Providing early care the Steiner-Pikler way – Richard House interviews pioneer Dorothy Marlen…
Richard House [RH]: Dorothy, I recently had the privilege of tutoring on Britain’s first officially accredited Steiner/Pikler Early Care course. What were your motivations for developing this pioneering Level 3 course, and why is it important in present-day early years culture?
Dorothy Marlen [DM]: Thank you, Richard. I was brought to Rudolf Steiner’s understanding of child development and education when my son was a year old. The subtlety, depth and richness of Steiner education made total sense to me and helped me enormously as a mother, kindergarten teacher and course leader.
Later I trained at the Pikler Institute in Budapest and learnt about an exemplary approach to looking after very young children. I also visited care settings like Sophia’s Hearth (USA) and Der Hof (Germany), where Steiner’s childhood understanding and the Pikler approach had been integrated together in trainings for early childhood carers. I saw that although the Steiner way and Pikler approach come from different ‘streams’, they deeply enrich each other. Steiner’s insights provide us with an understanding of the true needs of the young child, while the Pikler approach provides the practical know-how of how to care for young children. For me there’s no better combination to ensure young children’s needs are met. That we do truly meet children’s needs is becoming ever more crucial in our fast-paced, pressured and materialistic culture.
The impulse to create the Level 3 course came from a wish to provide a British qualification (available on the UK national framework for early years trainings), integrating Steiner’s insights, the Pikler approach and the EYFS requirements. I wanted to provide a holistic alternative yet equally valid nationally accredited qualification for those wishing to care for our youngest children, and to support parents; a qualification that really addresses the multitude of contemporary challenges to parenting and child care; and to show that there is another way.
RH: Thanks for this enlightening reply, Dorothy. Could you say something more about what this new training will give to students of early care and development that other mainstream trainings might not provide?
DM: On this first course we were fortunate to have students from mainstream as well as Steiner settings. The feedback we’ve had from these students, and particularly those with mainstream early childhood trainings, has been very positive. These students have found the course to be transformative on a personal level, deepening and broadening their understanding of the needs of young children, and taking them through to a skill level way beyond other trainings, and the EYFS. They’ve told us that the course has enhanced their professional practice and quality of care in their settings in such areas as how to observe children holistically, setting up an optimal environment for play and healthy development, healthy food, sleep, stories, festivals, what constitutes respectful care, conflict resolution, supporting parents, and much more – so much that, until now, has been only available in exclusively Steiner or Pikler trainings.
RH: The richness and depth of the course really come across very strongly, Dorothy. How easy (or difficult) has it been to reconcile the deep, subtle qualities of this new training with the more procedural, ‘performative’ demands of the EYFS?
DM: The course, in its unique way, easily meets and then goes beyond the procedural demands of EYFS, providing a depth and richness of knowledge and practical skills that are adaptable to many different care situations. The holistic curriculum has given the students a deep well to drink from in their professional work. It has also given the students a real sense of the importance of their work caring for children and supporting parents.
Dorothy Marlen is an early childhood trainer and consultant, the national Birth to the Three representative for the UK Steiner movement, and chair of the Pikler UK Association.