The Waldorf School in Bielsko-Biala
Poland: The Bielsko-Biala Waldorf School started giving lessons in 1995. A few years earlier a small number of people interested in Anthroposophy had already founded a Waldorf kindergarten. Today there is a kindergarten, a primary school and also a high school. The main challenge the initiative faces is to find a balance between Waldorf education and government regulations. In doing so the school benefits from relations to Polish universities, but also from regular exchanges with the Waldorf School in Dresden, Germany.
Bielsko-Biala is composed of two former cities on opposite banks of the river Biala, which forms the historic border between the two principalities Cieszyn and Oswiecim. The city is located between two mountain ranges: the small Beskids and the Silesian Beskids. Bielsko was historically first mentioned in 1312, when the Sovereign of Oswiecim donated a forest to local residents. Biala was developed later, in the second half of the 16th Century. The Silesian Bielsko and Lesser Poland's Biała, amalgamated in 1951.
After the war a group of people interested in Rudolf Steiner's writings came together as a result of the contact of two local brothers to the Anthroposophical Community Krakow. Once a week the group discussed Steiner's ideas on education, medicine, social life, art and agriculture. On a trip to Finland in 1988, the opportunity arose to visit a kindergarten and a Waldorf school. This lead to the idea of founding a kindergarten in Bielsko-Biala. In 1989 the kindergarten moved into an old mansion. In 1992 a school foundation was established turning the kindergarten into an official Waldorf kindergarten. When this step was accomplished the initiative began working towards establishing a Waldorf school.
In July 1995 the school was officially registered and began two months later with its first school year. Main lessons were given in English, Mathematics and geometry. Other subjects included sports, music, handicraft, religion, eurythmy as well as English and German as foreign languages. In 1996, Bielsko-Biala Waldorf School applied for official recognition as an experimental school for Waldorf education. The former Minister of Education, Ms. Grabowska, thereupon granted the school an official permit. Part of the agreement was that the school would document its work and connect state requirements with Waldorf education. The city of Bielsko-Biala provided a school building.
When that building was fully renovated the fourth school year began with 54 students in four classes. Another milestone was the 2000/2001 school year, because then the first class graduated after six years of school. In the following year, new state requirements had to be implemented as a result of an education reform. Since then, the school is obliged to conduct regular competency tests. The students of the Bielsko-Biala Waldorf School pass this test usually above average.
Since 2004, the Bielsko-Biala Waldorf School includes a high school. Implementing state requirements on one side and a Waldorf curriculum on the other side remains a challenge. Fortunately the school receives helpful advice from foreign Waldorf schools. The competency tests are being done very well, but require a lot of work and time. Another issue is the financing of the school and the salaries. The parents struggle to pay the school fees that are substantial compared to the free public schools.