School Closure Amid Bullying Complaints

Aberdeen Waldorf School

The Aberdeen Waldorf School, which has been established since 1978, is due to close this summer, after a series of complaints have been made to the Care Inspectorate.

This was reported by many news sites including STV (March & April), the BBC (March & April, twice), The Courier (April) and the Scotsman (April), but none have gone into any detail about what the actual complaints were, aside for Alison Campsie's 12th of March article for the Press and Journal. In it, she writes that some of the emails which were part of the dossier include details of "repeated complaints from parents over bullying of their son, which resulted in the boy being withdrawn from school after he twice came home with physical marks.

"Physical and verbal bullying of one girl by a male pupil over a number of years.

"Concerns by a member of staff over the physical treatment of pupils by a classmate.

"The exit of another pupil because of parental concerns over behavioural problems.

"One parent who contacted regulators said she had been "disgusted" by bullying at the school, which operates a "no-blame" policy when behavioural issues arise among pupils. A further letter documents the "distress" of a former staff member over a colleague's approach to children."

These kinds of distressing statements pop up again and again in Steiner schools worldwide, as reported on this site, in countries like Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand.

The Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship, whose aim is to safeguard the ethos and identity of Steiner Waldorf education in the UK, hinted that the closure was primarily due to financial problems: "the SWSF has been aware of efforts by Aberdeen Waldorf School to enable wide and inclusive access to the Steiner Waldorf education. This has impacted on the school's budget over the years and a recent critical inspection may have, in part, been a consequence of this."

No mention was made of the numerous bullying complaints. Perhaps, as Alison reported, it's because the school’s head, Seán Gordon, claimed he "was unaware of any pupils leaving the school because of the problem."

In the completed report from Education Scotland, inspector David Gregory stated that "too often the learning environment in the playrooms is chaotic and children do not behave well. [...] [Children] feel teachers listen to them but that their concerns are not acted on consistently. Children and young people would like misbehaviour to be dealt with in a more fair and consistent manner.

"[...] The school and kindergarten have systems in place to keep children safe and cared for and to respond to complaints. These systems need to be more rigorously, openly and consistently applied to reassure all parents that rapid and effective action is taken regarding the safety and welfare of their children.

"[...] The mentoring system is not used consistently enough and it's impact on improving learning and teaching is not monitored. [...] The Council of Management has tried to implement new structures to increase accountability for improving the quality of education in the kindergarten and school. Within the College of Teachers, there is resistance to such changes.

"[...] The kindergarten, school and Council of Management should take action to ensure improvement in: [...] implementing consistently behaviour management and care and welfare policies."

It's clear that there was much more going on there than mere budgetary constraints. It's a shame a school has to close because those in charge are resistant to making the needed changes. How can such resistance be compatible with the school's stated goal that they "recognise every child is different and devote ourselves to inspiring each and every pupil to achieve and be all they can. Not only in an academic sense, but to equip them with the life skills they need"?

1861-2011 : 150 years of Rudolf Steiner

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