Steiner Waldorf education and the Irish primary curriculum : a time of opportunity
The object of this research was to study the implications o f Steiner Waldorf pedagogy delivered in National Schools, and to consider both its viability and usefulness. This research used both qualitative and quantitative methods of primary and secondary research. A review was carried out of the literature of the Waldorf movement internationally and specific to Ireland. A history of the Waldorf movement in Ireland, as well as a brief overview of the history of Irish publicly funded education, were both created from published literature, schools' records, and websites. Interviews were conducted with all of the full time teachers at both of the temporarily recognised Steiner National Schools, Mol an Oige and Raheen Wood. Data was compiled that showed a significant drop in the Steiner Waldorf-specific background and training of newly hired teachers at the two schools over the three years since recognition, resulting today in the majority of teachers lacking any previous Steiner Waldorf training. In fulfilling this objective, it was found that the value system of Steiner schools can be a useful addition to the options created for the families of Ireland. The general aims of the Primary School Curriculum were found to be in complete accord with those of the Steiner Waldorf approach, and multiple aspects of Waldorf pedagogy were identified which can be employed to deliver the curriculum in a vibrant and creative way. Areas of conflict were found to be centred around the Steiner Waldorf Schools' ethos, which is pedagogical rather than religious, presenting a challenge to the Department of Education and Skill's need for standardised quality assurance protocols. These areas of conflict were responded to with recommendations. Ultimately, the objective of the Department should, where possible, be to support sound and creative approaches to primary education for children in Ireland. The findings of this project clearly suggest the Steiner Waldorf model is deserving of wider recognition in this regard. There remains some question, however, whether the Department of Education is prepared to grant enough latitude for Steiner National Schools to actually apply the Steiner Waldorf model. If such latitude is not granted, these schools run the risk of becoming Steiner Waldorf in name only.
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