Suppressing criticism, manufacturing support: the truth about the Steiner school movement continued

“Making an informed decision about these schools is further obstructed by the Steiner Waldorf movement actively suppressing attempts by parents to make their concerns public.”

Rudolf Steiner, who founded Anthroposophy and the Steiner school movement
Rudolf Steiner, who founded Anthroposophy and the Steiner school movement

A blog I wrote that was posted on this site a few weeks ago described my early encounters with the Steiner movement after I enrolled my son at one of their schools. I explained how the more experience I had of the school, the more uncomfortable I became, until one day, after a particularly troubling incident, I phoned the school to tell them that I no longer considered a Steiner education as suitable for my son. That is where I left off, but unfortunately there’s more to tell.

They tried persuading us to stay, explaining that it can take up to a year for some of the children to settle. That should have been the end of our association with Steiner Waldorf schools, but unfortunately we had bought a house near the Steiner school our son had attended and over the following four years many Steiner Waldorf families moved to the same location. Thus we unintentionally found ourselves living in a Steiner community. How my family dressed, the food we ate, how we spoke, how we moved, the type of toys our children played with, whether we watched television,  whether we had our children vaccinated, what car we drove, even the fuel we put in the car — all came under intense scrutiny.

I did try to discuss my concerns regarding Anthroposophy with some of the families, including my thoughts that some of the characteristics of the movement appeared to be cult-like. But I was told “that is what a novice would say” and that I didn’t understand. I remember one day wearing a pink dress and one of the parents stating “You’re wearing pink! You’re becoming more spiritual!”

The behaviour of some of the children (and parents) became so worrying that it forced me to look further into Anthroposophy. It was the impression they gave of superiority, particularly the euphemistic new age language they used that produced disquieting echoes of my previous studies. I remember typing a search into google “Steiner and Nazism” and discovering the research of Peter Staudenmaier, and everything profoundly fell into place. Dr. Staudenmaier had recently completed his Ph.D. at Cornell. The title of his thesis is “‘Between Occultism and Fascism: Anthroposophy and the Politics of Race and Nation in Germany and Italy, 1900 – 1945.” Any parent who is considering a Waldorf school should read Staudenmaier’s invaluable work.

We eventually moved away and I thought I had put the whole experience behind me until I was alarmed to read that the then Education Minister Michael Gove was keen to fund Steiner schools under his ‘Free Schools’ policy. Now, 6 years later, there are four state-funded Steiner academies in England. This is a travesty in itself, but without the concerted campaign that was launched to expose the truth about the movement, there would likely have been far more. The process by which those four schools were established, and the subsequent campaign opposing their establishment, merit a blog of their own.

The public should know that little or no independent research supports Steiner pedagogy; praise for Steiner schools comes predominantly from within the Anthroposophical community. The notion that Steiner’s emphasis on the delay in formal reading is in line with early years policy in many other European countries is misleading. Steiner’s instructions for delaying reading were due to his stated belief that early intellectual development hampers the child’s spiritual growth and that Waldorf teachers should await the birth of the child’s etheric body, indicated by the cutting of the adult teeth.

Steiner Waldorf schools state that Anthroposophy is not taught to the children, but this statement is disingenuous. Anthroposophy underpins every aspect of the pedagogy in Steiner schools. If I and others had known that the self-described “fastest growing education movement in the world” has given rise to a survivors group and Waldorf critics across the world, we might have been able to make an informed decision before enrolling our children.

Making an informed decision about these schools is further obstructed by the Steiner Waldorf movement actively suppressing attempts by parents to make their concerns public. A document discovered a few years ago from the Swedish Steiner Waldorf Federation states that they employ an individual to “monitor the debate” here in the UK. The individual has previously appeared on various forums including Mumsnet, the Times Educational Supplement forum, and the BBC education forum using a number of aliases including posing as a mother. He has previously used intimidating behaviour including threatening legal action unless problematic discussions of the schools were deleted. I am also told that he has published the names and locations of parents who have raised concerns, behaviour one would not normally expect from a school movement. It is a somewhat disturbing experience watching your words of support almost instantly disappear online due to the repeated misuse of litigation, especially the threat of litigation against any form of criticism.

I strongly believe that those responsible at the highest level in education have a duty towards the children involved to undertake an urgent investigation into the Steiner Waldorf school movement.


