More parents are starting to think outside the box when it comes to their child’s education, with local primary schools often considered too archaic in their approach, not catering to a child’s individual needs or not nurturing enough. A popular alternative is a Steiner school – but with their hefty wait lists you’d better get in quick.
What is Steiner education?
Based on the principles of Austrian philosopher, Rudolph Steiner, Steiner (also known as Waldorf) education aims to educate the whole child in a future orientated and holistic style to support the healthy wellbeing of children around the world. A highly respected international educational movement, there are over 1,050 Steiner schools and almost 2,000 Steiner kindergartens, home programs, childcare centres and pre-schools in more than 60 countries globally.
It’s in high demand in Australia
The first Steiner school in Australia opened in 1957 in Castlecrag in Sydney. There are now 44 schools across the country, most of which were built in the 1970s and are well established in those communities. They’ve recently had been another surge in popularity with more schools being built over the last few years in Moreton Bay (QLD), Bairnsdale (VIC), Bowral (NSW) and Agnes Waters (QLD); plus several state schools in SA and VIC have introduced Steiner-based streams to their classrooms and there’s now even a degree in Steiner education at the University of the Sunshine Coast.
Why is it so popular?
In this modern, fast-paced world; old forms of school education are just not working for a lot of children (and their parents). Kids are becoming less engaged, unable to learn effectively, unhappy socially and more prone to issues such as depression, anxiety and obesity. There are also more children with behavioural issues who just don’t fit so well into the mainstream school system. Parents are excited by the ideals and methodologies of Steiner education with its holistic and individualistic approach.
Byron Bay are big Steiner supporters
The most popular Steiner location is Byron Bay in northern NSW with two Kindergarten to Year 12 Steiner schools in the Byron Bay Shire area. But even in Byron the wait lists are very long, with the majority of parents in the region desperate to enrol their children (no word as to whether Byron local Hollywood heavyweight, Chris Hemsworth, will be sending his brood there).
The education process
According to SEA (Steiner Education Australia): “Steiner education provides enjoyable and relevant learning through deep engagement and creative endeavour, to develop ethical, capable individuals who can contribute to society with initiative and purpose.”
In early childhood they focus on imitation and routine in a nurturing, home-like environment; while the focus for primary students is using imagination and creativity. In high school, Steiner teachers focus on developing the student’s intellect and critical-thinking.
Details on the difference
Specifically, Steiner education is quite different to mainstream schools in many ways, for example, students don’t learn to read until a year or two later than those at mainstream schools. While this may sound strange, apparently this non-rushed approach means that students become more engaged and in later years they’re reading far more advanced texts and literature than their traditional school peers. There are many other unique or surprising elements too, for example cooking in class can be a weekly fixture, and home visits are often undertaken so the teacher can see each child in their own environment. Each Steiner school is a bit different but the principles are the same.
As parents we all want our children to enjoy school, make friends and learn as much as possible to give them a good start in life – and this is the Steiner promise. According to parents and educators, the result of a Steiner education is young adults that are more capable, independent, happy, educated and present – extremely valuable attributes on a personal level and for when entering the workforce. Sounds pretty good to us!
What will it cost you?
Steiner fees are specific to each individual school but as a guide, it starts at around $11,000 a year for Kindergarten and increases up to around $16,000 annually for Year 12. There are also minor application and admin fees, plus extra costs for excursions each year too. Steiner schools don’t typically have uniforms other than occasionally for sports, and the schools are co-educational.
Keen to sign up?
If you’re interested in finding out more about Steiner education and schools in your area, simply head to non-profit organisation SEA (Steiner Education Australia) for all the details.
All images courtesy of Steiner Education Australia.