Send us your memories of our 90-year-old

14th January 2011 at 00:00

Summerhill School, founded by AS Neill in 1921, is alive and well and 90 years old this year - just one decade younger than The TES. The school and its charitable trust will celebrate the "oldest children's democracy in the world" in 2011 with a range of events and activities that promote Neill's well-documented philosophy of giving children the freedom to be themselves, along with the successful practices of the school.

Summerhill School and Trust would like to hear from 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 has survived government attempts to close it down (Royal Courts of Justice, March 2000) as well as successive Ofsted inspections, and 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 former chief inspector Chris Woodhead and education secretary David Blunkett to close it down in 1999, there are many educationists who feel strongly that Summerhill still has many positive messages to offer the mainstream education system.

We would like to hear from anyone with contributions to make to the Summerhill story. Contact mark@markvaughan.demon.co.uk

Mark Vaughan, Secretary, AS Neill Summerhill Trust, Bristol.

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