:
master social interaction, physical
co-ordination, speech and other life skills;
experience their world before they
separate themselves from it;
let learning gain meaning by its
relevance to life, not separated from the business of daily living;
learn for life from life and "think"
with their entire physical being;
experience and "grasp"
the world through experiential, self-motivated physical or "doing"
do, investigate/explore in an environment
provided by trained Steiner practitioners.
These are the principles that are central to
the EY Steiner curriculum.
We acknowledge that the EYFS is not a curriculum.
However, there is widespread perception that it is a curriculum
and this has led some of our members/ LAs and others to perceive
that the EYFS will not accommodate the Steiner curriculum. We
accept that this is an incorrect perception; but it would be helpful
if it were called the EYF (Early Years Framework) to avoid this
misunderstanding in the future. In all other respects it is not
for us to comment on the EYFS other than in relation to Steiner
EY settings. In that respect we have a concern. Our concern relates
to those learning and development requirements which cut across
the Steiner EY curriculum. These requirements relate to Communication,
Language and Literacy and other areas of Learning and Development
(See appendix 1). The expressed intention is that the EYFS should
have enough flexibility to accommodate the Steiner ethos and EY
curriculum. Our concern is that the statutory nature of these
requirements has the potential to undermine the legitimacy of
our curriculum and pedagogy. Whilst we have received Ministerial
assurances that Steiner kindergartens can work within the EYFS
framework without compromise, a clearer and more reliable solution
is to make provision within the EYFS that allows for groups of
EY settings to apply for an exemption to specific statutory requirements
where it can be shown they conflict with a pedagogical principle
that is central to this group of settings. Such an adjustment
to the framework would be in line with the principle of diversity
and parental choice.
We do have difficulty with the statutory nature
of the requirement to submit data about each child's learning
and development in the EYFS profile because this profile:
Does not represent or correspond
to Steiner EY observation and assessment priorities.
Conflicts with our view that the
development of the young child is by nature fluid and transient
and therefore resists fixed categorisation.
Has no direct benefit to our EY settings,
especially those that do not receive the EY grant.
Causes unnecessary extra paper work.
Undermines the principled, flexible
and non-prescriptive messages of the EYFS ("practitioners
will have to make professional judgements as to when individual
children are ready"/ observation-led assessment).
4.00 THE APPROPRIATENESS
Steiner EY includes five and six-year-olds in
mixed age groups 3-6+ years. For us it is an anomaly to refer
to birth to five. In our system Early Years encompasses birth
to rising seven.
We have always supported the aspiration to improve
Steiner EY education and care by ensuring that our EY practitioners
are appropriately qualified and trained in Steiner EY pedagogy.
We would not wish the requirement for graduate status to oust
experienced Steiner EY teachers and for "graduateness"
to be interpreted in such a way as to exclude the need for our
EY settings to employ the people we need and value. We do, however,
welcome the notion that there will be funding so that early years
teachers and their assistants can take part in continuing professional
6.00 THE ROLE
We support the importance of the parents' role
in the education and care of their child, and of engaging effectively
with them during the early years.
2.9 Children's learning and competence in
... beginning to read and write must be supported and extended.
They must be provided with opportunity and encouragement to use
their skills in a range of situations and for a range of purposes,
and be supported in developing the confidence and disposition
to do so.
Early Learning Goals
2.10 By the end of the EYFS, children should:
Enjoy... using... written... language,
and readily turn to it in their play and learning.
Hear and say sounds in words in the
order in which they occur.
Link sounds to letters, naming and
sounding the letters of the alphabet.
Use their phonic knowledge to write
simple regular words and make phonetically plausible attempts
at more complex words.
Explore and experiment with...words
Read a range of familiar and common
words and simple sentences independently.
Know that print carries meaning and,
in English, is read from left to right and top to bottom.
Show an understanding of... how information
can be found in non-fiction texts to answer questions about where,
who, why and how.
Attempt writing for different purposes,
using features of different forms such as lists, stories and instructions.
Write their own names and other things
such as labels and captions, and begin to form simple sentences,
sometimes using punctuation.
Use a pencil and hold it effectively
to form recognisable letters, most of which are correctly formed
2.11 Children must be supported in developing
their understanding of... in a broad range of contexts in which
they can explore, enjoy, learn, practise and talk about their
developing understanding. They must be provided with opportunities
to practise and extend their skills in these areas and to gain
confidence and competence in their use.
Early Learning goals
2.12 By the end of the EYFS, children should:
Recognise numerals one to nine.
In practical activities and discussion,
begin to use the vocabulary involved in adding and subtracting.
Begin to relate addition to combining
two groups of objects and subtraction to "taking away".
Early Learning goals
2.14 By the end of the EYFS, children should:
Find out about and identify the uses
of everyday technology and use information and communication technology
and programmable toys to support their learning.