Domestic report on the Steiner school movement in Austria

By Rosmarie Bluder, Niko Ginter, April 2015

During the last years there have been a number of changes and new developments and initiatives in Austria. While one school has closed down due to few pupils, new schools and initiatives started.

The existing schools are expanding as well and there is a growing demand for Waldorf schools in Austria at the present time. There are 16 schools (including three curative schools) taking care of 2641 students. The biggest school has 310 students, the smallest 16 (classes 1 – 4 in combined classes). Four schools offer “Matura” (the final state exam) in class 13; the others have cooperation with public schools after class 12.

The Waldorf kindergartens are also growing in Austria. There are about 35 Waldorf kindergartens and some new initiatives.

The “Waldorfbund Österreich”

The “Waldorfbund Österreich” is the national association of the Austrian Waldorf schools, Waldorf curative schools and Waldorf kindergartens. It is organised in “Arbeitskreise” (workgroups in pedagogy, economy, quality, parents, kindergarten, “Hort” [after school care], PR and international work), those meet four times a year. Every school sends delegates to each AK and each AK can take decisions either alone or together with all AK’s in the plenum. The board of the Bund normally consists of the chairs of each workgroup; the workgroups nominate their chair by themselves. Members of the board also negotiate with the government (mostly in cooperation with EFFE-Austria) about funding or recognition.

Teacher Training

Austria has three different teacher training centres: The “Zentrum für Kultur und Pädagogik” in Vienna offers an academic degree (Master of Arts in Waldorf pedagogy) in connection with the University of Krems and the German “Alanus Hochschule”. “Waldorf Wien” and “Waldorf Salzburg” are the other non academic teacher training centres. All three offer full teacher training programs as well as modular trainings.

Financial situation and state funding

The state funding of the Free Schools in Austria is a difficult matter. In 2010 after years of lobby work, the Free Schools managed to get 1000€ per student per year. Meanwhile the funding has dropped to 814€ per student annually. This has to do with a rise of pupils in the Free Schools, the development of more new Free Schools in Austria and, since 2014, also a decrease of state funding. At the same time the government invests a lot in whole day schooling and each school (since 2014 also the private schools) can by law apply for funding. The financial situation of most schools is a matter of consistent concern. Parents pay an average of about 250 to 300 Euro per student per month. Still the average income of a Waldorf teacher is far below the average of a state colleague.

The state and the Waldorf schools

The Waldorf schools in Austria are recognised with public authorization as private schools with their own statutes and are allowed to teach nothing else than their own curriculum. The newest competence based curriculum of the Waldorf schools was authorized by the minister of education in 2010. The Waldorf schools have no inspections by the school authorities and there are no state exams up to class 12. Only in class 13 the students sit the final state exam (Matura), if they want to.

In August 2014 the Waldorf schools received a letter from the ministry of education with the following content: “Teachers in Free schools can either teach with a state teacher diploma, any other teacher diploma or any other suitable qualification. All three qualifications have equal statues.” Furthermore the government of education informed all Free schools: “There is a change from now on compared to the past. All these schools are allowed to employ teachers and head teachers without a teacher diploma, as long as they can prove any other suitable qualification.” This is a major step forward and a success after years and years of lobby work.

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