Summerhill was founded in 1921 by A. S Neill, a Scottish writer and
He created a community in which children could be free from adult
authority. The school and his ideas became world-famous through Neill’s
writings and lectures, his books are still published worldwide. In
the late 60s Neill’s success at Summerhill was finally recognised
and he was awarded honorary degrees from the Universities of Newcastle,
Exeter and Essex. He was also recognised amongst the top 12 men and
women who have influenced British schooling during the last millennium
by the Times Educational Supplement (31.12.1999)
In the current educational climate in which pupils have little or
no control over the running of their schools and certainly no control
what they learn, the public good can only profit from exposure to alternative
philosophies. Neill’s has stood the test of time far longer than
any other educational philosophy or initiative, whether radical or mainstream.
Dr Alan Thomas Visiting Fellow University of London Institute of Education.
What cannot be doubted is that a piece of fascinating and invaluable
educational research is going on here it would do all educationalists
good to see.
Ministry of Education HM Inspectors Report, June 1949
Both in his writings and the remarkable school which he founded,
he (A.S. Neill) has left us an extremely precious heritage. Neill was
of the great original thinkers in education in the 20th Century.
Sir Christopher Ball Chancellor, University of Derby
Neill’s educational philosophy has had a major and significant
impact on a worldwide scale.
John MacBeath OBE, Professor of Educational Leadership at University
One of the main tenets of Neill’s work has to do with the academic
and cultural worth of incorporating non-partisan democratic values within
the educational curriculum and process itself. Indeed, his philosophy
(including this tenet) has to some extent been adopted by mainstream
educational practice world-wide.
Herbert Blumberg Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Goldsmith’s
College, University of London
His (Neill’s) system has had a profound effect on human rights
law as it affects children. It pioneered the idea which is fundamental
to Summerhill, that children have rights, that they are not owned by
parents or teacher, that it is a crime to assault them physically and
a serious mistake to force them to act against their will except out
of consideration for others.
These tenets were seen as absolutely revolutionary in the 1920s. They were
described as anarchic. They are now to be found in the 1989 convention on the
rights of the child, ratified by 189 nations of the world.
Geoffrey Robertson QC
Summerhill has stood by its principles for nearly eighty years whilst
the state system has veered in one direction or another according to
the particular predilections of the government of the day. Even those
who do not fully agree with the philosophy enshrined in Summerhill practice
have often acknowledged a profound debt to an alternative opinion and
example which provokes a re-evaluation of one’s own deepest assumptions
about children and their education from well before this was taken at
all seriously in the state system.
Stuart Ainsworth Senior Lecturer in Educational studies Co-director of
the Equality and Discrimination, Strathclyde University
A.S. Neill 1883-1973 Scottish born and educated, Neill founded Summerhill
school in Suffolk where his iconoclastic views on education were given
free rein. Although pupil numbers were small, Neill’s numerous
publication and lectures made him the best known British progressive
educationist of the twentieth century.
On Giants Shoulder; Millennium Edition, Times Educational Supplement
I was asked as an independent outside expert to report on the school
for the purpose of its dispute with the then Department for Education
and Employment in 2000, which ended successfully for the school. It is
interesting to note that as part of the those proceedings before the
Independent Schools Tribunal, A. S. Neill’s educational philosophy
was explicitly accepted by the Department as an established strand of
modern educational theory.
Ian Cunningham Visiting professor in the School of Lifelong Learning
and Education at Middlesex University
In December 1999 I was asked to act as an ‘expert witness’ for
Summerhill School in their challenge to the 1999 HMI evaluation of the
school. My judgements were based on considerable fieldwork in the school
itself, interviewing pupils and teachers; examination of extensive ‘independent
evaluation’ launched by another group of experts; and an examination
of the validity of the HMI inspection of the school in March 1999. My
evaluation of the school included work done by Professors Barry MacDonald,
Saville Kushner, Harry Torrance and Julie Allan. The research was supported
by the Nuffield Foundation.
I found clear evidence that the school was meeting and exceeding its
aims, that parents were universally very satisfied with the education
of their children and that the inspection process had been deeply flawed.
Ian Stronach Education Research Professor, Manchester Metropolitan University