Alan Williams (Cert Ed Course)

An Investigation into Steiner Education and Curriculum with reference to the Blake School and the educational theories of child development of J. Piaget


Steiner, or Waldorf Education started in Stuttgart, Germany at a time when Germany was heaped with guilt about the First World War.

Rudolf Steiner was an Austrian, (born in 1861 died 1925), his philosophy reflected his out look on life. He is seen by his advocates as being almost a guru, his interest in Science. Sociology, Psychology, Education,

Economics, Architecture and Spiritualism coloured his philosophy to life, as well as education.

In 1919 he was approached by the owner of a cigarette factory (Waldorf-Astra), in Stuttgart, to found a school for his employee's children. The 1920's were a time of crippling inflation, while social structures and infrastructures were breaking down as a result of Germany’s defeat in the first world war, resulting in great economic and social pressures on its people.

Steiner decided that the reasons for Germany's problems were mainly due to the nature of its education which was in the main very elitist and of a factual type, didactic in the way it was taught, which allowed little room for the development of the individual.

He decided that a new type of education system was required based on the following points:

A) " That it must recognize the inner development of the child and seek to nourish it with appropriate experiences at each stage, through a wide - ranging curriculum.

B) Foster the child's experience of rhythm through a balance of artistic, practical and intellectual work during the day, and a celebration of the seasons throughout the year.

C) Allow social learning in the classroom where sensitivity and tolerance are recognized as truly human values.

D) Treats all subjects as inter - dependent, so that science, art and crafts weave a meaningful whole with the human as the focus.

E) Emphasize the human relationships of the child and the teacher in unstreamed, mixed classes of diverse back grounds and abilities.

F) Nurture all the faculties of the child, artistic, practical, intellectual as complementary aspects of a spiritual whole.

Whilst I agree with the ideas behind his intentions I have misgivings about the way they have been interpreted by the Steiner Education system, (set up after he died), especially points b and f. Why should a child's sense of rhythm be so important to him to place it at its position in the list, ( or am I misinterpreting Steiner and if I am doing so how much misinterpretation is occurring in the Steiner schools).

Point F is Steiner speaking in his "Anthroposophy" way of seeing the world which is the underlying philosophy to Steiner theories of education. Anthroposophy or Spiritual Science is an amalgam of Spiritualism,

Reincarnations and Catholic beliefs. Each Steiner teacher must have studied and taken into their inner self Anthroposophy before they are allowed to teach.

Steiner set-up the school and also designed its curriculum.

The International Curriculum as it's known in Steiner Education. At the Blake School I asked where this curriculum had come from, and was informed by the representative teacher that Steiner had been given it by beings on a higher plane of existence, something that I later questioned at a lecture about Steiner Education (given by JB, a Steiner teacher from the Werrimet School at Steeltown). He also questions this concept of Steiner's thinking and believes that Steiner was trying to justify it by disclaiming it as his own work. He believes that the Blake School is not a good example of a Steiner school as they take Steiner too literally. They do not discard the "rubbish " was the way he put it.

JB also believes that Steiner said or would have said "that everything is open to review in Steiner Education and must be held up for inspection and that it should welcome change". This did not come across at the Blake School.

The position of the Blake School lies between Villaton and Glassforth both areas well known for having a high percentage of hippies and New Age persons), a fact which JB believes is the reason for its extreme views.

The staff of the school wish to be seen by their pupils as taking the position of role models, and feel as though they should act as uncles and aunts towards their charges. This relationship with the children is brought about over the eight years that each Steiner teacher spends with the same class, before handing over to more specialist members. These class tutors are responsible for the main lesson of the day. This is carried out in the morning and lasts for two hours. The afternoons are devoted to handicrafts or non-contact sports.

The Waldorf curriculum is broadly based on the inner spiritual needs of the child at different stages in their physical development which Steiner links to the child's mental development. He states that formal learning should not take place until the child has lost its baby teeth (7-8),. I do not feel that there is any problem with this part of his theory as several countries in Europe for instance Germany, do not start, their children's formal education until this age. But it seems rather strange to link this stage to a physical change or does he use these stages as an indicator to mental development?

Steiner sees Three Stages in a child's development.

I) The first seven years - imitation

2) Imagination

3) Rational judgement

First Stage

The babe in arms is seen to be at its must absorptive age. From birth they have to learn to stand, walk, talk and think. Steiner states that the first seven years the etheric body has put forward all the independent activity of which it is capable, in order that it may build up a second physical body which is genetically not linked to the child's parents. This of course is Steiner speaking out of ignorance having little knowledge of genetics and results in some confusion in interpretation among his follower's who say that he is linking it to physical change and not to genetic changes. Piaget believed that this period in a child's development is that of preoperational thought (2 - 7 years). The child develops his ability to construct symbols, use language and engage in imaginative and make believe play. At this stage the child goes through a period of preconceptual thought, in which they have relatively little ability to understand the nature of classes and class membership. The child goes on later to a period of intuitive thought, in which they are capable of learning concepts and principles as problem solving. The concepts and principles are derived through experience with concrete objects.

"The five year old child's learning the concept of a square for example, must come into contact with many exemplars and nonexamplars of this concept before S/he will acquire the concept. Furthermore once s/he has acquired the concept s/ he is limited in their  use and manipulation of objects or the mental manipulation of once experienced or remembered objects”.

