School backs Steiner style

By Christine de Kock
FOOTSCRAY City Primary School’s curriculum has come under fire from parents who are dissatisfied with the school’s Steiner program.
But school principal Win Warren said the argument needed to be seen in context.
She said two families had pulled their children out of the school but a significant number of families and almost all the teachers strongly supported the program.
In brief, Steiner schools “cater to the needs of the child rather than the demands of the government or economic forces … he (Rudolf Steiner) developed schools that encourage creativity and free-thinking”, according to the official Steiner Schools in Australia website.
But parents airing their opinion in newspapers and on radio criticised the program saying students are only taught to read when they turn seven, the Old Testament was studied and the school disco was cancelled due to the program.
Ms Warren said the Steiner program was introduced in 2001 before she became principal in 2004.
The school also offers a mainstream curriculum and a Western English Language program. There are 232 students in the mainstream curriculm, 171 in the Steiner program and 25 in the Western English Language School.
Teachers at the school have signed a petition in support of the Steiner program, which differs slightly from the main stream curriculum.
Mainstream students are taught a language other than English, music, physical education, art and library.
Steiner students are taught a language other than English, music, physical education, craft and eurhythmics (movement to music).
Ms Warren said despite criticism about Steiner students not reading until they turned seven, the school’s statewide assessment program in reading showed students were well above average.
She said discos had not been banned and students had participated in three discos at the end of last year.
Parent Catherine Cumming supports the Steiner program.
“A lot of problems exist with people not understanding the Steiner section,” she said.
Ms Cumming’s six-year-old son attends the school. “I read to him every night and we are also encouraged to tell verbal stories. It’s to encourage them to use their imagination.
“He’s learning maths and timetables and they can read what they are taught to write. He’s taught in song and rhythm.”
Another feature of the Steiner program is that students stay with one teacher throughout their primary school education.
Ms Cumming said it was a feature that she liked as it created a closer community among students and teachers.