UK Anthroposophy

March 4, 2009

Cambridge Steiner School – How Safe Is It?

Curious as to why most other SWSF schools put Ofsted reports on their websites and Cambridge Steiner School doesn’t have any? Well, you’ll see why Cambridge Anthroposophical educators don’t want to advertise their latest Ofsted by reading a copy of it. It’s available here (you should be able to download it via a link at the bottom of the page, try reloading the page if it doesn’t display)

The Inspector reports this, right at the start:

However, although pupils are well supported and nurtured, the school does not provide adequately for their health, safety and welfare. Many of its policies and practices do not meet the regulations for registration. A number of these were noted in previous inspections and have not been adequately addressed.

There’s more detail of the school’s failures elsewhere within the report:

Many of the policies to support the welfare, health and safety of the children are not written to current requirements and a number of regulations are not met. The attendance and admission register are not kept appropriately, and there is no policy on late arrivals. Some of these issues were identified in previous inspections. Furthermore, those policies and practices that do exist are not consistently implemented. There is no system by which the implementation and effectiveness of policies are monitored, and this depends too much on individual teachers’ inclinations.

More worryingly is the section of the report dealing with suitability of staff. OK, all adults are checked with the Criminal Records Bureau but the Inspector does note that

…an effective, standardised system for checking adults’ other credentials and noting the outcome on a single central register has not been established, as required. A number of regulations are not met in this area.

On the school’s premises and accommodation the Inspector notes that:

The arrangements for children who are ill are currently inadequate on both sites…. The play space for children in the Ross Street Kindergarten is too small to allow children to play freely and safely

I don’t know about you but if I was a parent and considering sending my kids to the Cambridge Steiner School I wouldn’t do so on the basis of this Inspection Report alone. If I was a parent at the school, would I even know that there were deep failings at Cambridge Steiner School? Well, if the school is communicating properly then yes. Here’s what the Inspector has to say about the school’s provision of information for parents:

The school has a prospectus and a parents’ handbook which together provide some, but not all of the required information, and a number of regulations are not met. Inspection questionnaires indicate that some parents are not satisfied with the information they receive about their children’s progress.

Hmmm. OK, so if I’m one of those parents unhappy with the school, how do I make a complaint, what is the procedure at Cambridge Steiner School? The Inspector reports that

The school has a grievance procedure to address parents’ dissatisfactions; however, some parents said that they were unaware of it. The procedure does not meet several of the regulations

Actually, the Inspector appears to me to be understating the failings within the school’s complaints procedure. To meet requirements the school must, reports the Inspector:

• if the parents are not satisfied with the response to a written complaint, make provision for a hearing before a panel appointed by the proprietor of at least three people who have not been directly involved in the matters detailed in the complaint
• ensure that one person on the panel is independent of the management and running of the school
• allow for parents to attend the panel hearing, and, if they wish, to be accompanied
• provide for written records to be kept of all complaints, indicating whether they were resolved at the preliminary stage or whether they proceeded to a panel hearing
• ensure that correspondence, statements and records of complaints are all kept confidential

and the above actions required of the school to meet regulatory conditions of operation suggest that were a parent to make a complaint then it wouldn’t be dealt with according to required standards and procedures.

Parents are advised to check out their own Steiner school’s Ofsted Inspection Reports (all of them, not just the latest) and full details of its complaints procedure. Read the Ofsted Report in full, rather than just the opening Evaluation else you might miss something important to you. Check the complaints procedure, make sure that it fits basic Ofsted/regulatory requirements.

(Edit Feb 2012: readers might like to compare my own post with an equally damning article published in the ‘Cambridge Evening News‘)

16 Comments »

  1. I completely disagree with the extremely biased views in this report. Having been to the steiner school for my own education from the age of 3 to 11, i know i had the best possible education. They approach learning in a fun and exiting way. Pupils in my school now (a sate school) seem so unintreseted in learning and find it ‘boring’. I think the pupils in steiner schools want to learn, and are never pressured, but learn when it is their time to learn. Their are uncountless tests all the time at my school now, and at the steiner school they don’t do formal and serious testing which seem to stress young children. And as many would have heard the education experts of the counrty believe that children should not start school until the age of 6; which is when pupils of the steiner school start.

