What is Waldorf education?

Waldorf education is a unique and distinctive approach to educating children that is practiced in Waldorf schools worldwide. Waldorf schools collectively form the largest, and quite possibly the fastest growing, group of independent private schools in the world.

There is no centralized administrative structure governing all Waldorf schools; each is administratively independent, but there are established associations, which provide resources, publish materials, sponsor conferences, and promote the movement.

What is unique about Waldorf education? How is it different from other alternatives (Public schooling, Montessori, etc)?

The best overall statement on what is unique about Waldorf education is to be found in the stated goals of the schooling: “to produce individuals who are able, in and of themselves, to impart meaning to their lives”. The aim of Waldorf schooling is to educate the whole child, “head, heart and hands”.

The curriculum is as broad as time will allow, and balances academics subjects with artistic and practical activities. Waldorf teachers are dedicated to creating a genuine love of learning within each child. By freely using arts and activities in the service of teaching academics, an internal motivation to learn is developed in the students, doing away with the need for competitive testing and grading.

Some distinctive features of Waldorf education include the following:

• Academics are de-emphasized in the early years of schooling. There is no academic content in the Waldorf kindergarten experience (although there is a good deal of cultivation of pre-academic skills), and minimal academics in Class One. The letters are introduced artistically in Class 2, with the children learning to read from their own writing in Class 2 or 3.

• During the primary school years (grades 1-7) the students have a class teacher who stays with the same class for (ideally) the first seven years of their schooling.

• Certain activities which are often considered “frills” at mainstream schools are central at Waldorf schools: art, music, gardening and foreign languages, to name a few. In the younger grades, all subjects are introduced through artistic mediums, because the children respond better to this medium than to dry lecturing and rote learning. All children learn to play recorder and to knit.

• There are no “textbooks” as such in the first through fifth grades. All children have “Main Lesson books”, which are their own workbooks which they fill in during the course of the year. They essentially produce their own “textbooks” which they record their experiences and what they have learned. Upper grades use textbooks to supplement their main lesson work.

• Learning in a Waldorf school is a non-competitive activity. There are no grades given at the primary level; the teacher writes a detailed evaluation of the child at the end of each school year.

• The use of electronic media such as television, internet access/computer games and mobile phones by young children is strongly discouraged in Waldorf schools.

What is the curriculum at a Waldorf school like?

The Waldorf curriculum is designed to be responsive to the various phases of a child’s development. The era of human history being studied corresponds in many ways with the stage of development of the child.

For example, in Kindergarten children are presented with fairy stories matching their dreamy state of consciousness, Class 4 study the Vikings and Norse mythology which suits their war-like feelings, Class 5 learn of the Greeks at the time their intellect is awakening and their sense of fair play is becoming obvious, and so on.

The relationship between student and teacher is, likewise, recognized to be both crucial and changing throughout the course of childhood and early adolescence. The main subjects, such as history, language, arts, science and mathematics are, as mentioned, taught in Main Lesson blocks of two to three hours per day, with each block lasting from three to five weeks. (See “What is a Main Lesson” below).

The total Waldorf curriculum has been likened to an ascending spiral: subjects are revisited several times, but each new exposure affords greater depth and new insights into the subject at hand.

What is a Main Lesson?

Each day in a Steiner School opens with a Main Lesson which lasts approximately 2 hours – from Class 1 to Class 12. The Main Lesson is a central feature of the Steiner approach. It focuses on the main cultural subjects – Sciences and Humanities – in a rich, integrated curriculum closely allied to the development of the child. Each Main Lesson theme lasts from three to five weeks and is connected to the others either in a horizontal sequence (throughout the year) or in a vertical sequence (across the span of the years).

The Class Teacher endeavours to make each lesson an artistic whole, which supports the child’s learning and understanding to an age appropriate level. The Main Lessons incorporate a range of activities and content which address the children’s intellectual-cognitive, aesthetic-affective and practical modes of learning.

How is reading taught in a Waldorf school? Why do Waldorf students wait until 2nd grade to begin learning to read?

Waldorf education is deeply connected with oral tradition, typically beginning with the teacher telling the children fairy tales throughout Kindergarten and first grade. The oral approach is used throughout Waldorf education: mastery of oral communication is seen as
being integral to all learning.

Reading instruction, as such, is deferred. Instead, writing is taught first. During the first grade year the children explore how our alphabet came about, discovering, as the ancients did, how each letter’s form evolved out of pictograph. Writing thus evolves out of the
children’s art, and their ability to read likewise evolves as a natural and, indeed, comparatively effortless stage of their mastery of language.

