CEO Blog: The world we want and need starts with strong school communities

CEO Blog

The world we want and need starts with strong school communities

The polarising debate around private vs public education too often ends up in a dark ditch where discussion gets bogged down along ideological lines. It often gets reduced to school fees, sandstone buildings, us versus them, NAPLAN scores, and need for better teachers.

The stereotypes will be familiar to families in both sectors; however, they fail to recognise the unique situation every child comes from, and the need for diversity that sits at the centre of our education system.

The independent schools sector takes in a range of educational approaches; all bound by the accountability and educational standards requirements set by state and federal governments.

There are 50 Steiner schools nationally which operate within the independent schooling sector. They are located in distinct communities and geographies from Bega to Armidale, to Noosa and Brisbane, to Launceston, Ballarat, Melbourne, Canberra, Perth, Alice Springs and many more.

Our school communities operate in a low to medium fee paying environment, reflective of the places and people who are drawn to diverse schooling options.

It is a need and approach that is seeing the number of new Steiner schools steadily growing, in line with the general 2.5% growth in the independent sector in 2020.

This surge of interest is expected to increase further as Australian families, in all their uniqueness, move with the shifting directions and priorities of global education policy.

The weight the world is carrying at this time places added importance on the values Steiner educators have always held dear – student engagement and wellbeing, student agency, a sense of community, critical and creative thinking, and sustainability. Steiner teaching methods have long cultivated this approach; it’s become a bedrock for thousands of families and communities and more and more is being seen as the preferred pathway to a positive future for our young people. 

A recent independent national survey of over 3 000 people showed 87% of parents are satisfied with their Steiner school – one of the highest levels of satisfaction amongst parents in any educational system.
Other results point to the strengths building in children and communities:

  • 85% of parents said Steiner schools were their preferred choice because they offer a well-rounded education, teach to the individual and because of the schools’ culture and values.
  • More than 92% said they valued an arts-based approach to learning.
  • 84% of parents agreed that the quality of teaching was strong. 88% of Year 9-12 students strongly agreed or agreed that “teachers know me.”
  • Nearly 80% of Year 9-12 students are happy and fulfilled at school.
  • 90% of students have good relationships with teachers and 87% have good relationships with other students.

That’s a snap shot of now, but the humans influenced by a Steiner education and at work in the world also speaks loudly.

95% of our alumni agree that attending a Steiner school has been an asset in life.

That high level of student wellbeing reported during their school years, leads to strong academic and general life outcomes later for our alumni.

These alumni findings are currently being developed further with research underway through the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC). The results are due for publication soon and will look at Year 12 outcomes for Steiner students. 

Another development we are proud of is the fast growing interest from teachers in mainstream education wanting to and choosing to attain Steiner education qualifications. 

For example, the USC Graduate Certificate in Steiner Education has the highest enrolments of any Graduate Certificate Course offered at the university with most enrolments coming from those new to Steiner education.

Teaching is a noble profession and those drawn to it are wanting to add Steiner philosophy and method to their innate passion and talent.

Steiner schools honour the professional wisdom of teachers and there is a high value placed on a teacher’s creativity, ongoing development and connection to a holistic, integrated curriculum which is purposefully adapted to time and place.

Steiner’s higher educational purpose, beyond standardised test scores, is a vision of educating children to become healthy, purposeful, and creative adults who go into the world looking to foster a healthy, just society. 

The sort of world and future the challenges of our times call us to. Families see that and are responding accordingly.

Australia’s education system is one that supports diversity and increasingly parents are choosing Steiner.

As a sector, we look to play an active role in the ongoing wider discussion about the future of Australia’s approach to educating our children – making sure choice is accessible and equitable and influencing an outcome where children and our future are central.