Steiner School parents in rescue bid

Parents at Bristol’s Steiner School hope to announce details of a rescue plan this month.

In December the school made a shock announcement that it was to close in July after 50 years in the city.  It was put into administration because of an “untenable” financial situation.

But the Parents, Teacher and Friends Association (PTFA) say they are confident if they raise the school’s profile, families across Bristol will rally round and support the school.

PTFA chair Lindsay Berresford said more than 50 parents, past pupils, teachers and supporters have come together to put together a rescue plan.

She said: “We are moving forward at pace, and by mid February will have a clearer plan.

“One of our founding principles is we are confident the City of Bristol can support the only alternative school in the city. 

“We think people do not know about the school, so there is work to be done to put the word out there. We know paying fees is a challenge, but we also know so many parents are looking for something different to what the mainstream can offer. We are sure there is a need and desire for this in Bristol.”

Em Williams, a parent at the school said: “My child joined the school two glorious years ago barely able to read. On the reading scheme used by the school they were assessed as being at Level 6. 

“With their teachers help they are now on Level 24 and have loved every part of this process including the way in which the class are read to while doing handwork (lately some embroidery developing fine motor and artistic skills).”

Daryl, the parent of an eight-year-old girl at the school, said: “My daughter was biting her nails to bleeding with all of the pressure of exams in her state school and catching up after Covid. 

“She was crying before school every day. Now she wants to be in school all the time, including weekends and holidays. Sometimes she reads a whole big chapter book in a day and does maths because she wants to.”

Another parent said: “The school is a haven for our child who is a PLAC (previously looked after child in the care of the state). He was in complete chaos, his spirit was being crushed. He developed so many avoidance strategies and zero self-esteem when it came to academic learning. 

“Bristol Steiner School is truly a trauma informed school, and he has found his happy place and has made incredible progress socially, emotionally and academically. A Steiner Waldorf education is a huge part of my child’s scaffolding and also for us as a family.”

Lindsay said parents hope to put their case to the administrators within weeks.  And she added that senior managers shared the parents’ ambition to keep the school open.

“We believe it is financially viable to run a school of this size, by reducing some costs and bringing in additional income.”

The 70 pupils at the school and kindergarten, which encompasses ages 3-12, do not wear uniform, have no examinations or tests and enjoy a curriculum including art, music, dance, movement, woodwork, knitting and sewing, craft, forest school, gardening and Spanish. 

The private Steiner school follows the philosophy of founder Rudolph Steiner, which believes in “child-centred, relational approach to learning” and a commitment to promoting the development of the whole child.

Lindsay said the school would continue to follow those principals, with high staff to pupil ratios, and a motto of “Education is a journey not a race”.

She said an eventual aim would be for the school to slowly increase pupil numbers to 180 children, which is the capacity of the buildings.

That might include extending the school’s range of pupils to include secondary children.

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