Row over claim of racism and bullying in Steiner schools

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INTERNAL Government memos which raise parents’ concerns about alleged racism and bullying within Steiner Schools have sparked a debate about whether these institutions should be publicly funded.

The claims are made in documents obtained by the British Humanist Association under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Department for Education (DfE) had refused to release the memos but that decision was overturned at a tribunal hearing.

The Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship has rejected suggestions that racism or bullying is tolerated in its schools.

The movement has both 25 private schools and four state funded free schools and academies in this country.

The internal papers reveal the DfE had been contacted by parents of a mixed race child concerned about the use of racial epithets by teachers at a Steiner school. These parents highlighted fears over a racial element of the philosophies of the founding father of the Steiner movement, Rudolf Steiner. The DfE documents also said a recurring theme was a suggestion that bullying is not tackled. It adds: “One parent complains they witnessed a physical attack on their son where a teacher failed to intervene, and subsequently justified this by claiming the children were ‘working out their karma’.”

It adds: “In addition to the material provided by parents, the department’s Independent Schools team is aware of serious complaints of staff bullying pupils in eight of the existing 25 registered independent Steiner schools.”

Richy Thompson from the BHA said the concerns raised by DfE officials showed that Steiner Schools should not be state funded. The documents date back to 2010 and the DfE has since approved three Steiner free schools.

A spokeswoman for the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship said the memos were not about DfE concerns but complaints parents had made. She said Steiner schools do to not tolerate racism and the movement disassociated itself from Dr Steiner’s writings about race. She added: “The anti-Steiner lobby also claims bullying is tolerated by teachers on the excuse that it is the child’s karma. This is not correct. Bullying is not tolerated in any of our schools and all our schools have strong anti-bullying policies.” She highlighted Steiners Academy Frome’s Ofsted report which said adults deal swiftly with any incidents of name calling.