The Steiner syllabus for this age range is based on painting and drawing. To quote the syllabus "the child should be introduced to the plastic-sculptured forces, by means of painting or drawing”.

The Steiner philosophy is rather complex and 1 have found it difficult to understand terms such as consonance and diconsonace [dissonance?]which are used as a means of defining the experience that a child develops by the use of colour. The children at this stage are actually carrying out work, which is in line with Piaget's theory They are practicing preoperative skills.

Writing in the Steiner curriculum is developed out of drawing. Steiner argues (and I feel this is correct), that letters evolved out of picture writing, and uses this as the basis for the child's introduction to conventional writing. Steiner states that "if a chi1d is introduced to conventional writing he will become prematurely senile"! How he can make this assumption I find absolutely amazing he states that in the child's first year the child should be able to write in a very simple script form, what, is dictated, I would question whether children of this age are capable of recording the dictated words of the teacher, as these are abstract concepts to a 5-7 year old.. The state school system would slowly introduce the concept of the alphabet and the sounds and shapes of letters involved. Flash cards are used with pictures which relate to the principle letter and the sound produced by that letter, which is also related to a word such as apple. Steiner argues that in order to learn a letter the child must first picture the shape of the letter in their mind’s eye before they are asked to sound it and then draw it. The children actually walk the shape of the letter on the floor. Whether this helps them to remember I do not know, but I would have thought that anything which aids in the learning process is useful, most teachers however employ several different methods to get across learning.

The Steiner curriculum approaches reading by introducing the children to Roman Capitals and there should be no aim at "completion". By completion, I take that to mean the complete alphabet.

Speech is developed by letting the children repeat stories told to them by the teacher. Steinerists believe everything that is good is developed by the teacher; and that this must be good for the child. This certainly a cause for concern, in that it more or less gives carte blanche to teach the children anything! This puts the teacher in a very powerful position in what the teacher delivers in a lesson is immediately taken in by the children without questioning and not only is used in their speech development but also in forming their opinions based on those of the teacher.

This is of course teacher-centered learning rather than learning which should be based on the child's own experience of life. The state system trained teacher encourages the child to talk about their own experiences rather than repeat fairy tales.

Knowledge of the child's native land is also taught at this stage. The rationale for this is that the child is gradually introduced into their environment and their position in it. This is carried out by raising the awareness of the child by telling the child fairy stories from their native land. Steiner believes that the fairy tales are a very important means of teaching children to develop their inner being. I would argue that it is more important to develop the whole child by suitable real experiences than by trying to develop something that is intangible which he calls the spirit.


Once again Anthroposophy is used to justify a strange attitude to the teaching of mathematics, This system of teaching mathematics works from the premise that man looks at the whole and then sees the component parts afterwards, which is probably correct. Steiner then issues a statement which I find incredible, " the adult brain is formed by the way arithmetic is learnt in childhood, and whether man's later thinking will be of the kind that synthesises or is merely atomistic, depends very much on the earliest instruction which he receives in arithmetic". I can see no justification for a statement of this type, nor can I find any work which confirms this statement outside of the Steiner movement. It makes one wonder whether this another piece of knowledge passed down to him from the beings on the astral plane.

The methods involved in the teaching of arithmetic are those of counting through rhythmic movement, running, clapping and jumping. These are also used in infant education in the state system in this area. Other methods are also used in state schools to supplement this number games, finger games they also use simple pieces of apparatus such as counters, number balances, blocks etc. I did not notice this type of equipment in the classroom that we visited and can find no reference to the use of equipment at this level in the literature I've read.

One area of the Steiner curriculum that I do agree with is the starting of two foreign languages at this point in the child's development. The child at this time is constantly acquiring new knowledge and it would seem to be sensible to teach foreign languages along side the child's native tongue. Some schools are now starting to do this in the public area of education at around the age of seven. The Steiner schools in this country teach German and French by means of games, songs and poems and encourage simple conversation between pupils and teachers. Grammatical skills are not taught until later.

Another subject specific to this type of education is Eurythmy.

Eurythmy is concerned with every aspect of speech and music providing n discipline in the study of both. Steinerists feel that gives this a far more beneficial effect in that it not only provides physical activity but once more is seen as a way of developing the spirit. It really is the same as movement and dance in the state system but is wrapped in the mystical concept of human development. The purpose of movement and dance as taught in our schools is very similar to that put forward by Steiner. Both theories believe that it allows the child to become aware of their bodies. The mind takes in rhythms and transforms the movements of the body to the rhythm e.g. to learn to dance. The state system also states that it makes the child develop a sense of spatial awareness, a statement I would have expected to find in the Steiner curriculum but did not. Steiner also claims a therapeutic effect for Eurythmy, which I don't doubt as music and movement is used as a treatment process by the medical profession.

Music is considered to be vital to the development of a child's "soul powers". That is the sense of what is beautiful and what is not. This is determined by what the teacher chooses to play for the children. The teacher again has control over what is considered suitable for the child to listen to. I would like to know whether the children are fed a diet of essentially one type of music or whether all types of music are examined.

Children at this stage in their development also learn to play a musical instrument usually a small flute of the penny whistle type or a violin. They are also taught to sing at the same time as they learn their flutes. This I feel is a good point in the Steiner curriculum learning to play musical instruments in the state system is done after school and after the parents have paid for these lessons.

Musical appreciation I consider to be an important part in the development of an individual due to its therapeutic effect at relieving stress and the way in which it can move the listener emotionally. Taste in music is also a very personal thing and should we as adults be inflicting tastes in music on to our children?

