In the UK, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspect schools to see to it that they achieve excellence in the care of children and young people and in education and skills for learners of all ages.
Like other schools, Steiner schools are inspected by Ofsted. Ofsted sub-contracts its inspection work to private educational companies. The main three companies doing this work on Ofsted’s behalf are: Tribal Group (South of England); SERCO (Midlands) and CfBT Education Trust (North of England).
Ofsted has also recognised that its three main contractors do not have the expertise to inspect independent schools like Steiner schools and other independent schools and therefore it has another contractor to do this work: School Inspection Service (SIS). According to SIS:
SIS was approved by the Secretary of State in 2006 and is staffed by a Co-ordinating Inspector, approved by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF, now replaced with the Department for Education, DfE) and a team of inspectors most of whom are ex HMIs (Her Majesty’s Inspectors) and all of whom are approved for their operations in SIS by DCSF. Included within the team are a number of HMIs who have specialised in particular educational disciplines such as special needs, post 16 education, primary class specialists, school management, and other specific areas.
Ofsted has been highly complimentary about the work of SIS and has commented that it found all the inspections monitored by HMI to be of good quality with no areas noted for development. HMI also found the regulatory checks to be rigorous.
Most schools inspected by Ofsted (i.e. the state funded or maintained sector) are following the government’s National Curriculum.
Steiner schools are following the Waldorf curriculum as well as the examination curricula in the Upper School.
Ofsted inspects under several headings, i.e.:
The Quality of the Education (including Quality of the Curriculum and the Quality of Teaching and Assessment)
Early Years Foundation Stage
The Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development of the Pupils
The Welfare, Health & Safety of the Pupils
The Suitability of Staff, Supply Staff and Proprietors
The Premises and Accommodation at Schools
The Provision of Information for Parents, Carers and Others
The School’s Procedures for Handling Complaints
Like other schools, Steiner schools are inspected on all of the above, but in addition there are some Steiner-specific items inspected by SIS.
The inspections are just as rigorous as any other Ofsted inspection but because they are carried out by inspectors who are familiar with Steiner schools, they are even more searching, because the inspection team knows where to look.
What will happen with the present Ofsted inspections of the Steiner Waldorf schools in the UK that become accepted as Free Schools in accordance with the Academies Act 2010 implemented by the new LibCon government in the UK?
According to the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship there is a recognition on the part of the government that the inspection regime will need to be adapted to take account of the diversity of curriculum which the new policy allows.
For some comments on this and other questions regarding the at present changing and developing situation for the Steiner Waldorf schools in the UK, see Frequently Asked Questions regarding Steiner Free Schools.
For a well sourced and penetrating description of Steiner Waldorf education, see Wikipedia.
Other good sources are The European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education (ECSWE), Why Waldorf Works (US), and Waldorf Answers.