    Comment by Hannah — October 16, 2009 @ 6:32 pm

  2. It’s worth repeating the words of the Inspector of the Cambridge Steiner School:

    “the school does not provide adequately for their health, safety and welfare. Many of its policies and practices do not meet the regulations for registration. A number of these were noted in previous inspections and have not been adequately addressed.”

    The blog post consists in the main of the findings of the inspection, are you suggesting that the Ofsted inspection was ‘extremely biased’ as you put it?

    My own opinion, as I put it, was that I wouldn’t choose to send my kids to Cambridge Steiner School on the basis of the Inspection Report alone. Why did I express that opinion? Well, I’d consider myself to be negligent were I to knowingly place my children into a school that – on the basis of a state inspection of it – appears to me to be an unsafe place for children to be in. That’s hardly extreme or biased, it’s what parents do – look after their kids as best they can.

    Comment by ukanthroposophy — October 17, 2009 @ 4:02 pm

  3. How can you not believe first-hand experience! i went their for over 7 years of my life and i know i couldn’t have gone to a beter school. Have you been to the school yourself?, or are you just conveniantly picking out the negative parts of the report? you haven’t justified any points other than negative, that is what i meant by biased. And are you suggesting that because my parents chose carefully and payed money for something they believed to be the right place for me to go is not looking after their children as best they can? I know for a fact that if my parents felt the school was an unsafe place for their children to go they would not have decided to send me there. You seem to have picked a small piece of information that you probably like, to you use again and again. Also at the bottom, you tell people to ‘Read the Ofsted Report in full, rather than just the opening Evaluation else you might miss something important to you.’ Is this because you think that they might read something nice and you want to make sure that they read the negatives?

    Comment by Hannah — October 19, 2009 @ 3:40 pm

  4. The blog post isn’t about your experience Hannah, it’s about an Ofsted Inspector’s experience. You can read the Inspection Report yourself, there’s a link to it at the start of the blog post. It’s put there so that readers can judge for themselves as to how accurate and fair the blog post reportage of the Inspector’s findings is. The date of the Inspection by the way was in March 2008.

    Parents want the best for their kids, what on earth is wrong with saying that? I gave you my own take…if I as a parent had read the Ofsted Report and then on the basis of that had chosen to put my kids in the school then I’d consider myself negligent. That isn’t passing judgment on anybody else, what others do is entirely up to them.

    Comment by ukanthroposophy — October 21, 2009 @ 12:55 am

  5. Hello blogger,

    Just to let you know that the Cambridge Steiner School worked very hard on receiving the Oftsted report to put all the necessary procedures in place. It is true that in a small, open, friendly school that sometimes things can become a little too informal.

    You may also be interested to know that five new trustees have joined the trustee board (including two lawyers!) and the school is currently putting the systems in place to ensure that the excellent, all-round, holistic education the children receive is matched by administrative excellence.

    With best wishes,
    Helen

    Comment by Helen East — November 16, 2009 @ 12:02 pm

  6. This is absolutely shocking. Surely the School would be a little more astute in considering the Childern’s parents when determining how to deal with Ofsted reports.I mean do they think that parents are stupid? Our son’s not even 3 and we’ve trawled ofsted reports. Given the lack of publication on this school’s website, I’m not supprised that we never even came accross it during our assessment. This is an independant school- hence potential students will have the financial backing of their parents. Our children are our most prized possesions and I certainly cherish my son above all else….. A fee paying parent is more often than not an educated parent ergo someone more willing to carry out due dilligence. This school needs to brush up on it’s act- it’s a business after all and, given it’s lack of marketing potential, is certainly not attracting anywhere near it’s potential quota of applicants.

