Here you can see new and unprecedented insights into the oldest children’s community in the world. We want you to get a real sense of what happens within the school on a day to day basis.
To fully get a feel for life at Summerhill as you take a look around, it is important to understand the values that underpin our community’s way of life.
Summerhill life is based on A.S.Neill’s core principle of “freedom not Licence”, this, put simply, means that every member of the community has individual freedom but they cannot infringe on another’s freedom. This principle is self-governed through democratic meetings held three times a week. In these meetings absolutely everything to do with our daily lives is discussed and decided, and every member of the community, from the youngest child to the oldest adult, has an equal vote and the right to be heard.
Another fundamental and renowned aspect of life at Summerhill is non-compulsory lessons. This element nurtures a self directed, purely individual, emotional and positive relationship to learning. In this environment children have the time, space and facilities to do what children naturally do best… play, play, play and, well, play!
When given this freedom, children spend time doing what is right for them, relevant to the specific stage of development they are in; this is fundamentally done through forms of play.
“Arrive on any day at Summerhill and the first thing you will see are children playing. Spontaneous, wonderful play. They play indoors, they play outside, they play the right way up and they play upside down. Some games are sensible and seem to have a point, some are totally silly in every way. Playing is what Summerhill kids do, like kittens tumbling out of a box.”
– Zoe Readhead, Principal of Summerhill School
Children of all ages play at Summerhill, not just the little ones. As they get older this play evolves through many different forms; imaginative games, finding and following an interest or hobbie, socialising, emotionally engaging, physical risk-taking and much much more… these are all essential aspects of a child’s journey through self-discovery, resulting in self-understanding, awareness and empathy towards others, and in turn, self-confidence and independence. This process is taking place in every moment of everyday life at Summerhill; it is spontaneous, instinctive and individualised, and is arguably the most important aspect of A.S.Neill’s educational philosophy: a fulfilled childhood leads to a happy child, a happy child is a happy adult – “Being happy is what matters most” – A.S.Neill, Founder of Summerhill School 1921
Below are just some of the things that happen at school on a daily basis. Please take some time to have a look around, we hope you enjoy this window into our world.