Summerhill School

Some readers may know of AS Neill’s imaginative democratic school in Suffolk. Since Neill’s death the school has been run by his wife and then by his daughter Zoë. After 78 years the school continues to run successfully.

Until this year the school had always passed Government inspections, often attracting glowing praise for its innovative work. However this year Ofsted decided, following another inspection, that the school was to be threatened with closure. This despite the high degree of satisfaction from parents and children and the fact that the school gets better than average GCSE results.

Given that Summerhill’s principles are close to those of SML, Ian Cunningham decided to attend a conference at the school in July and subsequently agreed with the school to chair an alternative inspection team. This team has now been constituted as a ‘Commission of Inquiry into Summerhill School’. The commission has been joined by an impressive team of people including head teachers, university professors and people from the organisational world.

The commission will carry out an independent inspection in keeping with the philosophy of the school and present its report to the school and to the Department for Education and Employment.

The school is appealing against the threat of closure and the appeal is due to be heard in February, so the inquiry team will aim to get its report finished in time for the appeal committee to receive it.

If you would like to keep in touch with developments, please contact Ian Cunningham.

Addendum: You can now read the Summerhill School report under “Publications”.