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The Childcare Act 2006 has made the implementation of the Early Years Foundation Stage framework a legal requirement for all schools. This affects all children aged 0-5 but particularly those educated in a Steiner Waldorf kindergarten setting. Read more...


admin September 1st, 2009

[Full printable PDF version is here]

Wynstones School, an independent co-educational school offering Steiner Waldorf education for 3-18 year olds, has now received a reply from the Secretary of State to its application for exemption from some of the learning and development requirements of the EYFS (the so-called ‘nappy curriculum’).

The requested exemptions and modifications related to literacy and to ICT have been granted. However, those relating to the teaching of maths have not. Likewise, the request for exemption from the EYFS’s assessment arrangements has been rejected.

The school continues to have concerns about the target driven nature of the EYFS and in particular the assessment arrangements. It does not believe that the EYFS assessment arrangements are appropriate, particularly for children of this age. Many of the 13 assessment scales include goals that we have been exempted from so it is not clear how we would use these in any case.The school has not had the opportunity to speak with the QCA yet before considering its next course of action.

We are pleased that, in granting us exemptions and modifications, the Secretary of State has recognised that the EYFS is not flexible enough to accommodate the Steiner Waldorf Early Years practice. We had to fight long and hard for an exemption process in the face of the DCSF’s insistence that the EYFS was flexible enough to cater for Steiner Early Year needs. While the exemption process was allowed for in the original act (The Childcare Act 2006), the DCSF failed to introduce it until the last minute after we, and others, raised strong, vociferous and sustained objections.

There continues to be widespread criticism of the target driven EYFS from many early years professionals (see the OpenEye campaign) and despite these exemptions we are looking forward to the promised review of the EYFS in 2010. The school has the full support of its parents in its view that the learning goals and assessment regime of the EYFS are incompatible with its educational philosophy.

Wynstones School has been running successfully for over 70 years in Gloucestershire and is one of the UK’s most well established Steiner schools. The school provides a creative learning environment based on a strong core curriculum where lessons include a balance of artistic, practical and intellectual content appropriate to the child’s stage of development. “Wynstones School offers a good quality of education [where] pupils grow into confident, mature young people who are well prepared to go out into the adult world. They enjoy their education and have positive views about the school.” (OFSTED report 2007).

Wynstones School

Wynstones receives partial EYFS exemption

admin September 1st, 2009

Wynstones School has received a response from QCA to its EYFS Exemption application.

In short the exemption from literacy goals has been granted, some numeracy goals have not, and the application for exemption from assessment requirements has been rejected.

The table of modifications and the responses is available here.

Also previously unpublished was the letter from the solicitors of the parents planning to bring action against the Government for the (previous) failure to provide an exemptions mechanism, sent in response to the Government’s reply to the letter before action that they issued.

Government response to letter before action

admin November 14th, 2008

As most schools are aware our solicitors wrote to the Minister as a ‘letter before action’ before potentially launching a judicial review of the exemptions process. The case we put was with respect to the exemptions process that allows exemptions “when a majority of parents and the provider agree to seek an exemption because the established principles for learning and development of young children governing the setting conflict with elements of the EYFS learning and development requirements.”

Given that this exemption type was added at the last minute following petition from the SWSF and schools in order to cater for cases like us, where there is a conflict between established Steiner EY principles and elements of the EYFS, it was felt that it was unreasonable to:

  • Limit exemptions to 2 years
  • Require a consultation with parents
  • Require discussion with the local authority

Following the response from the government’s lawyers we received last week we will not now be pursuing a judicial review, at least for the time being. Whilst the exemptions process is onerous and bureaucratic the advice was that it would probably not be a strong enough case to force a judicial review. For example the reason for not giving a long-term exemption (and limiting it to two years) was “that allowing parents to retain control over the content of provision is of significant importance”.

Never the less what is most important is that in their formal response we now have clarity of the government’s position. Finally we have their acceptance that, at least, elements of the EYFS are in conflict with Steiner EY principles (eg reading and writing, etc) and that the exemptions process is appropriate for us. As a result it would now be difficult for the QCA to refuse exemptions for Steiner EY settings. Progress of exemptions will be monitored and should it be needed the judicial review can be re-started.

The other legal advice was that we should, as much as possible, present a consistent view of what is in conflict. If for example we all submitted completely different exemptions it would be difficult to argue that they were because of a conflict with the Steiner EY practices. It is quite normal that practices may vary across settings, but not for example in the area of reading and writing.

Given this and the recent meetings of the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship with Ofsted and the DCSF, where both recommended that exemptions would be the best route for Steiner EY settings, it seems that this is the best approach. Whilst this is clear for the parent funded settings it also now seems that it may well also be for the funded settings.

We have always been sensitive to the extra difficulty the EYFS brings to the state-funded settings and have sought to ensure we addressed this with our legal advice. It now seems that for the funded settings at least initiating the exemptions discussion with the local authority would be wise. The local authority will give an indication as to whether they will continue to fund before any application for exemption is made.