Handicraft taught, at this stage is only knitting which is carried out by both sexes. Steiner once again gives very grand reasons for the teaching of knitting such as the beneficial and awakening of influences on the faculties of the child's mind. Psychologists today would probably argue that the children would improve their manipulative and fine motor skills rather than enhancing their mental capabilities by this exercise.

A.C. Harwood describes this stage in the child's development (4-7 in age), as being the time of fairy tales where the child's imagination is at its highest .


The Heart of Childhood - Imagination

Steinerists believe that a transition occurs at around this age. The most prominent physical change being the loss of the milk teeth. At this time the child's imagination develops along with a readiness for more formal learning. During this time the child begins to develop their mind into more consecutive patterns of thought.

Between the ages of 6 - 9 years the Steiner curriculum contains the same subjects as that of the first class. But there are additions in each subject area, with drawing and painting from which the children were taught how to inscribe capital letters now leading into non-capital script writing . Dictation is once again seen as being an important part of the child's learning to read and write. The fairy stories give way to the telling of fables and animal stories. Steinerists see the telling of these stories and legends as bringing humility to the child. These fables picture the human being as striving towards "completion" the aim of every Steiner devotee. Personally I can see that, the telling of Aesop's fables will be of use as part, of the development of a child's moral education but religious education also focuses on this area of the curriculum . This type of lesson is also used to introduce grammar which is then taught in a National Curriculum form in the later years, e.g. in a more formal way. But at this stage the children are introduced to the concepts of verbs, adjectives and nouns. My daughter who is ten informs me that they also learnt these concepts at this age as well as paragraphs, direct speech and punctuation so once again Steiner schools are not, too far away from the state system at this age.


Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are continued, but using larger numbers. Steiner believes that, the lose of the first teeth is a vital stage in the development of the child. That at about the age of 7-8 this occurs, once this has happened then multiplication tables can be taught. One of the methods used by the teachers is once again that of allowing the children to move rhythmically and in beat by clapping and jumping in order to help them remember each set of tables. Music continues as before.


The children are now taught crochet and needle work. The third class continues with the above subjects but has two additional subjects, lessons in practical life which replaces knowledge of homeland, and gymnastics.



Piaget and Vygotsky in Russia as well as Bruner in the U.S.A. studied the development of language and thought in the process of child development.Their researches with those of Chomsky in the U.S.A. gave rise to a branch of Psychology known as psycholinguistics.

By attempting to understand how children learn to think Piaget placed great emphasis on experience, Vygotsky placed his weight behind the argument, for language which accompanies the experience. All these experts agree that speech affects the child's power to think, not the ability to understand mathematics which is the premise of Steiner's theory of thinking.

They feel that when young children begin to speak, their speech is linked entirely with actions and occurs only as the child handles or paints tangible objects which are actually present. Later in their development words provoke remembered visual experiences, and later still they have a symbolic meaning attached to them and are used in place of objects. Each child, from this point, becomes increasingly capable of planning his own actions in the future. At this stage the child has achieved the first liberation of thought from the immediate contact, and is reaching towards amore liberated thought pattern. Steiner believes that the child arrives at, this point through the experiences given to the child by their class teacher, not by the child exploring the world for themselves.

Piaget feels that as the child reaches the age of 7-9, a period which he describes as concrete operations, where the child begins to manipulate relationships between objects and set objects. The child can produce a mental image of a series of actions and begins to realize rational terms such as brighter, smoother, taller or fatter. They are able to refer to the relationships between two or more objects and not absolute qualities. The child is then able to reason about the whole and its parts simultaneously, grasping concepts from rules or descriptions of the most important aspects to it. He, however still requires some experience with concrete examples of these important attributes. Unlike the child who is at pre-operational level a child at this stage of concrete operations will need one, or occasionally a few, examples of a concept since he has a greater facility for generalizing and handling the abstract. However the child develops, thinking in abstract. terms is still limited, in that those thought skills of conceptualization and hypothesis are only potentialities, or in some cases possibilities.

Piaget and his co - workers provided the basis which is used to justify the activity methods and practical experiences which have been carried out in the primary schools of this country. Galperin (1957) supports this view as he considers learning to involve the stages of performing a physical operation, verbalizing this (initially out loud) and finally replacing it by a mental operation.

Baldwin (1967) states that by this stage of development the child has “acquired a rudimentary concept of time, space, number and logic and is able to use these concepts to organize, order and manipulate or events which challenge them”. Whereas at this stage Steiner Education is engaged in the development of the imagination with far less emphasis on formal learning . They feel that the child is stage needs the means to express and experience life by sharing emotional feelings. At this time the Steinerist also believes a more consecutive type of thought pattern begins to develop, that the cultivation of this needs to he handled in a very gentle way to ensure that the pictorial world of the child's imagination is not destroyed but remains, along with its new thought processes.

After reading the statements by Piaget and those of Baldwin I find it quite amazing that Steiner had come up with this area of mental development in 1919. Although I do not agree that the imaginative skills possessed by a child are washed away by this expansion into the concrete operational stage of thought. This must depend on the individual. Great artists and writers, and any person involved in any type of work involving abstract thought have not lost the ability to imagine a concept. In fact these skills seem to be enhanced.