    Comment by Cambridge Recycling — October 26, 2010 @ 10:16 am

  7. Facts:

    – the previous Ofsted inspection report has been on the school website for at least a year
    – Ofsted visited shortly after that report to follow up all recommendations and the school passed
    – the next inspection report will be published in a more timely manner on the school website

    Comment by Mike — November 18, 2010 @ 9:20 pm

  8. Facts:

    – the blog post covered this story on March 2009, no mention of the damning Ofsted report was on your website then. The Ofsted report was published in April 2008, nearly a full year before the blog post was published

    – Helen East (a school trustee in 2009 so I understand) commented on November 16th 2009, she didn’t state then that the school was carrying the damning Ofsted report – so, 18 months and more since the Ofsted report was published and still not on the website else Helen, the school’s PR guru at the time, would have mentioned it.

    – a comment posted by Cambridge Recycling here on October 26th 2010 trawled your website and didn’t find the Ofsted report then.

    – it’s now mid November 2010.

    Your presentation of ‘facts’ so late in the day, it wouldn’t have anything to do with your school’s application to become state funded via the Free Schools policy would it?

    Comment by ukanthroposophy — November 19, 2010 @ 12:29 am

  9. – “damning Ofsted report” is an interpretation and not a fact, and the word “damning” is not used in the report

    – the last ofsted report is published at http://www.cambridge-steiner-school.co.uk/further_info/related_links.html

    – websites are not perfect and it is not always possible to find things despite the best efforts of people who maintain them

    – I am not sure for exactly how long the ofsted report has been on the Cambridge Steiner website for, but I’m pretty sure it has been there for all of 2010. I know this because until about 6 months ago and starting about 2.5 years ago I was responsible for putting content on the school website. I was asked about a year ago to put the link to the ofsted report on the school website and I doubt I took more than a month to do that . Unfortunately the internet archive does not have anything beyond 2007 for the website

    – the ofsted report details were put on the school website prior to Helen East being involved with school publicity

    – the ofsted report (March 2008) summary is:


    The school provides good quality education. The curriculum and teaching are good
    and closely follow the Steiner-Waldorf guidance and philosophy. Pupils make good
    progress and their standards are generally average or above in English and
    arithmetic by the age of 11 years. The school promotes pupils’ personal development
    effectively and it is good. However, although pupils are well supported and nurtured,
    the school does not provide adequately for their health, safety and welfare. Many of
    its policies and practices do not meet the regulations for registration. A number of
    these were noted in previous inspections and have not been adequately addressed.

    my understanding is that the H&S issues were addressed within the following 6 months as required by ofsted.

    – this website was mentioned to me recently and as a I there is a right of reply here, I decided to post some facts.

    – the school was recently inspected by ofsted. I expect the report will go on the school website shortly after publication

    Comment by Mike — December 23, 2010 @ 3:59 pm

  10. Thanks for the additional comment Mike, all comments are welcome and published unless they are hateful or spam.

    From a parent’s perspective I feel the choice of the word ‘damning’ to be entirely appropriate. The H&S issues identified by Ofsted were not trivial ones and I do hope you notice I was critical of Ofsted itself for, to my mind, being lenient with a school having a history of failure in meeting regulations and (at the time of the inspection) inadequately providing for the children’s health, safety and welfare. Looking at it in that light and given the history of the school it isn’t just the school that failed its duties, the agency responsible for ensuring schools meet basic regulatory requirements doesn’t appear to me to be performing its duties very well either. Yes of course ‘damning’ is an interpretation but that’s what people do when they read reports, they interpret the facts presented to them. You quite rightly point to the aspects of the Ofsted reporting favourably on the education of the children, I point to the aspects of the report demonstrating substantial failures of the school re H&S…..I can’t speak for all parents but I for one consider the health, safety and welfare of a child at school more important than the quality of the education the school provides.

    As for when the Cambridge Steiner school website provided info/links to its Ofsted report, I’m fairly sure as a registered charity you have a duty to keep records of any information you put out and a duty to keep proper records. Website software and tools routinely keep records of changes made to a website. You’ve only to ask the current webmaster of your school website when the link to the Ofsted report was provided. Perhaps you could do that and let us know. Whatever the case, it took at least a year and a half for the Cambridge Steiner school to provide prospective parents with a link to the Ofsted report.

    I ask again, your presentation of ‘facts’ so late in the day, it wouldn’t have anything to do with your school’s application to become state funded via the Free Schools policy would it?

