EYFS-exempt Steiner school wins 'outstanding' rating

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One of the first Steiner Waldorf schools in the country to be granted exemptions from some of the EYFS learning and development goals has been graded Outstanding in its inspection.

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The school was inspected by the School Inspection Service, which inspects all independent schools, including those with kindergartens and nurseries, affiliated to the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship.

The inspection, just published, took place at Wynstones School in Gloucester in November.

The school had been granted exemptions from the communication, language and literacy and ICT early learning goals (News, 2 September 2009).

Teacher Ken Power said, 'We're relieved, happy and delighted about the report.' He said the school had been very open with the inspectors that the teaching in the kindergarten had not changed in any way to fit in with the EYFS. For example, the school does not teach numeracy and is not assessing children against the EYFS profile.

Mr Power confirmed that Wynstones is planning on re-applying for exemptions to all the other learning and development requirements in the EYFS and has the full backing of parents at the school.

He added, 'As long as we continually apply, we are de facto exempt from the EYFS in the way we are inspected.'

The report said, 'The kindergarten has received exemption from some programmes within the EYFS and modifications to others. As it is in the process of re-applying for other exemptions and modifications, it is planning for and gathering information on the children's learning according to the Steiner Waldorf curriculum pending the outcome of that re-application. The assessments made by staff are useful and provide a good basis for commenting on the children's progress during and when they leave the kindergarten.'

Janni Nichol, early childhood representative for the SWSF, told Nursery World that a number of other Steiner nurseries and kindergartens at Steiner schools, inspected by the SIS, have also received good reports.

They include York Steiner School, York, and St Paul's Steiner School, London, which were both rated 'good with outstanding features' for their overall effectiveness of EYFS provision. York School received the grade despite the report saying the school was still waiting to hear if it would be granted some EYFS exemptions and inspectors said it did not meet the regulations.

Ms Nichol said the process was taking more than a year in some cases. She said, 'Schools have been told that if they don't get exemptions they could fail.'

She is due to meet with the QCDA shortly to discuss these issues, including the requirement for Steiner settings to comply with the EYFS profile.

She said, 'I'm looking forward to further discussions with QCDA and politicians from all parties about how the EYFS will apply for Steiner schools in the future, as the exemption process is far too bureaucratic and cannot continue.'

EYFS Steiner guide
- A guide to the EYSF in Steiner Waldorf Early Childhood settings has just been published. Janni Nicol said, 'The guide is to help inspectors and local authority advisers understand the Steiner Waldorf approach. It's about how the EYFS can be integrated in Steiner Waldorf practice.' The guidance was initiated by former children's minister Beverley Hughes, and the DCSF and National Strategies were involved in its development. The guide makes clear in which areas it recommends that Steiner kindergartens apply for exemptions to the EYFS, such as ICT and the early introduction of formal literacy and numeracy. Free copies (plus postage) are available from www.steinerwaldorf.org.uk or download at http://nationalstrategies.standards.dcsf.gov.uk.

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