My personal view is that Steiner education at this stage concentrates too heavily on the imaginative aspects of development, such as those of art and music, and less on conceptual elements, such as mathematics, science and technology, which are seen as destroying the imagination.

Steiner curriculum 9-11 years

Caroline Von Heydebrand who carried on Steiner's work after his death expresses the view (probably Steiner's) that it is around this time when the child firsts feels detached from their surroundings. They become more self conscious, and their soul life more inward and independent.. The child's powers of consciousness stir to life. The child starts to look at their role models and the world from a different viewpoint. She puts forward the view "that the child wishes to revere that which they loved in a childlike way, but needs to feel that his reverence is justified". She sees this as being a vulnerable stage in the child's development, and the child requires gentle support from their teachers in order to be " protected from disappointment into which, in the presence of grown-ups, he can so easily fall at this age".

The curriculum at this age has to meet the fact that children are developing a stronger ego. Myths succeed the fairy stories Firstly those of Icelandic and German origin which contain examples of the development of the ego and the completion of heroic deeds. These are followed by the introduction of the Greek myths which provide a preparation for Greek history and the knowledge and philosophy which they gave to the world. Grammar is introduced in the study of these myths.

The children are now being allowed to develop their own art work. Prior to this they have been guided or have even copied that which the teacher has shown them. It is at this level when the children should be capable of beginning to work out their own creativity. The observation of geometrical forms is now utilized in the form of drawing that the child carries out. The children should also draw and copy objects, as by now they have experienced inwardly the activity of the forms themselves. Although I have no formal training in art and very little skill in it , I would question the theory of artistic development of children 5-7. People develop manipulative skills by observation and practice, by the training of the eye and memory. Copying may teach the physical skill but will do little for development of the imagination of the individual, which seems to be at odds with Steiner's theory of development.

Pupils at this time are led from writing stories and descriptions to composing  letters, both informal and formal. Tenses are also introduced and are used to illustrate different parts of a verb. The children should able to see the relationship between prepositions and the word to which it belongs. The myths of the Icelandic and German sagas are used to provide this material for writing and reading. During this year the children are taught the difference between active and passive forms of the verb. The reporting of the written word or conversation is also considered to be an important. skill which the child must master as part or their grammatical education. Emphasis is also placed on the child being able to differentiate between their opinion and those of others. During the writing of letters punctuation is introduced. The myths of Greece and Rome provide the material for the retelling of stories, and reading.

Nature study is introduced. It is stated in the Steiner curriculum that the child “has now achieved a greater objectivity in his own being". The animal kingdom is examined but always in its relationship to man. The teacher compares the physiology of each animal to that of man. They see man as being the product of a separate creation rather than a product of evolution, which is not taught in theSteiner curriculum. Steiner education holds fast to the Catholic beliefs of divine creation and that instead of man evolving from the apes, the apes evolved from man, even though it has been proven that this is not so. I feel that we should not teach mistruths, so obviously wrong and will have to be unlearnt if the child chooses to take G.C.S.E. or A level Biology. The plant kingdom is not taught until all of the animal kingdom has been covered.

The children are introduced to fractions and decimals which they continue with until the sixth class.

German and French
Prose is used instead of poetry as examples for the child to learn. Grammatical rules are now taught. The emphasis is towards a more formal approach to these subjects with the skills of translation and recording being mainly the objectives as well as syntax.

Eurythmy is continued with the emphasis on "forming space from verbs” How these ethereal forms of movement and dance can be said to aid in the child’s understanding I just can not see. Tone Eurythmy is also introduced where the children move to rhythms played on instruments simply, and which it is believed aids with the learning of the difference between flats and sharps. The point of this
exercise as I understand is that there is a difference which can be heard, and so the children could respond to it. Music is also in line with Tone Eurythmy in that the children are learning flats and sharps, so one activity helps with the other.

 3rd Stage

 Rational Judgement

 Steiner curriculum. From the twelfth year to puberty.

Steinerists feel that this is very important time in the maturation of a child. The physical development of the body is rapid. At this point, I would once again like to quote from the Steiner curriculum .

"The child moves with natural grace by means of a muscle system which is nourished by the rhythmically moving blood stream ; now the young boy or girl grasps his skeleton while he is passing over as it were from the muscles to the sinews and then to the bones. His movements lose rhythm and grace and become angular, unskillful and uncontrolled. The child grows into the "colt" stage and does not know what to do with his limbs.
But only now can all aspects of life and science that, depend on mechanical laws be profitably given to the pupil without harming him. At this stage, when the soul-spirit being connects itself more closely with the mechanism of the bony system, a whole realm of new subjects opens out before the pupil".


I   I see this is the case with regard to the physical development required to play certain types of sport, but not with regard to the mental development of the child. Piaget terms this stage as that of formal operations when the adolescent develops the capacity for abstract thought. Steiner sees this stage as being the start of rational judgment. This third stage adolescence is critical for the correct cultivation of critical judgment. It is at this point that it becomes possible for the pupil to use thinking as an objective instrument. Two other features are also present in the adolescent psyche : firstly a healthy, valuable idealism : and secondly a vulnerable sensitivity about one's own feelings and inner experiences which may require protection if the child is to develop normally. This is once again not too far away from the thinking of Piaget et al

Piaget believes that the child extends his problem-solving ability considerably.They learn to consider the various possible ways a particular problem can be solved. It is this tendency to generate and systematically explore all the possiblesolutions to a problem that is one of the hall marks of the stage of formal

operations (Mussen, Conger, Kagan, 1963). During this stage the ability toreason scientifically begins to emerge, along with the ability to hypothesise and
to see possible solutions is accompanied by a wave of idealism. This was also a characteristic observed by Steiner.

