Skip to main content


Seminar by Dr Joanne Pearce (University College London) From Anthroposophy to non-confessional preparation for spirituality?

Could common schools learn from spiritual education in Steiner schools?'

It has been suggested common schools might be able to learn from spiritual education in Steiner schools. This assumes practice in Steiner schools is compatible with the aims of spiritual education in common schools. I question this by considering whether the former is confessional, as the latter should not be. I explain how my concern about the potentially confessional nature of Steiner spiritual education arose. I then argue for a nuanced understanding of confessional education, distinguishing between ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ confessional education, as well as between confessional education as intentional and as defined by outcome. I argue that spiritual education in common schools should prepare pupils for spirituality, without being confessional. I consider whether Steiner schools are confessional by drawing upon findings from research conducted at six Steiner schools.

Event details

For this research, I adopted an ethnographic approach centring on my attempted immersion in one school where I volunteered as a classroom assistant, supported by qualitative data collection in the remaining schools. I found no spiritually educative practices in Steiner schools to be necessarily strongly confessional on their own. However, each practice tends towards encouraging religious or quasi-religious belief, and is thus weakly confessional. I conclude that spiritual education in Steiner schools is weakly confessional in an intentional sense. I further conclude that practices which might contribute to preparation for spirituality and which can be implemented in a non-confessional manner, are worthy of consideration for transfer. Common schools committed to preparation for spirituality could learn from spiritual education in Steiner schools.


Biographical note:

Jo is Programme Director on the MA in Education, and Academic Head of Learning and Teaching for the Department of Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment. Jo has ten years’ experience teaching RE in maintained secondary schools in and around London. This has contributed to her wide-ranging practical and theoretical understanding of RE. Jo's doctoral research was in spiritual education in Steiner schools. Her research interests extend to religious and spiritual education more generally.


Recording and powerpoint presentation now available.



North Cloisters 12