Domestic report on the Steiner school movement in Denmark

By Jeppe Flummer, April 2015

In Denmark there are 15 established Steiner schools and 1 new one (2014) with a total of 2860 children from preschool to class 12. Only 6 of the schools have grades 10, 11 and 12. All schools offer afternoon care up to grade 3, some up to grade 5. Altogether there are about 70 Kindergartens, 16 within the schools.

The Free School law secures state funding to 71% of the average running costs in state primary schools, not covering classes 11 and 12, which are neither officially recognized nor funded. Danish Steiner schools have no tests or examinations and provide only Steiner/Waldorf testimonies/written reports.

The Danish association, Sammenslutningen af Rudolf Steinerskoler i Danmark, was founded in the late 1970s as a teachers circle. Later, in 1990, the Sammenslutning was transformed into the present organisation and now a new change is due to evolve. All Danish Steiner schools are members of the national association and of the bigger Free School Federation ”Dansk Friskoleforening”, which is the official spokesperson for 450 out of total 600 Free Schools.

Denmark has a rich tradition of Free Schools over more than 150 years. There are about 600 Free Schools in Denmark. Free Schools are a part of an educational tradition that also includes free boarding High schools for adults and is central to the understanding of education and society. Free Schools are the right of the parents. All Free Schools must meet the state curriculum, levels and goals, but are left quite free how to reach them. Most of them offer the state curriculum/certificate and are only primary schools (except the 6 Steiner schools). Parents pay fees around 150 – 200€ monthly + afternoon care. The Board is chosen among parents; it cooperates with the school leader/ship and together they take responsibility for the school. This is always done together with the teachers and mandate groups. The teacher’s salary is regulated by law and the daily school life/work is strongly influenced by external regulations. About 15% of all school children attend a Free School (slowly growing).

The first Steiner school in Denmark was founded 1950 as an alternative school, during a period of post war western optimism and growing welfare: the”lucky child”- school policy. Steiner was seen as “strange”, carried by antroposophical enthusiasm and groups, working since the thirties. The next foundation movement of new schools (about 15! nearly all) followed in the seventies for a better (socialistic) society as a Scandinavian welfare model. Steiner schools were seen as protest and alternative against state influence and as a new education for the free child. In the last 20 years the Steiner school movement did not grow much in numbers of schools or pupils. Steiner parents of the modern society may still ask alternatives like freedom and less authoritative in the classroom, but also look for a safe, qualified and secured learning environment, offering artistic and social competences, as well as a high level of knowledge. The schools fight hard to deliver and explain that, some just survive, others, the more established, experience a springtime.

Teacher training takes place in Sofiaseminariet in Copenhagen and RS Højskolen for Opdragelseskunst in Skanderborg only as part time courses over 3 – 4 years. The seminars are connected to schools and in service practice is organized. The annual Teachers Conference (one week) is attended by 130 – 150 teachers and moves from school to school.

There is no parents movement or organisation at the moment. There has been! In many schools parents are involved in the steering groups/boards, they are a part of the association.

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