How to Run a Waldorf School: Notes from a Conference in UK

Becoming clearer about how best to run a school?

An understandable first response to that quasi-question might be to ask back, “Shouldn’t that be clear enough already?” But the millions of pounds spent by the UK government on revising, reforming and
reconstituting governance and leadership for schools in general, should serve as an alert to the knotty
nature of the problem. And no-one seems to think they have discovered a perfect solution – yet!

The nature of running a Waldorf school poses particular challenges: the schools aim to be collegial and
associative; they work with a high level of idealism and a powerful philosophy in an environment where
everything that has to do with education is conflicted and drawn to the political. In spite of this, the
natural tendency is to assume that if Steiner Waldorf schools did things in a more conventional way,
everything would be simpler, more organised. Of course, it would be ridiculous to suggest that Steiner
Waldorf schools cannot learn from other educational establishments. Education is about learning and that
cannot be narrowly restricted to a pre-determined formula. Draw the curtains on the world and you
cannot see out! But learning also depends on orientation, which clutching at the straws of conventional
wisdom lacks.

Those who were able to join the recent “Vibrant Schools” workshop at King’s
Langley, were treated to wide vision of thought and experience relevant to
steering our schools; it’s a cybernetic problem (from the Greek for
“steersman”). Angus Jenkinson was able to help steer our thoughts safely
through an odyssey that took in a wealth of experience and a great deal that
was practically useful. This workshop was a follow-on from last year’s
conference with Florian Oswald (“How do we run a Steiner school.”) and
complemented the work started then. Schools represented included new and
old: Academies existing, pending or at the application stage; and independent
school members with long or, as yet, very brief histories. Angus’s skilled
guidance meant that everyone was able to gain something from the weekend.

As for the short answer to the provocation with which we started - take notice! When a school is at its
best, when things flow, identify that and from that model the organisation. Easy? No, only easy to
summarise! But it is, after all, what we try to do when we work with children. Present the best they can
be to them and help them to acquire the skills to steer properly. So, perhaps, how best to run a school
might gather most from how best to teach and learn...many thanks to all who participated, to Kings
Langley for hosting, and to Angus for his clarity and wisdom.
Kevin Avison

For more news and information about Waldorf education in teh UK, please visit Steiner Schools Fellowship