    Comment by ukanthroposophy — December 24, 2010 @ 1:27 pm

  11. As a parent who considered sending her children to the Cambridge Steiner School and decided against it, I can add that my own impression was that the school was disorganized, poorly run and to my mind did not provide adequately for the children’s well-being, academically or otherwise. I think the CSS website is misleading, as it prominently displays a link to an independent school inspection report (by the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship) using terminology similar to that of Ofsted. I would advise any parent considering this school to tread carefully and look diligently at all the information available. Saying that, there is a community of parents there who seem very committed to the school’s success and it could be that in time the school can improve its profile.

    Comment by Snorkmaiden — February 3, 2011 @ 11:59 am

  12. If I may add a clarification to Snorkmaiden’s comment: the latest inspection report (Nov/Dec 2010) was produced by the School Inspection Service, to whom Ofsted recently delegated inspection of Steiner schools. The only other schools inspected by the SIS are those associated with the Focus Learning Trust, a.k.a. the Exclusive Brethren religious sect. Make of that what you will.

    The SIS reporting framework for Steiner schools was worked out with the help of the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship. This might lead some to question the independence of their reporting.

    If the CSS website is misleading, it is that it’s missing a clear statement on the role of Anthroposophy in the ethos of the school. However, Steiner’s “The Education of the Child” does appear on the reading list page. The SIS report also tells us that “The weekly Faculty Meeting includes study of
    Steiner’s work in relation to children’s healthy development.”

    I would second Snorkmaiden’s suggestion for prospective parents to look carefully at all the information available, including careful study of the books on the schools reading list.

    Comment by MarkH — February 5, 2011 @ 8:03 pm

  13. In principle it all sounds great but Anthroposophy and that report deliberately masquerading as Ofsted, and lack of transparency, has made me cross CSS off our list. Other than that we really liked their alternative approach to learning.

    Comment by Jon — September 5, 2011 @ 9:36 am

  14. Just pulled my little one out of CSS due to the staff’s ongoing mistreatment of bullish behaviour in the playground. I wish I checked things more seriously before making this mistake! I can say lots of nice things (and less nice as well) about this school, but it’s all worth nothing if a school cannot provide a healthy and safe environment to begin with!
    PS. This year alone at least 3 families pulled thier children out of CSS kindergartens as a result of bullying.

    Comment by Urielemil@yahoo.co.uk — May 21, 2012 @ 7:23 pm

  15. Very sorry to hear that about bullying at CSS. As you may already be aware, not dealing adequately with bullying is a common complaint with Steiner schools all over the world. These are not isolated incidents. The Steiner way is to let the children ‘work it out between themselves’, despite what any written policy may say.

    Comment by MarkH — May 22, 2012 @ 4:46 am

  16. Don’t get “sealioned” by those who defend Steinerism disingenuously. Everyone who’s looked into Steinerites knows they are complete nutcases. Biodynamics involves burying cow horns filled with dung. Eurythmy is about communing with “angels” – these loonies believe that a child’s “etheric” body doesn’t “incarnate” until they are 7. As for bullying, it’s about karma playing itself out, so don’t interfere. Black is banned as a colour in their paintings. The “verses” they say each morning and at meal times are prayers or spells written by Rudolf Steiner. They make all kids paint exactly the same painting. They stop parents from bringing in the wrong sort of cakes on their celebration days (“That’s not how we do it. Sorry you didn’t know”). They have difficulty with the idea of “ethnicity”, because they believe we had past incarnations in other ethnicities, white people being more evolved than black people. They believe in Atlantis. They believe Britain is floating on the sea. They believe one of the reasons for Steiner schools is because “souls” of “important people” are waiting to be “incarnated” and they will obviously have to go to such schools. And dont forget, these cultist loonies believe the rest of us are too stupid or unevolved to understand the truth of this madness. All Steiner teachers are trained cult members. They’ve put a lot of money into undermining Ofsted, just as they have into getting state funding. If the truth became widely known about what they are really on about, they wouldn’t last five minutes.

    Comment by John T — September 3, 2015 @ 8:44 am


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