2nd May 2003 at 01:00

Free Range Childhood: self-regulation at Summerhill School
By Matthew Appleton
Gale Centre Publications pound;14.95

Summerhill, an independent school in deepest Suffolk, has been described as the "oldest children's democracy in the world". Since it was founded in 1921, it has been a source of horrified fascination to the British media. But serious educators across the world see Summerhill as an important test-bed for libertarian education theory.

Founded as a "free school" by the charismatic Scottish teacher A S Neill, and now run by his daughter, Summerhill aims to give its pupils the freedom to explore themselves and the world. Neill believed children were never "bad," but that wild and selfish behaviour was caused by unhappiness - often through brutal constraints forced by the distorted values of the adult world.

At a time when opposition to compulsory testing in English schools is growing, Matthew Appleton's book offers an eloquent and persuasive introduction to Neill's ideas, as they were lived out at Summerhill during the nine years he was a houseparent there.

Read the full version of this review in TES Friday magazinenbsp;

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