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Summerhill School


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#1 William Kelly

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Posted 31 March 2008 - 07:07 PM

The summer after my freshman year at the University of Dayton, Ohio School of Secondary Education, I took a trip to Europe, backpacking around England, Irleand, Germany, France and Monaco, visiting schools along the way.

In England, I went out of my way to visit Summerhill, a small secondary school run by A.S. Neil, whose book "Summerhill - A Radical Approach to Child Rearing," made waves in USA for its unstructured style.

I was there for about a week and met with Neil on my last day there, going for a walk with him.

Can anyone tell me what became of Neil and Summerhill school?

Thanks,

Bill Kelly

#2 John Simkin

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Posted 01 April 2008 - 07:46 AM

The summer after my freshman year at the University of Dayton, Ohio School of Secondary Education, I took a trip to Europe, backpacking around England, Irleand, Germany, France and Monaco, visiting schools along the way.

In England, I went out of my way to visit Summerhill, a small secondary school run by A.S. Neil, whose book "Summerhill - A Radical Approach to Child Rearing," made waves in USA for its unstructured style.

I was there for about a week and met with Neil on my last day there, going for a walk with him.

Can anyone tell me what became of Neil and Summerhill school?

Thanks,

Bill Kelly


Alexander Sutherland Neill died on 23rd September, 1973. Summerhill is still open and until recently was run by Neill's daughter. Summerhill is still run as a democratic community; the running of the school is conducted in the school meetings, which anyone, staff or pupil, may attend, and at which everyone has an equal vote. These meetings serve as both a legislative and judicial body. Members of the community are free to do as they please, so long as their actions do not cause any harm to others, according to Neill's principle "Freedom, not Licence." This extends to the freedom for pupils to choose which lessons, if any, they attend.

It is said that Summerhill is the most inspected school in the country. During the 1990s, it was inspected nine times. It later emerged that this was because OFSTED (The "OFfice for STandards in EDucation") had placed Summerhill on a secret 'hit list' of 61 independent schools marked as TBW (To Be Watched).

In March of 1999, following a major inspection from OFSTED, the then Secretary of State for Education and Employment, David Blunkett, issued the school with a notice of complaint, which took issue with the school's policy of non-compulsory lessons. Failure to comply with such a notice within six months usually leads to closure; however, Summerhill chose to contest the notice in court.

The case went before a special educational tribunal in March 2000, at which the school was represented by noted human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC. Four days into the hearing, the government's case collapsed, and a settlement was agreed. The pupils who were attending the hearing that day took over the courtroom and held a school meeting to debate whether to accept the settlement, eventually voting unanimously to do so.

The settlement was notable for giving the school far more than a decision by the judges could have. The tribunal only had the power to annul the notice of complaint, but the settlement made provisions for Summerhill to be inspected differently in future, to take account of its special educational philosophy.

A couple of good quotes from A.S. Neill:

"I'd be very disappointed if a Summerhill child became Prime Minister. I'd feel I'd failed."

"No one is wise enough or good enough to mould the character of any child. What is wrong with our sick, neurotic world is that we have been moulded, and an adult generation that has seen two great wars and seems about to launch a third should not be trusted to mould the character of a rat."

http://www.summerhil...es/history.html

On a personal note. I used to own and train racing greyhounds. My first greyhound was named "Rosa Luxembourg". She had a litter of ten. I kept the bitch that I considered to have the most dynamic personality and named her "Summerhill" after A. S. Neill's school. She grew up to be extremely fast and qualified to race at the best track in the country. Unfortunately, during races, she would get to the front and then wait for the others to catch up with her. The problem was that she had figured out that she was not chasing after a real hare. In other words, she was too intelligent to be a racing greyhound. As a result she was banned from racing.

#3 Andy Walker

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Posted 01 April 2008 - 09:53 AM

Summerhill Schools website http://www.summerhillschool.co.uk/
There are also a few small democratic schools is the UK - below an example
http://www.sands-sch...co.uk/Home.html

A little while ago some of my students debated the pros and cons of democratic schooling below
http://studenteducat...p?showtopic=487

#4 William Kelly

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Posted 01 April 2008 - 06:17 PM

Summerhill Schools website http://www.summerhillschool.co.uk/
There are also a few small democratic schools is the UK - below an example
http://www.sands-sch...co.uk/Home.html

A little while ago some of my students debated the pros and cons of democratic schooling below
http://studenteducat...p?showtopic=487



Thank you John and Andy, for your quick and informative response.

When I was there in 1970, Neil was pretty old, and I wrote a paper saying that because of his dominant personality I didn't think the school would last long after he died.

I'm glad I was wrong.

There were a number of American students at the time, and one American teacher. The tuition was pretty expensive, and I surmised that many of the students were spoiled rich kids whose parents could afford to send their children to England to school.

One positive aspect of the non-compulsory attendence was that the students who did go to class really wanted to learn.

I did witness as school meeting, democracy in action, and for some reason thought of "Lord of the Flys."

The impact of Neil's book in USA reinforced the Education Reform Movement of the 1970s, which brought about many changes, including pass/fail courses, co-educational dorms, and other reforms.

The Education Reform Movement also sparked the creation of alternative schools, at first mainly for those disruptive and delinquent students who would have otherwise dropped out of school all together.

More recently, Charter Schools have sprouted up in almost every school district in USA, offering a real alternative style of education than that offered in traditional schools.

As an architect once told me, schools, prisons and hospitals are all designed the same, and have the same basic function.

The alternative and charter schools offer something different, though measuring how effective they are is hard to do.

Thanks again for the fate of Neil and the links.

BK

#5 Jean Walker

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Posted 24 April 2008 - 03:15 AM

http://ca.geocities....om/brochure.htm

While living in England in 1991/2 I taught for a brief time at Redhill, a special school in East Sutton in Kent (see website above) which is a "sister" school to Summerhill. It was a fascinating experience. I was living with the couple, the wife of whom was the school Secretary and we lived in the previous headmaster's house in the grounds. Just down the road was a "campus" of the Maidstone young female offenders' institution - a very odd neighbour for this school I thought! I had previously worked at the Glebe EBD Unit in Harrietsham and when that closed it was moved to Redhill. The building as you can see is stunning - the grand hall was all Jacobean panelling, but very run down. Reading all this brought back many memories of the place.

#6 William Kelly

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Posted 26 August 2008 - 02:15 AM

http://ca.geocities....om/brochure.htm

While living in England in 1991/2 I taught for a brief time at Redhill, a special school in East Sutton in Kent (see website above) which is a "sister" school to Summerhill. It was a fascinating experience. I was living with the couple, the wife of whom was the school Secretary and we lived in the previous headmaster's house in the grounds. Just down the road was a "campus" of the Maidstone young female offenders' institution - a very odd neighbour for this school I thought! I had previously worked at the Glebe EBD Unit in Harrietsham and when that closed it was moved to Redhill. The building as you can see is stunning - the grand hall was all Jacobean panelling, but very run down. Reading all this brought back many memories of the place.



Thanks Jean,

I'd like to hear from anyone else who has a connection to Summrehill.

Thanks,

Bill Kelly




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