The A.S.Neill Archive and Research Centre

Promoting Summerhill Values in Education 

For nearly 100 years, Summerhill School, founded by A.S.Neill in 1921, has championed education of the whole child through democracy and self-regulation. A.S.Neill’s ideas about childhood and learning have influenced generations of educators and many of Summerhill’s innovations have shifted global understanding around education. Summerhill’s values continue to provide solid foundations upon which inclusive and mutually respectful communities can be built.

As part of our Centenary Celebrations, we are creating the A.S.Neill Archive and Research Centre, a purpose built space comprising an archive, library, conference centre, training suite, event and exhibition space and virtual learning facilities. This exciting learning space will have the ability to stream conference and workshop activity to an international audience, produce webcasts and connect with university courses and seminars.


Our Centre will support meaningful research partnerships with universities, schools and national governments. The main aim will be to encourage an in-depth understanding of the Summerhill values in relation to childhood, education, community and humanity as well as to support those working within these fields to discern which elements could be implemented in their settings.


Given the importance of A.S.Neill’s writings and Summerhill’s experience, the Centre will collate, catalogue and preserve more than a century’s worth of archive materials some dating from before the school’s foundation. It will also act as a living archive of Summerhill School itself, constantly producing and preserving unique information about community life within the oldest children’s democracy in the world. A specialised passive archive facility will enable the A.S.Neill Centre to protect the legacy of Summerhill and its founder while also enabling the experience, methods and insights to be studied, researched and shared broadly for the benefit of the educational thinking and practice internationally.


Both A.S.Neill’s writings and his philosophy’s continued influence on global educational practice as well as the school’s enduring success has lead to Summerhill being one of the most inspirational schools and communities for the past 100 years. As a result, the national and international demand to visit and experience Summerhill from teachers, schools, educationalists, researchers and students, has been exceeding the school’s hosting capacity without infringing on the community itself. To meet this demand, which is only set to grow with the approaching centenary and beyond, a dedicated centre is required that can host meaningful visits for study, sharing knowledge and innovation and has the facilities to reach out to many more people virtually. There is also a burning need to properly catalogue and archive a very broad range of materials, records, manuscripts, minutes, diaries and photographs for long term public benefit.

Programme Strands

We envisage a number of programme strands to be developed by and run from the A.S.Neill Centre that could include: 

  • Teacher development – Physical and virtual courses for teachers from UK and from around the world on Summerhill values, philosophy and educational practice.
  • Courses for parents – Physical and virtual sessions on understanding the Summerhill values and approach to child-rearing.
  • A.S.Neill Centre events – Gatherings, discussions, workshops, conferences based around the philosophy and practice of A.S.Neill and Summerhill School. Also, inspired by the success of the Summerhill Experience Event we are planning to collaborate with the school to host similar events enriched by the A.S.Neill Archive and Research Centre’s resources and facilities.
  • University partnerships – Staff and student development courses, module provision, research projects and collaboration for the development of programmes funded by UK, European or international bodies.
  • Professional support for schools – Interested in incorporating aspects of Summerhill’s values and methods into their school curriculum and practice or adopting them as a whole school approach. 
  • School start-up professional support – Working closely with individuals or groups who are looking to set up a new school or education environment and would like to adopt aspects of the Summerhill approach including core values, learning, community life, the democratic meeting process etc.


In an effort to highlight the importance of childhood and education to individuals but also to the present and future of humanity, we would like to support research initiatives that could benefit from exploring the origins, values, culture, philosophy and 100 years of evolving practice of the Summerhill School community. Our intention is to work with a number of universities and other educational bodies to maximise the research potential of the A.S.Neill Centre and to underpin the drift from the traditional positivist perspective to a multi-paradigmatic approach to humanities and social sciences. A list of potential areas of research could include:

  • A.S.Neill writings
  • A.S.Neill’s background and early life
  • Summerhill’s origins
  • Summerhill’s meetings, laws, court case etc.
  • Freedom not licence
  • Free, pure and uninterrupted play
  • Risk taking & personal development
  • Incidental learning
  • Social & emotional development
  • Self-governance
  • Emotional connection & responsibility to community
  • Self-awareness, -regulation and -direction
  • Non-compulsory lessons
  • Students’ voice
  • Childrens’ rights
  • Social anthropology
  • Citizenship education
  • Sustainability education
  • Sociology of education

At a time when people all over the world are looking for ways to move away from the industrial treatment of children’s education,  the A.S.Neill Archive and Research Centre’s role is more significant now than ever before because,

“The future of Summerhill itself may be of little import. But the Summerhill idea is of the greatest importance to humanity. New generations must be given the chance to grow in freedom. The bestowal of freedom is the bestowal of love. And only love can save the world.” – A.S.Neill, 1963