Ok, it's a long shot but does anyone have any experience of Summerhill? In any of teacher/parent/student role.
That's Summerhill in Suffolk btw, AS Neills school.
I wish I had! I visited in 1997 as a student teacher. Would have loved to have worked there but life got in the way.
It did have an impact on how I still teach and on the schools I have chosen for my own child (tried an alternative independent but it didn't work out for her).
I know someone who went ther, local authority paid as was from troubled home. Not a happy ending in his case but that will be the case with a sample of one from any school!
I understand the school was quite delapidatedin those days.
Have you watched the tv documentary from years ago?
I've seen the Cbbc one made a few years ago, and will watch the older one if it's on youtube.
The person I know who went there couldn't read and write when he left at end of school career, never went to any lessons at all. But enjoyed it whilst there. The older documentary is a little shocking, naked teens in the school pool etc. obviously years and years ago!
How long ago were they there? Just wondering how much may have changed since then. Thanks
Few yrs ago I considered Summerhill for DS1. We never visited due to a measles outbreak onsite. Maybe 6 months ago I met one of their teachers on the train & I enjoyed chatting to her.
I think the debauchery stuff doesn't happen now, they just can't let it happen & be commercially viable. There are health & safety limits on what rules the kids can set, there is a zero tolerance attitude towards drugs & they give lip service to enforcing legal age of consent.
I attended a Summerhill-model school myself for 2 yrs & problem is that it undermines ambition. If classes are optional, they can't much matter. Neither does education. I'm still open-minded it could be good choice for some, there are + posts from last 8 yrs from MNers with kids who go there (search archives).
I know a family who sent three children there , they did pretty poorly in conventional academic terms but all went on to conventional colleges and got more formal qualifications afterwards.I think they were very happy though..
I did talk to her once about children with SEN , what for example happens when they want to learn but can't and she dud say that that is where the system fails .
They won't take new children over the age of 11 , or only rarely, because if the difficulty of adapting .
I love the book, and I think the optional classes would work brilliantly for the right kids, especially if the teaching were excellent. I have always had a pipe dream about Summerhill, and think it must have been a wonderful school when Neill was alive.
My son had a friend who went there, but chose a slightly more conventional school when he was 14. He is a very bright boy, has done well, and was definitely more open minded, imaginative, and friendly to adults than lots of the other teens I have known.
Read the court case judgment too - the court thankfully vindicated the school against interfering Ofsted.
This is not the judgment I meant - www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKEAT/2013/0244_13_0412.html but might be of background interest. It mentions parents had come together to save the school - look like around 2012 or 2013.
See also www.theguardian.com/education/2013/may/27/summerhill-school-head-profile
Thanks everyone, it's really helpful to see/hear responses
My dad was a pupil when Neill was head. Not relevant to you at all here in 2014 but he regarded his schooling (and Neill in particular) with incredible fondness always.
It's a place that has always fascinated me but I know nothing about it.
That guardian article greengrow has posted makes it sound awful though! Or, at least it makes the head seem awful.
She has no time for labels such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). "Children have lots of conditions these days they wouldn't have had 20 years ago. I couldn't tell you if any of our children have ADHD. My interest is in whether the child will fit into this community. If a child talks out of turn at the school meeting, he's got to go out whether he's ADHD or not." Nor does she have much truck with "trendy" teaching methods. "Summerhill children are very conservative about how they are taught. You can dish up information on a cold plate. Since children are not captive in the classroom, when they go, they want to learn. So teachers don't need to put jam on it." And Readhead, like any other independent school head, talks about how fee-paying parents save thousands for the state and what a pity there isn't some kind of voucher or tax credit to help them out.
I don't think Redhill sounds awful necessarily. Lots of the labels and teaching techniques we use would be unnecessary and unhelpful in a place which doesn't make people conform to a rigid set of expectations.
Have you seen Ken Robinson's Ted talks? The line which sticks with me is: "She doesn't have a learning disability; she is a dancer."
But it's true isn't it? If pupils choose to come to class, rather than being forced to go, you don't need all singing all dancing engaging teaching.
You have kids who want to learn. And probably want to learn as directly as they can so they can go back to doing the important things in life.
In a normal school an awful lot of effort is spent trying to engage pupils who don't want to be there. None of that's necessary in summerhill.
IF they choose to go to class, that is.
Because kids, especially teenagers, are always so good at making judgements about what's best for them. ;-)
Part of a huge debate about how kids should learn or even can learn. I grew up in a foreign country with AS Neill's book on the shelves, my mother was such a fan. But real life experience of a school like that was not so positive. We used a lot of drugs, too. That was 1970s-80s, admittedly (laxer era).
Summerhill also expresses considerable skepticism about food allergies & intolerances, if you want to get knickers further in a twist. But they are only speaking from experience of what happens in their environment. They don't believe in computer game addiction being a problem, which was a stumbling block for me. As a parent you only go for Summerhill if you can really "Let Go."
Computer game addiction isn't a problem because they pupils are only allowed screen time 2 hours a day. (Rule decided by the children.) Otherwise they get sanctions decided by the children at the weekly council.
The whole point is that children can choose not to go to class. Yes, if you aren't happy with that then you most certainly should not consider Summerhill.
Most, but not all, pupils there do come out with the GCSEs they want for the next stage of their life.
anyone can do GCSEs at college post 16....
Yes, but that is what I think is wonderful - that we live in a country so free a parent can decide these things in terms of picking a school and why it was so good Ofted got it's kick in the teeth when it failed to close the place down, that we can accept there is not one orthodoxy, that there is not one right way.
I don't think the quotes from the Guardian sound awful at all but then I don't subscribe to most of the orthodoxy and am happy to pay school fees to avoid the rigidness and set views and rules of state schools.
Hi there, I see that your thread started a couple of years ago. If it's of any interest my daughter attends Summerhill currently. She's nearly 15 and has been there since she was 11. Let me know if I can help with any questions.
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