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Rudolph Steiner Schools

Volume 80: debated on Wednesday 12 June 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science under what statutory authority hesets the staff-pupil ratios currently required of Rudolph Steiner special schools.

My right hon. Friend has no statutory powers in relation to pupil-teacher ratios in independent schools. However, independent schools seeking his approval under the Education Act 1981 as suitable for admission of children with statements of special educational needs, including those schools operated on Rudolph Steiner principles, have —as a condition of their approval — to meet standards in respect of premises, qualified staff, education and care, which are similar to those required in maintained and non-maintained special schools. The statutory provisions applying to the approval of maintained and non-maintained special schools are set out in the Education (approval of Special Schools) Regulations 1983. Additionally, guidance on the staffing of special schools is contained in the Department's circular No. 4/73.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is his policy towards the status of the Steiner training scheme in the context of the proposal on initial teacher training contained in the White Paper "Teaching Quality"; if he has any plans to make special provision for the Steiner training scheme; and if he will make a statement.

The White Paper "Teaching Quality" announced the Government's intention to strengthen initial teacher training and to initiate a review of all initial training courses against criteria relating to the academic and professional content of courses, the practical element of training and the selection of students. Criteria were issued in April 1984 and all existing approved courses of initial training, together with proposals for new ones, are being reviewed against them by the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education. Steiner training is not currently approved as leading to qualified teacher status and my right hon. Friend has no plans to modify the requirements which courses have to meet for such approval. As announced in the White Paper "Better Schools", it is the Government's intention that existing approved specialist initial training courses in special educational needs should be phased out and replaced by in-service courses for serving, qualified teachers. At my right hon. Friend's request, a meeting is being arranged with representatives of the Steiner schools.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what assessment he has made of the implications for pedagogic continuity and for the eight-year teaching commitment to a class of the requirement that Steiner-trained teachers should undertake four-year state training courses in order to acquire recognition; and if he will make a statement.

My right-hon. Friend acknowledges the dedication and commitment of Steiner-trained teachers and schools to the care of their pupils. He appreciates the organisational difficulties facing Steiner (and other) schools in releasing teachers to undertake further training to enable them to acquire qualified teacher status; nevertheless, he hopes they will do so. My right hon. Friend does not require all such teachers to hold qualified status, although it is a condition of approval for independent schools which wish to admit children with statements of special educational needs that they have an adequate number of qualified teachers.