N is for A.S. Neill: Talking About Summerhill

A.S. Neill’s approach to education was controversial. He created a school at Summerhill in which children had freedom to play and be themselves. But there was a proviso.

He believed in giving children freedom, but not license to hurt others.

This was a point that was often overlooked by those who tried to copy his methods. Neill believed it was vital to for children to follow ethical standards.

If a child wanted to play drums, for example, that was fine. But not to create noise that interfered with the freedom of others.

Summerhill book cover

In this documentary from 1964 he outlines some aspects of his philosophy. The film was called Here and Now and was directed by Harry Aldous for Anglia Television.

The school continues to exist today. Here is an extract from its current web site.

Summerhill School was founded in 1921 at a time when the rights of individuals were less respected than they are today.

Children were beaten in most homes at some time or another and discipline was the key work in child rearing.

Through its self-government and freedom it has struggled for more than eighty years against pressures to conform, in order to give children the right to decide for themselves.

The school is now a thriving democratic community, showing that children learn to be self-confident, tolerant and considerate when they are given space to be themselves.



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