How Ofsted failed my children

(A “Back To School” personal posting, not the usual stuff I write about here, but still important and somehow relevant to tech businesses)

Three of my kids were in a Rudolf Steiner school. Our plan had been to do Steiner education for primary and then mainstream education for secondary. The oldest child has made this transition successfully, but plans for the younger two were recently thrown into disarray.

The school has now closed following about 18 months of pressure from Ofsted and the Department for Education (DfE). As far as I can tell, the closure is as a direct result of this pressure. Ofsted were unhappy with how the school operated. Whatever issues Ofsted might have found, forcing the school into a position where it had to close was absolutely not in the best interests of the children. Ofsted has failed the children who have had their education disrupted so abruptly.

But there’s more than this. Ofsted have failed to recognise all the things that this school system is good at – things that are becoming more and more important in our changing world. Some examples:

  • The value of spending lots of time outdoors, and not just walking around tarmac playgrounds
  • How to introduce foreign languages at a young age
  • How to build a real community of children, teachers and parents
  • How to delay the age at which kids start getting online
  • The importance of joy in learning
  • How too much progress monitoring detracts from delivering real education

The fact of the matter is that the world that our children will inherit is changing. Automation is transforming the nature of the jobs market. The sorts of skills that people will need in the jobs market in 10 or 20 years are going to be very different to when knowing how to file a tax return guaranteed someone a decent wage.

There is no accident that many people who work in the tech industry and can see close-up the changes coming our way choose this kind of education.

Obviously the Steiner system in general, and this school in particular, don’t have all the answers and won’t get everything right. You’d have to be quite an extremist to take that position (I’m sure there are some such extremists around). In my view, the healthy thing to be doing would be to learn what the school does well rather than just trying to shut it down for what you don’t like about it.  Instead the DfE has thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

Disclosure: I was part of the governing team of the school up until the point that Ofsted got involved. I haven’t had any involvement since the school started working through the issues that Ofsted raised and write this just as an ex-parent.


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