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Demand grows among parents for Montessori schools in UK

Lost in our own little world that is our child’s astonishing learning activity in his or her classroom, it’s easy to forget that the Montessori Method is the embodiment of educational best practices all over the world. Montessori is growing in popularity in the U.S. because it supplies educational results. As the conversation grows around how to ‘fix’ the American system of education, especially at an early age, perceived best practices (though sometimes called something else) continually look a lot like the Montessori Method.

Demand is growing the world over. In the United Kingdom for example…. [What follows is an excerpt from a recent Nursery World UK article] ….

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Montessori nursery schools in the UK are thriving and rising in number, a census carried out by the Montessori Schools Association (MSA) has revealed.

 

The results provide a snapshot of the state of Montessori education in 2013 and show a growing demand for information and awareness about the educational philosophy.Membership of the MSA now numbers 679 schools, with 75 new members since the last census in 2009.The MSA estimates that there are around 700 Montessori schools and nurseries in the UK, most of which are members of the association.

The majority of Montessori settings offer pre-school education for children aged two to five years old, with 22 of the 177 schools that took part in the census offering provision for children aged six and older.

Based on the census results, the MSA estimates that 30,590 children attend Montessori settings in the UK.

Quality is also high among Montessori settings. Of those that took part in the survey, 91 per cent were graded outstanding or good in their last Ofsted inspection.

The MSA, set up by the Montessori St Nicholas Charity, currently has around 4,000 members and supports Montessori schools, teachers and students in the UK.

Philip Bujak, chief executive of the Montessori St Nicholas Charity, said, ‘The key point is that schools are continuing to get stronger.

‘The total number of parents is growing, as well as turnover, which shows that parents are willing to pay to access a Montessori alternative.’

The association says that parents are attracted to Montessori nurseries because children tend to be ‘very socially comfortable and confident because they have been encouraged to problem solve and think independently’.

Montessori nurseries were asked to indicate their annual turnover. The majority of those that responded had a turnover of under £100,000 a year, but ten schools had a turnover of more than £400,000 a year.

The MSA estimates the total annual turnover of its member settings has risen by just under a quarter (23 per cent) in the past four years to reach £74m.

The charity’s mission has always been to widen access to Montessori education.

There are now five state-funded Montessori primary schools and the MSA has been lobbying to open more.

Mr Bujak said that at the moment, ‘demand and interest can only be met by the private sector, but we want Montessori to be accessible for everyone’.

He added, ‘We want parents to access Montessori for free and we’re looking for vehicles (to do that). One hundred Montessori free schools would be wonderful. The principle is not the problem, it’s the quality control.’

The fate of the Discovery New School, the first state-funded Montessori free school, is a case in point. Last month, the failing school had its funding withdrawn by the Department for Education and is expected to close at the end of this term.

Montessori St Nicholas had been keen to offer support when the school first showed signs of being in trouble, but it was not until the axe was looming that the school sought advice from the charity.

According to Mr Bujak, the Montessori education element at the school was at ‘a superficial level’.

Mr Bujak is due to meet with schools minister Lord Nash and the school’s chair of governors Chris Cook this week. ‘We’re on a watching brief,’ he said.

The MSA’s Community Manifesto, launched last year, is a two-year plan for widening access to the Montessori method to include the most disadvantaged communities.

This month, the charity is running free parenting workshops for parents and carers of under-fives at the V&A Museum of Childhood in east London. It has also launched a project with teenage parents in Bristol and a Montessori course for childminders (see box).