School hits all the headlines

PUBLISHED: 06:13 18 January 2007 | UPDATED: 21:31 29 May 2010

STEBBING Primary School has been hitting the headlines of the national press after it became the second state primary school to adopt a controversial teaching method, which bans tests. The school, which has 90 pupils, first started using the Montessori me

STEBBING Primary School has been hitting the headlines of the national press after it became the second state primary school to adopt a controversial teaching method, which bans tests.

The school, which has 90 pupils, first started using the Montessori method for its reception class in September and has been very impressed by the educational philosophy so far.

The Montessori approach focuses on the individuality of each child's needs and talents as opposed to those of the whole class.

Headteacher Janet Matthews said: "We are very happy, it's very exciting to take on the approach and the children are very settled."

The method favours children learning at their own pace and a ban on testing and exams. The classroom environment is particularly important with brightly-coloured displays banned from the classroom so as not too over-stimulate children.

Mrs Matthews said: "The curriculum is a mix of what we believe in and the Montessori philosophy. The children work for three hours in the morning without an artificial break, such as assembly or playtime, and then for two hours after lunch.

"We were very sceptical at first, but children do want longer on some tasks than others."

The primary school also saw the opening of the Maynard Montessori Nursery in September, easing the move into Montessori methods at the primary school.

"The parents have responded very well. A lot have already sent children to the Montessori nursery at the school," said Mrs Matthews.

The Stebbing School has been supported by the Montessori St Nicholas charity that promotes

the Montessori method across Great Britain.

Phillip Bujak, chief executive of Montessori St Nicholas charity, said: "I hope once we see the success at Gorton and Stebbing, people will take a bit more interest. What we have is applicable in every school."

The school will receive £20,000 each year in funding from the Montessori St Nicholas charity as part of a five-year plan.

"We have a five year plan we will review after year one. We both accept this is an ongoing scheme."

The Montessori method, which is more popular in nursery schools and many private schools, was widely used in state schools until the 1970s, but lost popularity in favour of schools using testing.

Critics of the method have highlighted elitism among schools caused by high equipment costs and argue that children are too free.

The philosophy was developed in the early 1900s by Dr Maria Montessori in Rome and is popular in the United States where it is widely practised.

FACTFILE...

- Maria Montessori was born in Ancona, Italy in 1870.

- She was the first female physician in Italy graduating top of her class at the University of Rome.

- Ms Montessori set up teacher training courses in London in 1919.

- She founded Montessori Centre in London in 1947.

- She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times in 1949, 1950, and 1951.

- Ms Montessori died in Noordwijk, The Netherlands, in 1952.

- Famous past students of the Montessori method include Hollywood actor George Clooney, Ann Frank, actress Helen Hunt, author Gabriel Garcia Marquez and rapper Sean 'Diddy' Coombs.

- The Gorton Mount School in Manchester was the first state-funded school to adopt the method two years ago.

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