What are Steiner schools, and how much do they cost?

If you’ve been looking into independent schools for your child, you’ve probably come across Steiner schools. After all, there are almost 30 of them across the UK, and over 1,000 world wide.

But although many parents have heard of Steiner schools, they’re often a little unclear on what they actually are. If that’s you, don’t worry. In this article, we’re going to explore Steiner schools to help you decide whether they might be a good option for your child’s education.

What are Steiner schools?

Enthusiastic children learning in a classroom

Steiner schools are typically private schools. They follow a teaching method first devised by an Austrian scientist and philosopher called Dr Rudolph Steiner.

The Steiner model is based around learning in a creative and unhurried environment, helping children to grow in spirit, soul and body. Core to the philosophy is the idea that children are encouraged to discover the joy of learning.

Steiner schools were founded in Germany in 1919, and have spread across Europe and the Western world. You might also hear Steiner schools referred to as a Steiner Waldorf education, or Waldorf Education. It starts to sound confusing, but actually, the terms are interchangeable. The Waldorf part of the name comes from the first Steiner school to be established – at the Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory, for the children of the employees. But just to reassure you, there are no links between Steiner schools and the tobacco industry.

What’s special about a Steiner school’s aims?

Steiner schools aim to help children become good citizens who contribute positively to society. As they grow into adults, the children from a Steiner Waldorf education are expected to act as a strong force for good by the system.

The schools do this by encouraging children to become “their true selves”, supporting development not only in academic and intellectual life but also help children to develop emotional stability, judgement and social awareness.

How do Steiner schools teach?

A child dipping a paint brush into a glass paint jar

Teachers at Steiner schools combine children’s academic learning with physical pursuits and artistic activities. It means a balanced curriculum that allows children to follow their interests and learn at their own pace.

At Steiner schools, children are in classes of mixed-ability students. Together, they are taught the curriculum in themes, and each topic has a mix of intellectual, hands-on and creative content.

Teachers at Steiner schools foster an environment where children can play freely to develop their learning, particularly in younger age groups. This supports children’s development as they work out identities and relationships and combine make-believe with reality to support their learning.

Formal learning in Waldorf education doesn’t begin until children are in year 2 (aged 6-7), but teachers still make learning without pressure an important priority. In Steiner schools, this means that children are assessed by their teachers, rather than taking part in the formal testing that you’d find in most state schools. With smaller class sizes, teachers are able to get to know their students well. It means the teaching staff can meet the children’s academic and emotional needs, bringing out the best in every child.

Each Steiner school develops and responds to its own students and community, so although the schools all hold the same values, they might express them in different ways. It’s worth contacting your local Steiner Waldorf school to find out how they have adapted to give the very best education to their students.

How much do Steiner schools cost?

If you’re lucky enough to live in the right part of the country, it’s possible to find Steiner education that’s publicly funded. The Steiner Academy Hereford in Much Dewchurch, Herefordshire, was the first state-funded Steiner school to open in the UK, and is still thriving.

However, if you’re not local to the Hereford area, there are plenty of private Steiner schools across the country. As with other private schools, parents pay fees for their children to attend Steiner schools.

Just like other schools in the private sector, Steiner schools have the freedom to set their own fees. That means there’s variation in the cost of a Waldorf education depending on where you look.

Like a lot of public schools, Steiner school fees often rise as your child progresses through the school. For instance, the Edinburgh Rudolph Steiner School Trust in Scotland has annual fees starting at £1,683 for Kindergarten children, increasing each year to £5,655 by year five and £7,164 once children hit year nine. Parents concerned about the cost should take a whole-education view of the cost of school fees to prevent financial difficulty later on.

Lancaster Steiner School’s fees are slightly higher, with lower school costing £6,670 in year five. The fees might seem steep, but Lancaster school also sets out clear guidelines for their assisted places. If your family might be eligible for help with school fees, it’s a useful resource that shows how much a successful bursary applicant to the school could expect to pay by household income band.

Unsurprisingly, Steiner schools in London and the South East have higher fees than those in the North of the UK. Greenwich Steiner School charges more than £8,000 for Kindergarten places, and over £10,000 per year for the rest of the school.

Financing a Steiner Waldorf education for your child

A couple sitting on a sofa reviewing their finances

As we’ve seen, a Steiner Waldorf education doesn’t come cheap. School fees like these can often feel like a daunting financial commitment for families, and many parents worry about whether they’ll be able to keep up with the costs.

If you’re considering a Steiner School for your child, being financially prepared means giving yourself peace of mind. Having the reassurance that you’ll be able to fund your child’s schooling throughout – without having to disrupt their learning and friendships by moving them to a different school – is crucial before you apply to an independent school

But making proper financial plans also means taking care of your own future, too. Hefty as school fees might be, you don’t have to sacrifice your own dreams to pay for them. When you plan for school fees properly, you don’t have to give up on goals like early retirement or a second home – they can still become a reality.

To find out how school fees planning can help you pay for your child’s Steiner school, get in touch with us. We’ll talk you through the options.