Steiner school cleared of racist teachings

JO MOIR
Last updated 05:00 25/07/2014

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A small school on the Kapiti Coast has been cleared of teaching racist theories after an investigation by the Ministry of Education.

About 14 children and four teachers have left Te Ra Waldorf, a Rudolf Steiner school in Raumati, since the allegations first surfaced early last year.

The allegations centre on a philosophy called anthroposophy, founded by Austrian philosopher Steiner and considered by many to have racist undertones. In his writings, about the time of World War I, Steiner made references to some ethnic groups being primitive and savages.

An independent investigation has ruled out any racist elements within the curriculum or in the teaching of it, ministry head of sector enablement Katrina Casey said.

It did, however, highlight a need for the school to work with the Steiner Foundation, the governing body of Steiner schools, on an appropriate response to racist writings and beliefs stemming from anthroposophy.

Changes were also needed in the areas of governance, management and teaching to ensure parents' complaints were dealt with appropriately in the future, Casey said. "The report also stated that the school must continue regular communication with the school community regarding the ongoing work being undertaken to address the issues raised and noted that the board has proactively sought support to do this."

The school's board of trustees chairwoman, Sylvia Madden, said the investigation had allowed the school to "refresh who we are, and to work on developing better ways to engage with our community and properly explain the ethos of our school".

Eighteen per cent of the school's students were Maori, and work was being done to ensure the school curriculum reflected the bicultural nature of New Zealand.

"We are very open to suggestions for how we can adapt our curriculum to more explicitly integrate te Ao Maori, and reflect our place in 21st century Aotearoa New Zealand, a Pacific nation.

"Like any school, we want the best for the children we teach and we want parents to trust us with educating their children appropriately.

"Racism has no place in our school, and the recent investigation found no evidence of any racist practices or teachings."

A new board of trustees took over in June last year and there had been no new complaints or concerns reported to the ministry since then, Casey said.

"We will support the school to ensure all issues that were identified in the report are addressed and the school community can be confident in the teaching and learning at Te Ra."

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- The Dominion Post

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