Steiner education at this stage continues to build on and reinforce previous learnt knowledge.

English continues to concentrate on the development of business skills by the production of business letters and composition, however these remain similar in style and content to those carried out in the third class. During this time the folklore of several different races provides the material for reading and story telling. The teacher at this time should also be developing the children's " truly plastic perception through speech of the forms of expression for desire, wonder, surprise and so forth". The children should then be taught to form sentences describing their needs which are then compared in order that the child has an insight into the" plastic quality of language" yet, another definition I find difficult to understand. I take it to mean the expansion of the child's vocabulary.


Roman period and the influence of Greco -Roman culture until the 15th century. Following on from this is the history of Europe from then to the 17th century. This is the period given greatest emphasis as it is the point at which modern civilisation starts to develop.

Languages continue either French or German and Latin or Greek .

Eurythmy and gymnastics continue, with apparatus such as parallel bars and rings being used.

The rest of the curriculum at this stage continues with music and handiwork.

The important changes to the curriculum are that Sciences are taught as separate subjects Physics, Chemistry, but Biology is still taught as Nature study.

The curriculum is at this point very similar to the National Curriculum in that the pupils are taught acoustics, optics, heat, magnetism and electricity. They are also taught the fundamentals of mechanics.

Starting with combustion the children are instructed into the elementary ideals of chemistry which is integrated with the concepts already gained from Physics, Chemistry, Geography and Nature Study.

Nature study
The previous years have looked at human being, the animal kingdom, plant world, earth and single minerals, the teacher introduces health education to the child.

This approach to science education I feel is at best described as General Science in that it seems to be taught as a holistic subject within a loose framework.

W.C. Hall (1972), would agree with this approach. He asserted that Science is “one and undivided in its principles and methods" and stated that "many of the concepts of science are common to all areas”­. Another unnamed correspondent identified that the control experiment is used only by biologists and listed a set of concepts which he claimed could not be shared by the three separate disciplines, Whilst yet another correspondent argued that elementary biology was in a scientifically primitive state and should be taught as a Nature-story the method adopted in Steiner Education . This last comment I found illuminating  Steiner may be right to teach biology in this way. The correspondent later goes on to say that biology cannot be compared with physics as this uses advanced mechanisms such as theory-building and hypothesis testing.

 The Steiner Curriculum continues to teach the subjects from the seventh year.

The teacher introduces longer works of prose and poetry , epics and dramatic poetry are used. Various serious works are examined such as Herder's Ideas for the History of Mankind, (a book I've not read but believe to be in line with Steiner's Theory of divine creation).

History continues up to the present time . Steiner feels that when children leave school  the pupils should carry with them a picture of the history of mankind and the effect, of modern technology e.g. the invention of the steam engine has had on present day society. The Blake school still uses this as an example, JB feels that they should be using the growth of Communications, Transport and Information Technology instead.

The teacher brings to a conclusion the study of the spiritual culture of the peoples of the earth in connection with economic conditions. This I feel is more like anthropology rather than geography.

Nature study
It is during this year that the real Steiner theories of the nature of man are taught. Something which I feel strongly about. He, once again, weaves this Pseudo- mysticism into a very scientific subject. The curriculum states

"When a pupil is set forth into life he should take with him a picture of man as the completion of the kingdoms of nature, in fact as a microcosm (Darwin would state that mankind is just another stage in evolution and that man is evolving all the time I would agree with him). The marked contrasting functions of different organic systems and their harmonious working together should be made clear to him. He has already learnt to understand illness and health in connection with the physical body and the soul - spirit being of man. As the pupil becomes ripe in his own development, the teacher can show the mechanism of the bones and muscles and the inner structure of the eye, that is to say he shows all that can be understood about man by means of concepts drawn from the realm of mechanics and physics”.

Progress to hydraulics , aero-mechanics, climatology and meteorology. The final two I feel are of a geophysical nature rather than a pure physical one.

The industrial processes of the chemical industries are studied as are the nature of various types of food substances starch sugar, proteins and fats and their benefits to the human diet.

Arithmetic and Algebra continue both theoretically and practically.

At this stage the pupils are taught to calculate the lengths and areas of plane figures and by means of this the calculation of volumes , areas and sides. Solid geometry may be introduced, as are the laws of loci.

The child's work is now raised to the realm of artistic. This is another area of the curriculum that really pains me. Once again we have freedom of expression being directed into areas of development which are seen as being correct by Steinerists. Most of the Steiner art is very stereotyped I have now seen examples from three different Steiner Schools and they are all recognisable as being carried out by Steiner children in both
their content (mainly religious ), and the very bright colour used. The children seem to have very little choice of content or execution. This may also be seen in the type of art work that Steiner pupils produce, which is often very garish having wide swaths of bright colour with the forms being mainly of an outline nature.

German and French continue by means of literature and folklore, the study of metre and poetry are also examined.

Latin and Greek
Latin grammar should now be at a conclusion, Greek is continued. Latin now studies classical tents.

Poets are chosen which allow the children to" express powerful moods of the soul", which have contrasts of tension and relief. The teacher aims to bring to the children the state of inner completeness and create a state of inner balance in the souls of the children. Other exercises such as those for the awakening of intelligence and the harmonising of the will are also continued. Tone Eurythmy continues with the minor scales.

