Sophie Atherton poses the question, "Who needs school?"
PUBLISHED: 16:52 27 January 2011 | UPDATED: 20:34 20 February 2013
There's more than one way to educate your children. You don't even have to send them to school – although you must provide an education that enables them to function properly in society.
Sophie Atherton poses the question, Who needs school?
Theres more than one way to educate your children. You dont even have to send them to school although you must provide an education that enables them to function properly in society.
So, is the news that two Somerset primaries are set to close the problem it appears to be? Pupil numbers at Compton Dundon and Kingsdon VC Primary Schools have apparently fallen rapidly over the last three years, so they now have only nine and eleven children respectively.
Somerset County Council says it wont close schools purely because of pupil numbers but claims concerns have been raised about how having so few peers will impact on well-being, education and ability to learn vital social skills. The age range of pupils means some have no classmates at all but if the proposed closures are about childrens well-being rather than saving money why cant all the pupils be taught in one class and given age-appropriate tasks to fit the topic?
Montessori-style teaching maintains they could. It actively encourages mixed age groups and arranges them according to planes of development, one such being 6-12 the age of primary pupils in mainstream schools.
In a mixed aged grouping the younger ones learn social skills, work, manners and courtesy from the older age group and the older ones gain confidence and self-esteem in sharing those skills, says Jo Gower-Crane, a Montessori student working at the Stanger Montessori in Weston-super-Mare.
Its less about standing at the front of the room and teaching than spotting when a child is interested in something and following that interest.
She is hoping to set up her own school for 3-11-year-olds in the village of Bleadon and says all the pupils will be taught at the same time but in a classroom which provides psychological separation by using age, size and ability-appropriate fittings and furniture. Its not a one size fits all in Montessori, she explains. Its less about standing at the front of the room and teaching than spotting when a child is interested in something and following that interest.
Which surely begs the question (provided its not just one of money), why close a school when you could adapt it to suit the pupils? Granted the reasons were different, but a number of state schools around the UK have done just that by teaming up with Montessori education charities to create establishments partly funded by public money.
Local MP, and coalition minister, David Heath says hes a supporter of small schools but thinks if roll numbers fall there comes a point at which they arent viable in terms of what they can offer pupils. He added: When that point is reached is a decision best left to parents and governors. But while a school is offering a good educational experience to pupils, then its size is irrelevant. If its not, then it makes sense to look at alternative arrangements.
I just hope the alternative is something more imaginative than closing the schools.
Somerset County Councils consultation on the proposed closures are due to close on 28 January. If a decision is made to close the schools it will be in effect from August.