Summerhill – educational reform in England

Summerhill Schools are progressive, co-educational, residential schools founded in 1921 by Alexander Sutherland Neill within the scope of the hedge-school movement. Neill first moved his school to Sonntagsberg in Austria before moving to the town of Lyme Regis in the south of England in 1923. There he began with five pupils in a house called Summerhill. The school existed there until 1927, when it moved to its present site in Leiston in the county of Suffolk, taking the name of Summerhill with it.

The Summerhill School is a private boarding school for children between the ages of 5 and 17. Compared to traditional schools, these boarding schools focus on the e, motional well-being of the students in addition to the transfer of knowledge. Neill wanted to give children the possibility to live as individuals without being dictated by authorities like parents and educators. Participation in classes at Summerhill are voluntary, which often leads to debates over the Summerhill education system in public.

The three main characteristics of Summerhill are: self-responsibility, self-determined learning and moral disposition. The principle is a free form of education but not free from education.


Rules and responsibilities

The difference between Summerhill and traditional schools is the fact that most of the rules in Summerhill are defined by children. In this way, both students and children agree on the rules.

Everyday school life is organized in a way that there is a separation of powers on the basis of democratic fundamentals. The committee, the ombudspersons, the tribunal and the meeting divide the tasks within the school.

The judiciary board tribunal takes place every week where children and educators discuss problems and take votes. Punishment could be washing the dishes or helping in the theatre group.

The meeting acts as a legislative board which sets the rules and laws for Summerhill. Each participant (a student or teacher) has a vote and the majority rules.

In some areas, only the head office has the authority to decide what is best for the school. These areas are: health, security and administration as well as regulation of school fees, employment of new teachers etc. The students live under prohibition – meaning absolutely no alcohol.

Further information can be obtained here: Summerhill School.