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Summerhill - has anyone got any experience of this school?

(35 Posts)
LivingLaVidaLurker2 Sun 22-Jun-08 09:12:00

I have recently been reading a lot about A.S. Neill and Summerhill school and it seems a fascinating place. I am planning to attend an open day, but would be interested to hear of any MNers' experiences. Have you been? Do your children go? What do ex-students think about the school?

My biggest concern from everything I've read, including the website, is that parents are kept at a distance. Although I can understand that children should be left to be children (to wildy summarise the philosophy), why would the staff at Summerhill be better adult influences than dh and me?

Oh, and I am filled with very mixed feelings about boarding - do day pupils thrive at the school?

lexcat Sun 22-Jun-08 10:25:50

Hear great things about the school. I don't have any links with the school expect my mother would have liked me to go their, but I was 15 before she even came across the school.
don't know if this is any good

Judy1234 Sun 22-Jun-08 11:20:21

That's the point of boarding school - you send the children to be educated by others. I don't like that principle so used day private schools but I wanted the children in a conventional highly academic day school with lots of sport, music etc so I am not a natural Summerhill parent anyway.

There was a fascinating court case on it a few years ago which thankfully the school won. The state was saying children should be forced to attend lessons, in effect and the school was successful which was good.

Bronze Sun 22-Jun-08 11:22:33

Is Summerhill the one down on the south coast or somewhere? If it is I rememebr reading about it in the Times? and thinking it sounded fabulous. Would cost me over a million to send my children there though and thats just for secondary level.

Judy1234 Sun 22-Jun-08 11:27:25

It's the one where yo udon't have to go to lessons which therefore every child of mine when they have read about it always thinks is a marvellous idea!

milliec Sun 22-Jun-08 14:41:37

Message withdrawn

needaholiday Sun 22-Jun-08 22:42:27

It's where my eldest 2 want to go, where I'd send all mine if we could afford it. But eldest is 10.5 already and the cut off for entry is 12 so not much time sadly. We home ed to be able to use some of the same principles. grin works for us, but I'd be so interested to see a reply from a real summerhillian.

snorkle Sun 22-Jun-08 23:22:01

one of dd's old friends goes there along with her siblings - most of whom enjoy it, but one I think took a long time to adapt. Some of them are day and some board - initially the older ones boarded so as not to miss out on stuff going on in the evenings, but at least one switched to day after a year or two, so I surmise that either works OK. Dd would love to go too but I won't have mine boarding and am not really sure I agree with the philosophy myself - it seems to me that rather than letting children be children you are expecting them to make adult decisions themselves. It does require a huge amount of trust from the parents.

LivingLaVidaLurker2 Mon 23-Jun-08 08:28:31

Thanks everyone for these replies. It's interesting what you said Snorkle, about children having to make adult decisions - I really hadn't thought of it like that before. Perhaps it is too much for children to effectively take the responsibility of ensuring they are educated. However, I do love the idea of children being allowed to enjoy their childhood without being constantly measured.

I am only just starting to look at educational possibilities for my dcs, so have many options to research, including home ed. so I may be on here asking many more questions!

LivingLaVidaLurker2 Sun 27-Jul-08 19:21:36

Oh, I've just watched the Channel 4 documentary, "Summerhill at 70". I know it has been widely denounced as a bad film, but it still make a fascinating watch. Very disconcerting to see the Head and 10 year old pupils swearing so freely, but I guess they would say I am uptight about such things. Also, included a horrible scene of the head's son beheading a rabbit. (Apparently though, the rabbit was ill, which the documentary fails to explain).

I think I will just have to make a visit for myself - still love the general idea of the school.

Milliways Mon 28-Jul-08 16:47:19

My nephew went there as a boarder. He is severely dyslexic and local schools were no help. The freedom of Summerhill allowed him to decide what he wanted to do & focus on the skills he had. He is now at college and if he passes his course will go to Uni.

anxiousmax Mon 28-Jul-08 21:24:48

I live near Summerhill & while I don't know any of the pupils I do know several staff members. All have worked there many years & say the ethos of mutual respect & taking responsibility for your actions is far more important than if the children go to lessons, in fact a very high % do attend lessons & therefore behavioural problems & bullying is very rare.

