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Prominent SWSF school ripped-off by its own bursar

Here’s a tragic tale of a Steiner school bursar, one David Drage, getting into debt, ripping off the school  to the tune of some 150,000 quid and committing suicide rather than face up to the consequences.

First reports of events at the school, Michael Hall in Forest Row, East Sussex,  appeared in newspapers in summer of 2006. The amount of the fraud then was thought to have been about 28,000 quid, a line repeated in the Christmas edition of the school’s newsletter. The eventual scale of the fraud as given in the school’s 2006 Annual Report & Accounts was found to be 150,000 GBP.

Richard Zienko, the school’s Resources Manager and a trustee of the school, was the bursar’s superior. Zienko was suspended from his position more or less immediately after the fraud was discovered in June 2006.  He resigned as Resources Manager and as a trustee in October of the same year. Zienko’s suspension came about as a result of advice received by the school, advice given to ensure an impartial investigation into the school’s accounts could take place. He is currently a director/trustee of the Eurythmy Theatre Ltd (update Feb 2019: now named Peredur Eurythmy Ltd), a charity operating as the Moving Word Theatre and prior to the fraud at the school had been a director of the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (SWSF) and of the Anthroposophical Association Ltd, the workhorse of the national Anthroposophical Society here in UK.

Michael Hall School was one of the first Steiner schools to open in England back in 1925 and it is today a premier SWSF school with some 500 pupils and an annual income of about 3 million GBP per year.


  1. maura kwaten maura kwaten November 8, 2009

    Thanks ,what an informative post !

    I’m a Mum who took her daughter out of a Steiner School in Kings Langley,I was horrified to learn about the racism that is inherent in Steiners philosophy Anthroposophy and also that parents are not informed about what Anthroposophy is and how much the school is steeped in the belief system,we were not told about the beliefs in reincarnation etc but were told the school was ‘broadly Christian’.We were given a disclaimer when we left explaining that there are a ‘few racist phrases’ contained in Steiner’s work.I have pages of racist statements from Steiner,not phrases.Anthroposophists often say Steiner was a ‘man of the times’ that there was a lot of racism around then,but they still reprint it,is it not racist now ? They believe he is clairvoyant- they can’t have it both ways,if he’s clairvoyant do they believe the spirit world is racist? And if he’s not clairvoyant which bits are Anthroposophists to believe and which bit to chuck out ?

    I have been researching what the teachers have to read before they teach the children;

    I have recently read EURYTHMY AS VISIBLE SPEECH by Rudolf Steiner,Rudolf Steiner Press 1984.It is on the reading list for the Steiner Teacher Training list at the University of Plymouth ;

    Eurythmy for anyone who doesn’t know is compulsory for all children at Steiner Waldorf schools,kids usually have two lessons a week.It is pushed as a dance/movement class….

    ‘Exercises based on the moving circles of the Zodiac and Planets and their corresponding spiritual gestures.Such exercises bring the eurythmic movements and postures right down into the organism.’ Pg 18

    ‘The soul must learn, as far as eurythmy is concerned,actually to live in the body.In eurythmy the whole body must become the soul.’

    Marie Steiner’s forward to the book,
    ‘If we allow ourselves to receive this aid,we shall be in the position to open ourselves to the spirit in every sphere of activity,-in that sphere also which this book illumines with spiritual revelation and human knowledge.Then we shall no longer need to stimulate our slackened nerves by means of decadent negro dances which are hammered into us by machinery,turning us into machines and gradually killing out our finest human qualities:but we shall gain an understanding for a noble art of movement ,having its source in the spirit,an art of movement which is the reflection of the Dance of the Stars,and which makes the language of the stars sound visibly within us in purity and truth.’

    Interesting Rudolf Steiner press need think its necessary to include a foreward with this racist content in 1984.There was more racism in this foreward ,I can send it if you like.

    Some more from Mr Steiner ,in the same book,
    ‘It is deeply interesting to consider such things,for in the breath sounds what really comes to expression is this:I will have nothing to do with Lucifer: everything which is Luciferic must disappear -and the consonants of force express this feeling: I will hold fast to Ahriman,for if he escapes me he will poison everything :he must be held fast,_Thus the influence of Lucifer and Ahriman has been implanted into these sounds.’ Pg119,re the sounds,speech which are made during eurythmy.

    ‘But if you form two groups -the one group of choleric,the other group of phlegmatic children-and make both these groups run the spiral forms,and in such a way that the children must constantly look into each others eyes,then they will mutually correct each other.’ Pg 202

    There are plenty more interesting quotes from this book if you’d like me to forward them,
    Very best,Maura.

  2. ukanthroposophy ukanthroposophy November 9, 2009

    I’m sorry to hear of your bad experiences at the Kings Langley Steiner school, thanks for sharing it here. I’m a bit shocked to say the least that the school dismisses the racism within Steiner as being a few racist phrases. You’ve read the blog post about the Plymouth Steiner courses being axed, there’s a brief but telling quote there that isn’t racist in the sense of using an insulting word, it’s an example of the entire belief system underpinning what Steiner educationalists follow and put into practice. It’s a very mild quote but as you maybe know there are oodles of examples much more vicious and nasty than that one…maybe the Kings Langley Steiner School doesn’t even know what racism is? Same with their version of Christianity, Christ figures a lot in it but then so do notions of karma, reincarnation, ‘national souls’, gnomes etc….not what I would call broadly Christian. I’m not religious but I can see how people might get very upset about being reassured a school operates to a religion acceptable to them only to find later that the school’s religious beliefs are alien to their own. Does the Kings Langley School even know what mainstream everyday understandings of Christianity are here in UK?

    You gave some quotes from a book on the Plymouth reading list and yes please do send more quotes in but to reassure myself and anybody else reading the blog can you confirm that the book you’re quoting from is ‘Eurythmy as Visible Speech’ by Rudolf Steiner, published by Rudolf Steiner Press 1984? Maybe it’d be best to move your comments/s over to the Plymouth BA course blog post spot else people with an interest in the reading list might not find them.

    I don’t know the entire story of your experiences at Kings Langley but I hope you and your daughter were happier with your daughter’s schooling after you removed her from Kings Langley.

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