Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship

1.00  INTRODUCTION

  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" activity; and

    —  do, investigate/explore in an environment provided by trained Steiner practitioners.

  These are the principles that are central to the EY Steiner curriculum.

2.00  CURRICULUM, PEDAGOGY

  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.

3.00  ASSESSMENT ARRANGEMENTS

  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 OF THE BIRTH TO FIVE REMIT

  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.

5.00  WORKFORCE IMPLICATIONS

  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 development.

6.00  THE ROLE IT SETS OUT FOR PARENTS

  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.

APPENDIX 1

COMMUNICATION, LANGUAGE AND LITERACY

Educational programme

  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 and texts.

    —  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

PROBLEM SOLVING, REASONING AND NUMERACY

Educational programme

  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".

KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING OF THE WORLD

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.

May 2008



 
previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2008
Prepared 5 August 2008