Do Class 12 students sit exams and graduate with an ATAR?

At Perth Waldorf School, Class 12 is about more than just preparing students for the transition to University, it represents the culmination of twelve years of Waldorf education and gives students the opportunity to complete a variety of Main Lessons across the curriculum as well as English, Mathematics and four elective units.

Running parallel to this coursework is the Class 12 Project – a yearlong endeavour that challenges students to examine a topic in-depth, resulting in four components: practical, 3000 word essay, journal and 30 minute public presentation.

For many years, the School has worked with TISC (Tertiary Institution Service Centre) to ensure that upon graduation students can enter University through early access to the STAT (Special Tertiary Admissions Test) – a nationally recognized mature aged tertiary entrance test.

STAT results are converted into an ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank) which can be used to apply to Universities across Australia.

Using this unique early access to the STAT, students have the ability to gain direct entry to almost all of the courses offered to students using an ATAR entrance. (Some courses may require bridging units before admission.)

In recent years, Universities began encouraging students to apply directly to the Universities rather than going through this TISC process – students can use samples of their school work, reports and Class 12 Projects to apply directly to the University.

However, courses that are highly competitive such as Nursing and Veterinary Science must still go through TISC.

University has become the predominant pathway chosen by PWS graduates.

Why is so much emphasis put on festivals?

Seasonal festivals serve to connect humanity with the rhythms of nature and of the cosmos. The festivals originated in ancient cultures, yet have been adapted over time. To join the seasonal moods of the year, in a festive way, benefits the inner life of the soul. Celebrating is an art. There is joy in the anticipation, the preparation, the celebration itself, and the memories.

How did Waldorf education get started?

In 1919, Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian philosopher, scientist and artist, was invited to give a series of lectures to the workers of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany. As a result, the factory’s owner, Emil Molt, asked Steiner to establish and lead a school for the children of the factory’s employees.

Steiner agreed to do so with four conditions:
• The school should be open to all children;
• It should be coeducational;
• It should be a unified twelve-year school; and
• That the teachers, those who would be working directly with the children, should take the leading role in the running of the school, with a minimum of interference from governmental or economic concerns.

Molt agreed to the conditions and, after a training period for the prospective teachers, die Freie Waldorfschule (the Free Waldorf School) was opened September 7, 1919.

Who was Rudolf Steiner?

Dr. Rudolf Steiner was a highly respected and well-published scientific, literary and philosophical scholar who was particularly known for his work on Goethe’s scientific writings. He later came to incorporate his scientific investigations with his interest in spiritual development.

He became a forerunner in the field of spiritual-scientific investigation for the modern 20th century individual. His background in history and civilizations coupled with his observation in life gave the world the gift of Waldorf Education. It is a deeply insightful application of learning based on the Study of Humanity with developing consciousness of self and the surrounding world.

What is the philosophy behind Waldorf education?

Consistent with his philosophy called Anthroposophy, Steiner designed a curriculum responsive to the developmental phases in childhood and nurturing of children’s imaginations. He believed that schools should cater to the needs of children rather than the demands of the government or economic forces, so he developed schools that encourage creativity and free-thinking.

Why should I send my child to a Waldorf school?

The main reason to send your child to a Waldorf school is to honour and protect the wonder of childhood. Every effort is expended to make Waldorf schools safe, secure and nurturing environments for the children.

Secondly, Waldorf education has a consistent philosophy of child development underlying the curriculum. All subjects are introduced in age-appropriate fashion.

Finally, Waldorf schools produce graduates who are academically advantaged with respect to their public school counterparts, and who consistently gain admission to top universities.

How do students adjust to life after school?

Steiner education has existed in Australia for over 45 years. Therefore there are many Steiner graduates around Australia in their twenties, thirties and even forties.

These graduates have shown themselves to be well able to meet difficult and shifting circumstances in the world and to retain their presence of mind. They are able to keep their equilibrium under stress, to achieve well in their chosen careers and to take initiative in their work, social and personal lives.

It is always exciting to hear of students’ achievements in many different fields, here in Australia and overseas. Studies have shown that the career paths are evenly divided between the sciences and the humanities – a tribute to the balance in the education. Former students are open-minded, much interested in the world around them, ready to be involved and take responsibility.

Why do Waldorf Schools discourage TV watching, internet access and computer games?

The reasons for this have as much to do with the physical effects of the medium on the developing child as with the (to say the least) questionable content of much of the programming.

