Memories of A S Neill's Summerhill

4th February 2011 at 00:00

Summerhill School, founded by Scots educator A S Neill in 1921, is alive and well and 90 years old this year. The school and its charitable trust will be celebrating the "oldest children's democracy in the world" in 2011 with a range of events and activities promoting Neill's well- documented philosophy of letting children have the freedom to be themselves, along with the successful practices of the school.

Summerhill School and Trust would like to hear from your readers and anyone else with positive comments, stories and memories of Neill and Summerhill over the years, which we will then edit and put up on the school's website for the world to see. We know that many mainstream teachers studied Neill and the school as part of their training, and even went on to visit and introduce ideas to their own classroom practices.

Neill's influence on the state education system has been acknowledged over the years, with The TES in 2000 placing him among the most important educators of the 20th century.

Neill said once that "most school work robs youth of its right to play and play and play, putting old heads on young shoulders". Summerhill still gives its students 100 per cent freedom to attend lessons or to play. Its 90-year-old democratic principles still rest on giving a vote to every single person at the school at its thrice-weekly meetings.

Summerhill is thriving, with an ongoing international community of students. It has a remarkable alumni of successful and happy people in all walks of life, across the globe. As shown by the worldwide campaign to support the school against the failed efforts of the UK Government to close it down, there are many educationists who feel strongly that Summerhill School still has a lot of positive messages to offer the mainstream education system.

Anyone with contributions to make to the Summerhill story can contact

Mark Vaughan, secretary, A S Neill Summerhill Trust, Bristol.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today