Summerhill OK

Albert Lamb (albertlamb@compuserve.com)
Mon, 23 Feb 1998 17:52:14 -0500

Hi gang,

Good news in Saturday's paper. Here is the latest story about Summerhill
that came out in the Guardian. Zoe had not heard from the government in
advance so this was the first she heard of it too.

Albert

Summerhill reaps rewards
MINISTER PRAISES 'OFFBEAT' SCHOOL =

John Carvel =

Education Editor

In an extraordinary turn up for the books yesterday, the minister leading=

the Government's back-to-basics crusade against trendy teaching methods
went out of his way to give the seal of approval to a progressive
independent boarding school where lessons are optional and children make
the rules.

Stephen Byers, the school standards minister, congratulated Summerhill
school in Leiston, Suffolk, on its "positive and constructive" response t=
o
criticism form the Office for Standards in Education. =

Summerhill was founded 76 years ago to let children "develop free from
fear", choosing when they wanted to attend classes and agreeing school la=
ws
in weekly meetings with staff. The co-educational school, which has 59
pupils ages 6-16, enjoys an international reputation for using
child-centred learning to develop self-confidence. =

It was criticised by Ofsted in 1994 for allowing staff and pupils to shar=
e
"unconventional extra-curricular activities", including nude bathing. =

Last year the inspectors noted that some pupils did not learn to read or
write until the age of eight, and found evidence of weaknesses in maths a=
nd
English teaching. The school was warned it could be closed if it did not
draw up a satisfactory action plan within six months to achieve minimum
education standards. =

Zoe Readhead, the head-teacher and daughter of the school's founder, AS
Neill, said she would rather shut the school than compromise her father's=

vision. =

She warned that squeezing out alternative schools could lead to a samenes=
s
in education. "I am disappointed that a Labour government seems to be
taking this approach. There are schools run on similar lines all over the=

world and any threat to Summerhill is a threat to them," she said. =

But yesterday Mr Byers gave a green light for the school to continue with=

its regime. Osted approved an action plan addressing all the educational,=

health and safety issues raised by the inspectors, including steps to
ensure that all children of average ability could read simple texts by th=
e
age of eight or nine. =

"Summerhill school offers a unique form of education. The responsibility =
of
Government is to ensure that every school - whether independent or state =
-
offers at least an adequate provision of education. =

"The inspectors identified certain weaknesses which gave cause for concer=
n,
but I am pleased that Summerhill has responded tin such a positive and
constructive was and is putting in place an action plan which will allow
the school to meet minimum standards of education... whilst maintaining i=
ts
divers approach to delivering education," Mr Byers added.

Mrs Readhead said "We don't place the same importance on reading at
eight.They should do it when they are ready. If they are not ready [by
eight], that doesn't mean they will be dumbos, or not get a job, or pass
exams."