Electronic media are believed by Waldorf teachers to seriously hamper the development of the child’s imagination – a faculty which is believed to be central to the healthy development of the individual. Computer use by young children is also discouraged.

Waldorf teachers are not alone in this belief. Several books have been written in recent years expressing concern with the effect of media on young children. See, for instance, Endangered Minds by Jane Healy, Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander, or The Plug-In Drug by Maire Winn and Real Wired Child by Michael Carr-Gregg.

Our decision about the use of electronic media is an important educational and health one. Notwithstanding that television is part of our modern information and entertainment culture and can be used as an educational tool, we must be aware of the harmful effects on a developing child.

Some of these effects are to do with content which can be minimized through careful adult monitoring. The more acute and less tangible effects are to do with the medium itself. The following information is given to help deepen your understanding of and commitment to the school’s media policy.

The two major harmful effects are as follows:

• The rapid flashing of two dimensional electronic images impairs the senses, particularly sight and movement. The child’s senses develop best when the child experiences the natural environment.

• Television damages or restricts the thinking, feeling and willing of the child because the child’s sense impressions directly imprint on the soul.

By giving the child fixed images, they do not have to exercise their own imagination to create mental pictures. Research indicates that reading, comprehension, verbal skills and imaginative thinking improve when the television is put away.

While television does not inhibit feeling responses, it does encourage the child to grow up and become a teenager prematurely. Children who learn about the world through the television screen can become hardened to (the world) – a sort of boredom and indifference with the ‘mundane old world’ can set in.

Television watching is a passive activity and encourages passive, lethargic behavior in children. Children who watch television have more trouble engaging their will to do and complete tasks. In short, the ideal pastimes for children are play and work, where they learn, create, imagine and move. The activity of sitting and watching television has little to do with the natural instincts of childhood.

Waldorf Educators are philosophically opposed to young children being exposed to television, video, cinema, I-pods and computer games. Whilst not intending to discredit all aspects of this type of media, it must be stated clearly that exposing children to such media is incompatible and counterproductive to the aims and methods of our education.

It is developmentally inappropriate for the following reasons:

Until the age of nine, children live very much in the world of imitation and imagination and cannot clearly distinguish between fantasy and reality. They learn about the world best through play and direct experience.

Everything in a child’s environment has an effect (positive and/or negative) on the development of the physical organs and therefore affects their health in later life.

The year’s nine to eleven are the ‘Heart of Childhood’. At this age children begin to differentiate themselves from the environment and think more objectively. However, their thinking is characteristically a combination of a practical and imaginary nature and they are unable to interpret sophisticated techniques used by various forms of media.

It is only with the natural awakening of abstract thinking at approximately 14 years that children are able to analyze and critically view the media with guidance.

Premature awakening of the abstract thinking draws life forces away from their work on the bodily nature of the child and creates disharmony in the soul life.

It must be noted that regardless of one’s age there are physical, psychological and social stresses brought about by indiscriminate use of the media.

In light of the above statements, we recommend the following guidelines:

• Children under 9 years should not spend time on screens including television, videos and cinema, play computer/video games or use iPad or smart phone.

• Children between 9 and 11 years may watch suitable programmes during holidays but should refrain from other screen time.

• Children 11 years onwards may watch suitable programs during holidays, Friday evenings, and Saturdays. No other screen time.

Students are not permitted to bring personal electronic media devices to school for entertainment purposes. This applies to all devices of whatever form.

Students in upper primary may only bring mobile phones to school with approval. Please speak to the class teacher about getting approval. If approved, mobile phones must be switched off and kept out of sight during school hours and while on the school premises, except with the permission of a teacher.

Media devices and mobile phones will be confiscated if the above is abused and can be returned to the parent/guardian on request. Repeated offences will result in disciplinary action.

What kind of training do Waldorf teachers have?

While requirements within individual schools may vary, generally Class Teachers will have both their state teaching certification, as well as training from a recognised Waldorf teacher training college or institute. Some Waldorf training programs can also grant B.A. degrees in
conjunction with Waldorf teaching certification.

Typically, the course of study for teachers is one year full time, or two to three years part time. This includes practice teaching in a
Waldorf school under the supervision of experienced Waldorf teachers. Rudolf Steiner, speaking in Oxford in 1922, defined “three golden rules” for teachers: “to receive the child in gratitude from the world it comes from; to educate the child with love; and to lead the child into the true freedom which belongs to man.”

Why do Waldorf students stay with the same teacher for 7 years?