Music continues as in the seventh class.

The children now learn to use a sewing machine and produce small and large articles. Every child at the
Blake School is expected to have produced at least one garment by the end of this year . This I feel is a good practical skill to have in that it allows one to not only design ones clothing but saves money. The children are also taught to iron, which again is a useful practical skill. The curriculum also covers the manufacture of materials.

Gymnastics with apparatus continues.

Woodwork is carried out in order to develop the child's sense of fantasy and skillfulness of the hand in more difficult work, or to put it more simplistically to develop manipulative skills.

The cultivation carried out in the sixth class continues on a yearly rotation and in this year comes to an end. I asked a question at the
Blake School as to whether the children learnt environmental science. The reply I received was yes they did gardening. Gardening is hardly environmental science and can only be seen taught in the state system under the blanket title Rural Science which includes animal husbandry as well as agricultural engineering. Whereas Environmental Science would seek to show the interdependence of all living things on one another and would be very ecologically based -- a science which did not exist at the time that the Steiner curriculum developed but one which surely should be incorporated into it? Or would these types of thinking be against, the Steiner Anthroposophy beliefs?


Caroline Von Heydebrand:

"The thinking power and capacity of judgement are now fully awakened, and the demand for food of thought and an outlet for action in tasks which can be accomplished only by use of reason and logic (need to be fulfilled ). The  relationship which a boy or girl forms consciously and freely with his surroundings demands a constant contact with practical life and with the achievements of modern technique. The rich and versatile soul-life which the boy hides even more than the girl needs to be satisfied by pondering over deep human problems. These problems should be introduced and discussed in lessons, for each one-sided judgement leads into a blind alley. To overcome the many difficulties and handicaps of this age, which is rich in riddles, wonders and surprises, but where consciousness only slowly masters the surging life activities, the teacher should give lessons with imagination, enthusiasm and artistic feeling”.

 The young boy or girl should no more follow the authority only of the class teacher who has passed with him through the first eight classes, but he should now receive his lessons from a number of specialist teachers, from amongst whom he can choose his own hero, whom he can freely follow. In former times his law of action was whatever his teacher called beautiful or ugly, good or bad . He now proceeds to act out of a consciousness of duty, and advances a step towards freedom , where duty is "to love what one commands oneself”. This I feel is a very selfish statement. By following it one only does what one wants to do, but judges everything on solely one’s own likes and dislikes. So much for teaching tolerance and harmony. ­It is also very close to the doctoring of Satanism who's law is “to do what then wilt , shall be the whole of the law"( Dennis Wheatley) It also implies that the Steiner Philosophy of life is the only correct solution!

Ninth class At this time some children will transfer to the study of G.C.S.E. Mathematics, English and English Literature.

Literature is selected in order to give the chance to examine aesthetic problems. Books containing humour are also encouraged to be studied. Essays are based on historical works covered in the previous year.

Art is now taught as a special period lesson and is no longer part of the main lesson. The subject is now examined in a historical context as well as in a practical one. The philosophy of art is also examined in some detail. Art is seen by Steiner as a means of achieving balance in a technical society. As such I feel that it should be carried out by children in main stream education. (At the age of fourteen I concentrated on only the scientific subjects and feel personally to have missed out a lot as regards my knowledge of the aesthetic things in life).

History recovers previously learnt ground from the thirty years war to modern times but is now presented to the children in a different manner, enabling them to look at the reasons behind the conflicts, and the repercussions of those conflicts.

The structure of mountain divisions over the whole of the earth is examined related to their formation and geological structure.

Nature of man is continued.

The student examines the nature of organic chemistry.

Combinations, permutations and variations are introduced. In Algebra linear equations with unknown quantities, brackets and fraction are taught along with binomial theory as well as quadratic equations. The subjects are being covered at this level in the National curriculum at this stage of a child's development. Solid geometry is applied in a practical form, and curves to the second degree are worked out as are those of higher degrees, but only by means of construction, not by calculation, by means of a drawing board and set square.

German and French
In these later years emphasis is given not only to the language of these countries but also to their culture. The reading of the language is concentrated on, as are discussion about what the students are carrying out. The grammar is revised during this year, and suitable reading material recommended for each child.

Communications are studied. The examples given in the curriculum again show how old it is, these are the telephone, and the railway. The
Blake School does not teach Information Technology the fastest and most generally used form of business communication, or have reference to the car or aircraft. JB’s school however not only teaches I.T. but their pupils also do an "A" level in it. Once again I wonder if this is an effect of the New Age atmosphere which exists at the Blake School.

The children also study heat and mechanics( with reference as to how a locomotive operates), and electricity, magnetism and sound are taken into account to show how the telephone works. The motion of the stars is examined, and the Doppler effect discussed with the students. The optics of telescopes are also considered with reference to their use to astronomers.

Latin and Greek
Latin progresses to syntax and the use of different cases. The children continue to read Caesar and learn easy poems from the Metamorphoses of Ovid which, in its self is not an easy thing to do, whilst in Greek the learning of formal grammar comes to an end.

