I have been reading with interest about the government’s new plan to set up free schools and I have been wondering how many Montessori schools will be taking advantage of these reforms?
Free schools are a flagship part of the new Government's reforms to education in England. They allow groups of local parents, teachers or charities to establish their own school and choose their own pedagogy. Like academies, they'll be outside local authority control and will receive money directly from the Department for Education. They will have substantial freedom to set their own ethos and subject specialisms. This obviously seems very appealing to those of us in the Montessori movement who have long regretted the fact that Montessori is mainly available to those who can afford it and that in the very few number of state Montessori schools that exist compromises have been made.
We know of several school owners who are presently making applications to set up free schools. However, it also seems a little too good to be true. It seems unlikely that the government will allow the kind of freedom they are suggesting. How will they assess whether the schools are a success or not? This will have to be done by measuring the children’s progress and as soon as standard tests are devised to measure children’s progress we are back in the same situation of teaching to a curriculum. So whilst the Montessori movement welcomes the initiative, we are also waiting to see whether it is really going to give us the freedom to practise authentic Montessori unfettered by government restraints.