Sunday 22 October 2017

Department recognises two Steiner schools

John Walse

TWO Steiner schools are to get recognition from the Department of Education and Science from next September, almost a decade after a High Court battle over recognition of the Steiner method of teaching, writes John Walshe.

The Irish Independent has learned that Mol an Oige school, in Ennistymon, Co Clare and Raheen Wood Steiner School, in east Clare, will both get recognition which will entitle them to grants and teachers' salaries.

The schools have had to rely entirely on fees and fundraising to keep going. Mol an Oige has been in operation for two years and has about 30 pupils. Raheen Wood started off as Cooleenbridge 22 years ago and has over 100 pupils.

The Co Clare Vocational Education Committee had agreed to act as a patron for the schools but this was rejected by Education Minister Mary Hanafin.

She has now agreed to recognise a new patron body for Steiner schools called Lifeways.

In Steiner schools there is a lot of emphasis on structured play in the early years as well as on arts and crafts and oral language development.

Some Steiner teachers stay with their pupils from the time they are toddlers until they are teenagers.

In 1999, the High Court decided that the State was entitled to refuse to fund a Co Clare Steiner school because of its failure to employ teachers with State-recognised qualifications.

But at the time Ms Justice Laffoy was critical of the Department's handling of the application for State aid by the school, saying it should have adopted a more searching and proactive approach.

Ms Justice Laffoy said she regretted the court was unable to provide any solution for the school.

She also said that the strong commitment of the parents to their children's education was evident and commendable.

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