This is an edited and updated version of a piece that was first published on the Waldorf Watch website under the name ‘Coming undone: unravelling the truth about the Steiner school movement’.

Sexist, limiting, manipulative: my education at a church-run private school

“I wish I’d been taught about contraceptive choices and consent. Instead, I was sent out into the world naïve, judgemental and feeling like an outsider who needed to go along with things so that I wasn’t discovered.”

Photo: Charlotte90T
Photo: Charlotte90T

I went to a church-run private school in a generic town from the age of eight all the way through to the end of my GCSEs. The school was the result of the idealistic thinking of enthusiastic non-denominational charismatic Christians in the 1980s. It started off with some unqualified volunteer teachers, a classroom converted from a World War II bunker and some sexist rules about women not being able to wear trousers. By the time I got there, the bunker was out of bounds but the rest was the same. Faith was intrinsic to the school day; we had hands-in-the-air worship in assemblies, prophesy practice in tutor times, and memorised bible verses alongside our spellings and times tables.

One emotion that stands out from my school days was a growing frustration at the lack of opportunities for females. My year group consisted of lots of smart girls with natural leadership abilities, and a few quiet and retiring boys. Every opportunity was catered towards the boys, regardless of who was the best candidate for the role. From running a mock election, to writing the school newspaper, going on an exchange trip, or learning STEM subjects – the boys were the priority. It was so subconscious that I’m sure the teachers weren’t aware of their bias. I was too young to understand that I was disrupting classes out of protest for being overlooked and under-challenged. I eventually bought a Science GCSE syllabus, and taught myself and some of the other girls after school. One girl retook a GCSE module she had previously failed and got a B. She wasn’t a low achiever like the teachers assumed, she had just never been taught.

There was no sex education, just an atmosphere of scorn and disapproval. We had just one lesson in Science about the biology side of things and were told in Sociology that we shouldn’t vote for the Liberal Democrats because they were pro-choice. There was one special afternoon in Year 9 where youth leaders from the church came in, the boys and girls were separated, and taught respectively not to masturbate or kiss anyone before marriage. The emphasis on female purity was really strong. I remember thinking at the time that I would rather be murdered than raped, because then at least I would still be a virgin. I wish I’d been taught about contraceptive choices and consent. Instead, I was sent out into the world naïve, judgemental and feeling like an outsider who needed to go along with things so that I wasn’t discovered. My school friendships became toxic as we hit puberty, and those who rejected Christianity were shamed for normal teenage behaviour by their peers, including me.

With teachers sourced from the church, there was quite a lot of spiritual manipulation. My report card from Year 4 stated that I should work on my sharp tongue. This comment destroyed me when I read it, and stayed with me for years as something that was fundamentally flawed about my personality. I struggled with guilt throughout my childhood for not feeling how every adult in my life was telling me I should feel. As I got older, I would fluctuate between wanting to fit in with other teenagers and an intense guilt for not being pure enough. I would drive this into trying really hard to be a good Christian, and then feel disappointed in myself for God still not seeming real. This led to bouts of depression until I gave up trying all together.

The place became more normal during the eight years I was there, and I heard it became more secular after I left. I wouldn’t say going to the school damaged me permanently. The small class sizes suited me on the whole and I got good enough GCSE results to carry me through to A Levels. More importantly it taught me how to adapt to survive. It taught me how to spot when someone is trying to manipulate me. It gave me a sense of optimism that everything will work out for me because a deity has got everything planned, even if I’m now missing the God. These skills allowed me to leave the school behind and transition quite smoothly to a large secular sixth form, then university, and a career after that, albeit with a few years of grappling with a conflicted identity.


TV channel seeks ex-pupils of unregistered Muslim schools for documentary

Did you go to a Muslim school? If so, what was it like? Do you feel you received a narrow, limited, or overly scripture-focused education? Were children at your school at risk of radicalisation? Do you want to stop this from happening to others?

A top TV channel is looking for former pupils of unregistered Muslim schools to come forward and anonymously share their experiences. If you went to a Muslim school and you think it might have been operating illegally, they want to hear from you.

Your identity would be completely protected, and they already have former pupils of such schools involved. So please do come forward. Highlighting these issues is the only way to stop other children from receiving this kind of education in the future.

If you can help, please call or email the Faith Schoolers Anonymous team on 020 7324 3078 or