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Summerhill: A Humanistic Case Study

Summerhill was founded in 1921. The school is located about 100 miles fromLondon, England in the village of Leiston.

Children at Summerhill range from age five to sixteen. In fact,children usually only remain at the school until the age of sixteen. Typically,there are about 25 boys and 20 girls enrolled at the school, at any given time.

The children are divided into three groups:
1. The young group: ages 5 to 7
2. The intermediate group: ages 8 to 10
3. The oldest group: ages 11 to 15

The children come from a diversified background, typically meaning childrencome from foreign countries. For instance, in 1960, the school had fiveScandinavians, one Hollander, one German and one American (Neill, 1960).

The students are housed by age groups with a house mother for each group. Theboys live two or three to a room, and so do the girls. The children do notreceive room inspections, and no one cleans up their living quarters after them."They are left free" (Neill, 1960).

Summerhill began as an experimental school in1921. Neill believed that, as of 1960, the school was no longer classified assuch. Instead, he termed Summerhill as a demonstration school. Summerhilldemonstrated that freedom does work.

Neill said,

"When we founded the school, we had one main idea: to makethe school fit the child - instead of making the child fit the school. I hadtaught in ordinary schools for many years. I knew the other way well. I knew itwas all wrong. It was wrong because it was based on an adult conception of whata child should be and of how a child should learn. The school was designed sothat children were allowed the freedom to learn for themselves…My view isthat a child is innately wise and realistic. If left to himself or herselfwithout adult suggestion of any kind, he or she will develop as far as he or sheis capable of developing. Logically, Summerhill is a place in which people whohave the innate ability and wish to be scholars will be scholars; while thosewho are only fit to sweep the streets will sweep the streets" (Neill,1960).

For those interested in taking a closer look at the various componentsof Summerhill, the following will provide richer information about theSummerhill school system.

What is Summerhill like?

The 10 Principles Underlying the Summerhill SchoolSystem

If you would like to learn more about the Summerhill School of today pleasecheck out their web site.



This tutorial was originally created by Kelly LaBare.