Back in May last year I posted about the plans for new Free schools: ‘Three’s no such thing as a Free school’ , and mentioned AS Neil’s famous, indeed infamous, Summerhill. In contrast to the usual negative media representation of the place, a much more positive account of the school appeared in a recent article in the Guardian:
Here are some extracts from the school policy document, taken from the school’s website:
To allow children to experience the full range of feelings, free from the judgement and intervention of an adult. Freedom to make decisions always involves risk and requires the possibility of negative outcomes. Apparently negative consequences such as boredom, stress, anger, disappointment and failure are a necessary part of individual development.
To provide choices and opportunities that allow children to develop at their own pace and to follow their own interests. Summerhill does not aim to produce specific types of young people, with specific, assessed skills or knowledge, but aims to provide an environment in which children can define who they are and what they want to be.
To allow children to live in a community that supports them and that they are responsible for; in which they have the freedom to be themselves, and have the power to change community life, through the democratic process. All individuals create their own set of values based on the community within which they live. Summerhill is a community which takes responsibility itself. Problems are discussed and resolved through openness, democracy and social action. All members of the community, adults and children, irrespective of age, are equal in terms of this process.
To allow children to be completely free to play as much as they like. Creative and imaginative play is an essential part of childhood and development. Spontaneous, natural play should not be undermined or redirected by adults into learning experiences. Play belongs to the child.
“When my first wife and I began the school, we had one main idea: to make the school fit the child – instead of making the child fit the school” — A.S. Neill
Now if only all the new, so-called free schools were like Summerhill… Indeed, if only all schools were like Summerhill?