Summerhill is a powerful emotional drama for children and adults from Tiger
Aspect for BBC4 and CBBC. It is a story of personal transformation set against
the eponymous school's battle for survival with Ofsted in 1999.
9pm, Monday 28th Jan, BBC4
Episode 1, 6pm, Monday 21st Jan, CBBC and repeated 4:30pm, Wednesday 23rd Jan, BBC1
Episode 2, 6pm, Tuesday 22nd Jan, CBBC and repeated 4:30pm, Thursday 24th Jan, BBC1
Episode 3, 6pm, Monday 28th Jan, CBBC and repeated 4:30pm, Wednesday 30th Jan, BBC1
Episode 4, 6pm, Tuesday 29th Jan, CBBC and repeated 4:30pm, Thursday 31st Jan, BBC1
In 1999 Ofsted inspected the internationally famous 'free school' Summerhill.
Despite the fact that the school achieved higher than national average exam
pass rates and an unprecedented level of parental and pupil satisfaction,
Ofsted issued a notice of complaint effectively seeking the school's closure.
What lay behind this clash?
Summerhill school was founded in 1921 by world-renowned educator A S Neill
on the principles of self-regulation. The unique Suffolk based boarding school
runs as a self-governing democratic community. Pupils (aged 5 to 16), teachers,
live-in house parents and Headmistress Zoe Readhead, (Neill's daughter) only
possess one equal vote which they use during their thrice weekly school meetings
to decide on all matters pertaining to the running of the school. This is no
toothless school council. The amending, abolishing and making of rules, matters
of discipline, extra-curricular activities etc, all are decided democratically,
with a rotating chairperson drawn from the school's entire community. The children
police themselves, dealing with infractions of their multitudinous self-imposed
laws with surprising compassion and wisdom. The only rule they cannot change
is the prime principle upon which A S Neill founded the school; that no child
should be compelled to attend any lesson that they do not choose freely by
themselves. And it was this guiding principle, at odds with everything Ofsted
and the newly elected Labour government's "education, education, education" manifesto
stood for, that put the highly successful school at the top of a hit list otherwise
reserved for failing institutions.
Ofsted's notice of complaint required the school to abandon the key freedoms
it offered its pupils. Facing closure if it failed to comply, the school instead
took Ofsted to court and fought for its survival.
This fast-paced vibrant drama is aimed at a broad audience and offers the suspense
generated by its compelling true David and Goliath story with the emotion and
humour of semi-fictionalised tales of personal transformation. Partly filmed
at the real Summerhill school with Summerhillians taking some of the roles,
the drama is inspired by real events and aims to entertainingly contribute
to the wider national debate around the fundamental aims and methodology of
education in the UK.
Cast & Crew
Written by Alison Hume (Pure, The Vice, Rocket Man, New Tricks), produced by
Stephen Smallwood (Murphy's Law, Colditz, Cadfael), exec produced for Tiger
Aspect by Greg Brenman (Billy Eliot, Robin Hood, Omagh), exec produced for
the BBC and directed by Jon East (Bodies, Silent Witness, The Vice).
Music by Sheridan Tongue (Spooks, Silent Witness), Cinematography by Dave Marsh
(Fear of Fanny, Bonekickers), Editing by Helen Chapman, (Murphy's Law).
The cast includes Ron Cook (Hot Fuzz, Thunderbirds), Annette Badland (Doctor
Who, Cutting It), Jessie Cave (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince), Tracy
Ann-Oberman (Sorted), Connor MacIntyre (Drop Dead Gorgeous). Richard Lintern
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