Between the ages of seven and fourteen, children learn best through acceptance and emulation of authority, just as in their earlier years they learned through imitation. In primary school, particularly in the lower grades, the child is just beginning to expand his or her experience beyond home and family. The class becomes a type of “family” as well, with its own authority figure – the teacher – in a role analogous to parent. With this approach, the students and teachers come to know each other very well, and the teacher is able to find over the years the best ways of helping individual children in their schooling.

What if a child does not get on with the Class Teacher?

Normally a Class Teacher will be with his/her class for up to 7 years. During that time relationships between teacher and students will go through different stages. When there in tension in the relationship, it is seen as an opportunity for change and the Class Teacher will do everything possible to heal the situation. Class Teachers, because of the length of time they stay with their students, have a long term perspective – it is more like a family dynamic, where difficulties can arise between family members, but which need to be dealt within a loving and understanding way. Additionally, during the Class Teacher journey, a real partnership develops between teacher and the families of the children – again providing a strong base for resolving difficulties. Sometimes however despite all efforts, the situation cannot be healed and this must also be accepted.

Does the Class Teacher teach all subjects to the class?

The Class Teacher is the stable, enduring element in the child’s education in primary years and always teaches the Main Lesson. However, it is seen as very healthy for the class to experience a wide range of teachers and personalities on a regular basis. Depending on the resources of the school, there will be specialist Foreign Language, Music, Craft and Learning Support Teachers who work closely with the Class Teacher.

What is your attitude towards Physical Education and sport?

All Steiner schools provide a range of physical education activities. In the early years, the focus is on movement, balance and acquiring simple ball skills. As the children develop, a larger variety of sporting activities are offered, both team sports and individual sports. In Steiner schools, however, sport is played for exercise, health, agility and enjoyment – the competitive element is not particularly stressed. There is a strong element of outdoor education in the mid-primary years with Class camps leading to very challenging programmes for the older students.

How do the children cope in a competitive world, given that you do not encourage competition?

The question is not so much whether or not you are better than another but rather whether you are the best you can be. Thus Steiner schools prefer to encourage emulation rather than competition. It may well be said that the only worthwhile competition is with yourself, to outgrow what you are and to strive to become what you might become.

A teacher will encourage each student to be the best that he/she can be, and find many opportunities to acknowledge the whole class, and achievements of individual students as they show particular strengths or as they overcome weakness. The whole class will rejoice in each instance. How people cope in a competitive world depends on their self-esteem. If they leave school with an inner confidence in their ability to grow to meet the demands of a situation, they will be able to live their lives positively and constructively.

How do Waldorf children fare when they transfer to “regular” schools? Is it true that once you start Waldorf schooling it is difficult to “make it” in public schools?

Generally, transitions to public schools, when they are anticipated, are not problematical. The most common transition is from a primary Waldorf school to a more traditional high school and from all reports this transition usually takes place without significant difficulties.

Are Waldorf schools religious?

Waldorf schools do not subscribe to the beliefs of a particular religious denomination or sect. Waldorf schools, however, tend to be spiritually oriented and are based out of a generally Christian perspective. The historic festivals of Christianity, and also of other major religions, are observed in the class rooms and in school assemblies. Students of all cultural backgrounds attend Waldorf schools. Spiritual guidance is aimed at awakening the child’s natural reverence for the wonder and beauty of life.

What is Eurythmy?

Most simply put, Eurythmy is a dance-like art form in which music or speech is expressed in bodily movement; specific movements correspond to particular notes or sounds.

It has also been called “visible speech” or “visible song”. Eurythmy is part of the curriculum of all Waldorf schools, and while it often puzzles parents new to Waldorf education, children respond to its simple rhythms and exercises which help them strengthen and harmonize their body and their life forces; later, the older students work out elaborate eurythmic representations of poetry, drama and music, thereby gaining a deeper perception of the compositions and writings.

Eurythmy enhances coordination and strengthens the ability to listen. When children experience themselves like an orchestra and have to keep a clear relationship in space with each other, a social strengthening also results.

Eurythmy is usually taught by a specialist who has been specifically trained in Eurythmy, typically for at least four years.

What is your attitude to discipline?

Discipline in a Steiner school is neither rigid in the traditional sense nor free in the progressive sense. Discipline is aimed at, and arises out of, the human understanding between teacher and student – a caring concern met by affectionate regard. The ongoing Class Teacher relationship allows time for this understanding to develop.