Steiner says "one of the essential characteristics of this age is a need to bring to conscious knowledge what has hitherto been learned more instinctively". I have some difficulty understanding this statement. What does Steiner mean by instinctively? Is he talking about. the reflex arc or the subconscious? He then goes on to state that " Eurythmy should be presented to the pupils from a new point of view, so that they enter into the inner being of the movement of sound". Again we have a reference to a state of spiritual being as if there is a higher plane of thought to be found in music and movement. I would agree that music is capable of causing emotions in individuals but to give it a mystical importance seems to me to be going too far.

Tone Eurythmy
If I thought Steiner was becoming mystical in the previous paragraph then he really goes overboard in this area of study! The statement in the, curriculum is that, "the teacher should bring to expression the main chords to illustrate the harmonic building up of a piece
of music. In this way the teacher has a powerful medium for bringing to the children the foundations of harmony so that not only thinking but feeling and willing can be active. For thus something becomes
visible which usually remains only audible "

This is an experience that I can imagine as being hallucinogenic if this does in fact come about! Is this an example of yet another aspect of anthroposophy of expanded consciousness which Steiner claims is a product of his theories?

Singing is now practised in a mixed choir and the pupils should be able to play in the school orchestra. The students are now taught about musical literature from the past and the present
. “They should be led to an understanding of the aesthetics in music and to the elements of musical forms. Their musical taste should now be formed”. They can try to compose their own melodies and perform them to the class.

Handiwork consists of making all types of items from cushions to other domestic: articles which are now designed by the pupil. Painting is carried out in order that the children can produce posters and book covers in preparation for learning the skills of book -binding.

Gymnastics with Apparatus continues along the "Turnen" lines, a set of exercises developed for the German army, and use Indian clubs and various other large pieces of apparatus eg. rings, vaulting horses etc. Exercise without apparatus develops from a vertical fall in an upright. position and then overcoming the fall by jumping, swinging running and walking. Skills more akin to those required for martial arts rather in keep fit.

Woodwork is now taken as a period lesson with more emphasis now being placed on artistic work rather than on learning of making joints and practical applications.

Gardening also becomes a period lesson, with the summer being used as practical work caring for their plants, planting, and rotating crops. In the winter the theoretical side of the subject is looked into these being identification, selection, cultivation and care, production of pure stock (genetics), and the grafting of fruit trees.

In this year shorthand is started and continues into the 10th class.


Literature is used to enable the student to experience "that there are lives within his own soul that for which all human beings strive. The riddles of his own life can become illuminated in the light of world development". Three poems are studied Nibelungenlied, Gudrun Saga and the Edda. These are examined, not only for their literary merit but as a means of illustrating various aspects of the philosophy of anthroposophy. The veins being illustrated are those of " passing individual love arising from blood relationships to individualised
1ove ; from the representing of divine beings to that of human beings and from paganism to Christianity".

This is an example of what the German child would study I've used this as an example of how most of Steiner education seeks to reinforce Steiner's beliefs and does not allow the child to determine its own set of beliefs. The British schools study suitably selected works from English literature such as the Celtic legend of Tristan and Isolde , Chaucer and Shakespeare which are used once again to reinforce the Steiner idealism.

The teachers show to the children that poetry is a form of art. That the poet differs from the theorist in that the use of language is creative and not constructive. It is the reflection of their soul in striving towards the future. Thus art is now looked at as being a
spiritual medium in which poetry and Eurythmy come together. The appreciation of the language and metre of poetry awaken consciously hidden powers of the brain which previously were utilised consciously in Eurythmy. I would agree that good literature can awaken responses in people, but to give it some kind of spiritual significance I rather doubt.

The study of the Greek and Eastern civilisations is revised and extended to cover the fall of them to the rise of Alexander the Great. Following from this the teacher should show how the different peoples are dependent, on the earth and on the climate (this is surely geography and not history),

The earth is described physically and structurally.

Natural Science
Steiner curriculum makes a real mess of this. It talks about anthropology (the study of peoples), as physiology (the study of organisms). They go on to suggest that the teacher describes the organs and their functions in relation to the life of the soul and spirit. This is really weird stuff. There is no scientific evidence to suggest firstly that there is a spirit and secondly, a soul and especially that there is a link between these intangible things and the internal organs of the body. Geography is included in this area as mineralogy; and crystallography is integrated with the study of the earth's structure at this point. The formation of limestone is considered and how this is related to the bone structure of man.

At this late stage in the Steiner curriculum the students are introduced to acids, alkalis, and salts concepts which are some of the first things to be covered in the GCSE Chemistry syllabus. They then relate this to the study of the plant and animal kingdoms.

Mechanics is related to simple machines and the action of projectiles.

Descriptive geometry is now slanted towards simple interpenetrations, that
is the union of different solid forms and the constructions used to achieve them.

German and French
The metre of poems is examined with emphasis given to the recitation of poetry either individually or together.

Latin and Greek
Latin is continued through the study of syntax and the study of suitable prose such as the Aeneid. Greek students now begin syntax and the use of different cases using various original texts of which Homer's Odyssey is one. Rudolf Steiner also recommends that authors from the Middle Ages should also be studied.

Eurythmy at this level should be examining the three stage character of man e.g. thinking , feeling and willing which are interpreted by means of suitable poems and rhyme forms. Tone Eurythmy continues as in class nine.

The pupils should be encouraged to produce work which is of a practical and useful nature

Gymnastics with apparatus continues using the "Turnen" method. Gymnastics without apparatus is concerned with spatial awareness this point, .

This continues the work of the ninth class but is developed in a more independent and artistic way.

