Memorandum submitted by the
Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship
A first Steiner kindergarten was established in 1926 in central Europe and today there over 1700 Steiner Waldorf Early Years centres in over 60 countries. Key characteristics of a Steiner kindergarten include mixed age range (from 3years to rising 7); 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
- 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
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 5 remit
Steiner EY includes 5 and 6 year olds in mixed age groups 3-6+ years. For us it is an anomaly to refer to birth to 5. In our system Early Years encompasses birth to rising 7.
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.
Communication, Language and Literacy
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
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 1 to 9
§ 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