Discipline has two elements – the maintenance of outer order whilst helping children to master them. Therefore, ideally any discipline should be both constructive and therapeutic. All Steiner schools have Behaviour Management Policies which state clearly their approach to discipline and outline the steps involved in finding this balance.

What is your stance on immunisation?

Perth Waldorf School:

  • Does not discriminate based on a child’s immunisation status
  • Participates in the School Based Immunisation Program provided by the WA Health Department
  • Cooperates and consult with the WA Health Department regarding the management of communicable diseases

How are the year groups divided at PWS?

The Perth Waldorf School year groups are divided according to year of birth.
Each year group is referred to as “Class” instead of “Year”, which is used in most other schools.

The following is a list of the class groups and the age students will turn in that year.

E.g., I have a child turning 9 this year, so they will be in Class 3.

Kindergarten 4 – 4 years old
Kindergarten 5 – 5 years old
Kindergarten 6 – 6 years old
Class 1 – 7 years old
Class 2 – 8 years old
Class 3 – 9 years old
Class 4 – 10 years old
Class 5 – 11 years old
Class 6 – 12 years old
Class 7 – 13 years old
Class 8 – 14 years old
Class 9 – 15 years old
Class 10  -16 years old
Class 11 – 17 years old
Class 12 – 18 years old

Our faculties are divided into:
Early Childhood from Kindergarten 4 to 6
Primary School from Class 1 to 7
High School from Class 8 to 12

Can I book a tour?

We host group tours once a term. These are freely available to the community and allow you to talk through the school with one of our coordinators to learn more about the curriculum, the school grounds and school life.

Unfortunately we cannot arrange individual tours.

Please check our events page for up-to-date tour dates. When dates are confirmed we will post it here.

How big is the school and classes?

In 2020 we had 537 students enrolled across Kindergarten to Class 12.

In Kindergarten and Primary School there is one class from each year group.
In Class 7 a second stream is added and two class groups continue through high school.

In Kindergarten, class sizes are limited to 10 students for 4-year olds and 20 students in the 5/6-year old group.

Primary School and High School classes are limited at 30 and range from 27 to 30, depending on class needs.

Do you have Before and After School Care?

Yes, independent operator Connect Learning provide before and after school care on our grounds. For ages 6 – 12.
Contact: Nancy Salzbrenner, Coordinator
0420 667 904

Do you have buses for students?

The Perth Waldorf School arrange a bus service at a discounted rate for students travelling from the Perth Hills in Mundaring and from the Cockburn train station for those travelling from North or South directions.

For more details, please visit our bus service information page.

What are the fees?

Perth Waldorf School is a fee paying school, as well as sourcing much of its income form government sources.
Details on the fees are in our Fees & Charges brochure.

Is there a waiting list and how can I apply?

Yes, there is usually a wait list for places in each year group.

Download an application form and return to us with all relevant documents and application fee. Once received and processed, (which usually takes a day or two upon submission of the complete application) you will be sent a letter confirming your application is received and that you have been placed on the waiting list.

The length of the wait list and timing is never fixed and hard to estimate, as classes are full it requires a lace to become free, which is indeterminable. Once a place is available we will look to the wait list. We contact the family direct when this happens.

If you have not received any contact from us, it means you remain on the wait list, until which time you tell us you no longer need a place.

Please keep us informed of any contact details changes or if you make the decision to be removed from the list.

Enrolment applications are accepted throughout the year and assessed on an ongoing basis as places become available.

Can I privately hire facilities at Perth Waldorf School?

Yes, we have our Williams Hall and Seekers Place available for private hire. Conditions apply. Please contact our office for details.
(08) 9417 3638

Do you have a newsletter and can I advertise/contribute to it?

Our weekly newsletter is The Pabulum and is published and distributed each Tuesday afternoon during the school term.

Hard copies of the newsletter can be found on-site at our top and bottom bus shelters, outside the canteen and outside the front office.
You can subscribe to the newsletter.

There is scope within the newsletter for community notices, linked to the school and its people.
Outside advertising is available in week 2 and 8 of term for a fee of $10 per ad.

The Pubulum contributions need to be emailed to pabulum@pws.wa.edu.au by Friday afternoons prior to Tuesday edition.

Information for Parents

If you would like to find out about absentee reporting, family participation scheme, how to pay fees etc. Please see your relevant handbook.

(Note – for late student arrivals, please enter school via the front office, (class 8 to 12 also have the option of the high school office), to notify the student’s arrival).

Who do I contact in the High School – Please click here.

For more information about Steiner Education across Australia, please visit the Steiner Education Australia website.