I do see some of the children in the local shops (they do stand out as being Summerhill pupils) they are always polite etc.
Also the owner (founders daughter) is a very well known & respected local figure, certainly not thought of as weird etc.

I think its the sort of education you would either love or hate for your child (i wouldn't opt for it myself but i'm more traditional i guess). If you fancy it pay them a visit.

Takver Mon 28-Jul-08 21:45:57

Somewhat off topic, but although I'd love to live in Suffolk (and have the option of DD going to Summerhill, although I don't think we could afford it!), we ruled the idea out completely because of how very, very close Leiston is to Sizewell B nuclear power station - not because of accidents, just the potentially high levels of background radiation . . . .

anxiousmax Tue 29-Jul-08 15:00:27

There is higher background radiation naturally occuring in Devon & cornwall than is found locally in Suffolk & every time you fly in a plane the radiation levels are far higher than found on the ground in Suffolk.
It is also one of the closely monitored areas of the country, even the anti-nuclear groups who carry out their own monitoring have yet to find anything.
The only thing I notice if we walk VERY close to the station is the large number of pylons coming from the national grid station attached to the power station.

It does mean that we keep all our local retained fire stations to support the stations own. We don't get disturbed by aircraft as there is a no fly zone in force & we have an increased number of police as the Civil nuclear constabulary patrol the local towns/villages in support of the suffolk police.
I ahve no strong views on Nuclear power either way but as a local resident the only impact we feel is a positive one.

Blandmum Tue 29-Jul-08 15:04:50

Radon, though isn't? rather than any effect of Sizewell?

Doobydoo Tue 29-Jul-08 15:05:11

I wet for a year.My mum was working there.I never saw hergrin
Think it depends on the type of child you have too.They hold weekly meetings,everyone has a say.I f you do decide to go to a lesson it is because you have chosen too and therefore the messing around etc is not expected.
Sorry am typing fast as child on rampage.I loved it.The prospectus is informative and all sorts of people go there and leave to pursue many different careers.

Doobydoo Tue 29-Jul-08 15:05:47


worley Tue 29-Jul-08 15:23:27

sizewell b is being shutdown very very soon and there will only be sizewell c.
if there was high radiation or any radiation coming from there do you think people would be allowed to live there!!
it is true what anxiousmax says in that there is more cosmic radiation than there is being near here. you get more radiation from a long distance flight than one chest xray, so when people complain about having xrays, they dont complain about going on airplanes do they!!

i didnt go to summerhill but was taught at primary school what to do in the event of a leak from the powerstation, which petrified me for years that it was going to explode and kill us all!!!

anxiousmax Tue 29-Jul-08 15:29:27

The other schools in the area a re VERY good if Summerhill isn't your thing.

Summerhill pupils are very international & come from all walks of life, i know of some that have returned to the area & settled as adults (although i don't know them well iykwim).

Actually one of the landlords of a local pub is a former Summerhill pupil.

Sizewell A stopped generating last year & is currently being decommisioned, Sizewell B has many many years to run before it is decommisioned , it is currently the UK's newest nuclear reactor. Sizewell C is still in the planning stages.

cornsilk Tue 29-Jul-08 15:31:02

what are the fees like then?

Jux Tue 29-Jul-08 15:41:16

I would love to send dd to Summerhill - think it would suit her down to the ground. I wanted to go there myself but never heard of it until I was over 20! Still want to go myself, actually.

We're in Devon, income at subsistence level, so no chancesad

Doobydoo Tue 29-Jul-08 19:42:07

I had the prospectus until recently.I finally admitted to myself we wouldn't be able to afford it.I think they are around 15.000 a year for a boarder[my ds is nearly 9]
I could be wrong but it is around that figure.Summerhill is setting up a fund to help people with fees but it isn't active yet[it is looking for donations].
I think some chldren start as day pupils and then want to board as their confidence builds and they don't want to miss out.

Doobydoo Tue 29-Jul-08 19:43:24

I have seen that there are 1 or 2 schools in Devon run along similar lines.

Califrau Tue 29-Jul-08 19:47:10

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

cornsilk Wed 30-Jul-08 00:23:07

My ds would love it, but wouldn't want to board. Bit too far for us - and too expensive anyway! Fab idea though, shame there aren't more schools like that.

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