Schools That Shun Tests May Come into the Fold

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CONTROVERSIAL teaching methods which place less importance on tests and the National Curriculum could be introduced into state schools, it emerged yesterday.

Ministers are looking to forge closer links between mainstream primaries and secondaries and the Steiner schools movement.

The schools' teaching methods are based on the philosophies of Austrian educationalist Rudolph Steiner, who did not believe in forcing children to conform to a rigid educational programme.

They consider youngsters' spiritual and emotional development just as important as their ability to master the three Rs and believe it is counterproductive to push formal learning too soon.

Therefore they do not teach reading until the age of seven and do not make students sit national tests.

All 23 Steiner schools in England are fee-paying. Yesterday, the Government published a report into the possibility of bringing them into the state sector.

The report, by Professor Philip Woods of the University of the West of England, said there were many areas in which the state sector could learn from Steiner principles.

He highlighted Steiner schools' broad curriculum, in which children learn about science and humanities throughout their education, and pointed out that they often teach foreign languages from an early age.

'The Government has in recent years begun to accept that you can't just have a curriculum and teaching which just works to tests and measurable targets,' he said.

'Steiner schools are one example where you don't have tests. But they still do develop the capability of pupils so that they are able to take GCSEs and go into further and higher education. …