The practical work is continued in the summer. Whilst in the winter the knowledge of soil, manuring and the care of plants including the grafting of fruit trees.

Land surveying and Technical Mechanics are introduced at this time. This takes the form of simple land surveying and technical mechanics looks at the principle of the screw.

Another new subject is First Aid a subject that I feel every child should be taught and that it should be included in the National Curriculum.

At the end of year ten the pupils leave the Blake School to go to work or continue their education in mainstream schooling.


The problems of the Steiner Curriculum is firstly that the underlying Philosophy of Anthoposophy clouds most of the learning. This results in a very unscientific form of science being taught, most of which would have to be unlearnt if examinations at  G.C.S.E. or A level are taken, order to fit in to this philosophy.

This Curriculum is taught in more or less its original form at the Blake School with only slight modifications to the physical activity side, the pupils now playing non-contact sports such as basketball, tennis or archery.

The curriculum has very little relevance to today's world, producing children who may be confident and "whole persons" but have no qualifications apart from G.C.S.E. Mathematics, English and English Lit., on leaving this school. This means that if any of them wish to go on the Higher Education they have just two or three years to take another set of G.C.S.E.s in sciences or arts as well as two or three A Levels, which is a lot to ask any child at this age.They are also poorly equipped to enter the employment market unless they are prepared to take on a craft apprenticeship, if they can find one.

It seems to me that the Blake School is generally considered to be not a very good example of Waldorf education in action, even by a fellow Steiner teacher, for reasons that I have given previously, and I feel that a visit to another Steiner school may give me a different insight to this form of education.

The stages of development put forward by Piaget are not rigid, unlike those of Steiner, rather they should be viewed as  identifiable phases in a slow orderly progression of development. Ausubel (1968) puts forward the theory that "an individual child's state of readiness is reflective of his genetic inheritance, incidental experience, general intellectual stimulation and educational background”. Research carried out by Anderson (1965) and Gibson (1963) indicates that when proper training techniques are used, young children can attain skills that have traditionally be considered impossible for them. Maybe Steiner is correct in starting language teaching at such an early age.

What may be of interest is that the class teacher remains with their class for eight years as many of the educational constrictions attributed to the readiness for learning can be attributed to the child's training history. For the teacher it is easier and more helpful to evaluate entering behavior than it is to attempt to evaluate the more general, more ambiguous and less applicable abilities that, define developmental stages, a point that Steiner teachers should score highly on, due to the time that they spend with their class. The state teacher has to rely on  reports, tests or comments from other teachers as to a child’s progress rather than knowing their charges deeply. However the fact that the teacher has so much power over their pupils is, I feel, rather dangerous in that in the child's formative years it, seems that the pupil has more respect for the teacher than it has for its parents. The Jesuits believe that if they are given a child at the age of seven they will then produce the man. Steinerist’s must also believe in this statement in that by proving the example of what they feel is right the Steiner trained teacher indoctrinates the child into the belief of Steiner regardless of what the parents beliefs are and this may well lead to conflict at home. The teachers put forward the case that you do not send your child to a Waldorf school unless you believe in Steiner.

Whilst having lunch at work I asked one of the lectures about Steiner Education. He admitted that he knew very little about it, but the woman who he was having lunch with, a lecturer from the C.F.E. in Plainsmill, said she had sent two of her children to the Steiner school in Walliford Road School. She went on to give me her opinions on this system of education. The original reason for sending her children to this school was that she felt it would allow them to develop a more caring and balanced personality. However after her children had been there for about two years she started to notice that instead of becoming more tolerant they were starting to be extremely intolerant and were not prepared to listen other people’s opinions. She was concerned enough to contact the school who more or less told her that she was worrying about nothing and this was just a phase. Shortly after this a young man at the school arrived one day with a crew cut and was immediately suspended for this. Several parents decided to call a meeting to discuss this and drafted a letter, which they all signed, stating that they felt that the school had acted in a very off hand manner and that the child should be taken back at once.

The day on which this letter was received by the School all those children whose parents had signed this letter were suspended. Needless to say these parents withdrew their children from the school.

It would seem that holistic education is not about developing free-thinking persons but about developing persons who hold only the narrow Steiner views of life.

Finally I have my own criteria for assessing schools -- would I send my daughter there? In this case, definitely NO.


R.C. Anderson and G.W.Faust, Educational Psychology, 1975, Dod, Mead and Co. Toronto and New York.
Department of Education and Science, 1987, The National Curriculum 5-16, a Consultation document,
DES London.
A.C. Harwood, The Way of a Child, 1988, Rudolf Steiner Press
C. Von Heydebrand, The Curriculum of the first Waldorf School, 1989, Steiner Schools Fellowship E. Sussex.
W. D. Labenne and B.I.Greene, Educational implications of self -concept theory, 1969,
Goodyear, California.
B. Masters et a1, An introduction to Rudolf Steiner- Waldorf Education, 1990, The Robinswood Press Stourbridge.
J. Piaget, Science of Education and the Psychology of the Child, 1971, Lowe & Brydone
P. Steiner,
Kingdom of Childhood , 1988, Anthroposophic Press & Steiner Press London and New York.
C.R.Sutton & J.T.Hayson , The Art of the Science Teacher , 1974;McGraw Hill

I would also like to acknowledge JB for his time in helping me to resolve some of the issues arising from the Blake School.

The names of the school and persons interviewed in the research required for this piece of work have been changed to protect their identities.

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