Wynstones Schools is now beginning the process of applying for an exemption.

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Important update - new legal action

admin October 6th, 2008

Previously it was believed that the Ministerial Assurance received in the summer was sufficient to protect Steiner Waldorf kindergartens from the new learning and development requirements set down in law in the EYFS framework which came into force on 1st September this year.

We now believe that the legal status of this Ministerial Assurance is of limited value in law, if any at all, and therefore may have no bearing on how Ofsted interpret the EYFS.

An EYFS exemptions process was revealed in July, but we were repeatedly told that this process was not intended for Steiner Waldorf schools.

Given that the EYFS is now in force and we are still uncertain as to how it will be applied to a Steiner Waldorf Kindergarten we have, with the help of a family from Alderbridge Steiner Waldorf school, begun to pursue a Judicial Review of the EYFS Exemptions regulations. There is an extremely short timescale for this to be effective - submission must be by 4th November 2008. A respected barrister who is SW educated is advising us, along with solicitors Leigh Day & Co. who will be handling the case. The details of the parents’ complaint is available here and makes interesting reading.

We remain concerned about the process for applying for exemptions from parts of the EYFS. We don’t believe that this will be a straight forward process, and it is vital that careful consideration is given to the merits of the exemptions process and to the quality of applications made. It is not yet clear where the exemptions would leave SW schools from a legal standpoint - it is not simply a case of applying to be exempt from all of EYFS Learning & development requirements - indeed this is impossible, as the educational programmes cannot be disapplied (only modified). It is also not at all clear whether or not schools may receive the exemption that they request.

We’ve arranged a conference with legal counsel to discuss (amongst other things) all the options for protecting Steiner Kindergartens. Janni Nicol and Sylvie Sklan have agreed to attend on behalf of The Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship. It is very likely that we will need to ask parents to contribute to the legal costs of investigating this matter and pursuing any legal action.

More news will be posted once we have had the conference on Thursday.

Wynstones responds to DCSF, and news coverage

admin March 3rd, 2008

On 28th February solicitors representing parents from Wynstones school wrote to DCSF in reply to their response to the initial letter from Wynstones school seeking full settings-wide exemptions for Steiner Waldorf schools.

The text of our letter is available here.

Also, the campaign work has been in the news again. Armando Ianucci had a great comment on the EYFS situation in The Observer (Sunday March 2 2008). There was also coverage in the Times Education Supplement (TES) only available in paper form.

Graham Kennish also spoke excellently for the Open Eye campaign on Radio 4 on The Learning Curve on 25th Feb.


DCSF Response - Delayed and Inadequate

admin February 11th, 2008

The DCSF’s response to the Wynstones School letter (see You Can Help section & previous news) finally arrived on Thursday 7th Feb, after almost two months - well outside the DCSF’s published fifteen day timescale for reply.

After such a long wait, we were hoping for something of substance. However, if you read the Wynstones letter and supporting documents, and compare it with the DCSF response, you will see that the government has completely failed to properly address any of the issues or questions raised. We have drawn up a document highlighting the problems with the proposed solution of exemptions for individual children.

The Wynstones parents campaign group is now looking into the option of challenging the government’s consultation process, and to this effect has instructed a lawyer, Kate Harrison, who successfully challenged a Government consultation on nuclear power on behalf of Greenpeace in 2007.

Latest news

admin February 1st, 2008

No response from DCSF

On 10th December 2007 Wynstones School sent a letter to the DCSF, requesting "a formal response… within the DCSF published timescale of 15 days."

As of 1st February 2008 (nearly two months later) there has been no response other than a two-line email thanking the school for its patience. Even if the DCSF published timescale refers to working days, the failure of the Department to respond adequately within more than twice its own published timescale is a cause for concern. The Wynstones kindergarten parents’ campaign team will be meeting shortly to discuss our next steps.

If you are a parent at a Steiner early years setting and have not yet contacted us, please do so at team@savesteinerschools.org and we’ll keep you up to date with the plan.

TES article

This Friday’s Times Educational Supplement includes a feature on the Wynstones campaign, and the possible effects of the EYFS on Steiner kindergartens on page 14 and an interesting article on unstructured play and brain development on page 36 of the accompanying TES Magazine.

Open EYE Petition

One of the Wynstones kindergarten parents was involved in drafting and posting a petition on the 10 Downing St website on behalf of the campaigning group Open EYE, asking for the learning and development requirements of the EYFS to be downgraded from statutory requirement to professional guidelines.

Already, out of over 8,000 petitions on the site, the Open EYE petition is the 45th most-signed. If you have not already done so, please sign it online here - it only takes a minute - and forward the link on to your friends. The more people who sign, the more difficult the issue will be to ignore!

Site was hacked…

admin January 22nd, 2008

Somebody with too much time on their hands hacked our website and deleted the new posts. We will be looking at our backups soon to see what if anything we will re-instate