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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79

The Montessori Movement in England

page 22

The Montessori Movement in England.

In England, and in Great Britain generally, the greatest interest in the Montessori system prevails among teachers and educationists, and there is much earnest discussion as to the possibility of applying it to present conditions. The questions asked by English teachers are the same as those asked by American and Australian teachers. This system may be all very well (say those who have not tried it) for Italian children, but how will it act with English children? Is it workable with large classes? Is the child never to be asked to do anything he does not like? How can a teacher do individual work with a class of fifty children? If the child is allowed to choose his own work, will not his education be one-sided?

Perhaps the best answer to these questions is the practical result of some of the careful experiments carried out in different parts of England and with children of different social grades:—
1.In Norfolk a class of village children, whose ages range from 3 to 6, has been in operation since August of last year. It is held at Old Hall, Runton, the residence of Mr. Bertram Hawker. Mr. Hawker converted a room in his house into a Montessori school, in order to prove whether this system, so successful with Italian children, was applicable or not to the needs of English children. I spent a day in Mr. Hawker's school, and no better proof of the suitability of the system to English children could be given than this experiment furnishes.
2.A village school in Buckinghamshire, under the control of the County Education Committee, was started in April, of this year, under Miss Lidbetter, a lady who had studied under Dr. Montessori in Rome. The accounts of this school are most favourable, the results being very similar to those at Runton.
3.The Fielden School, Manchester.—In this school a laboratory test was carried out under the supervision of Professor Findlay, and the results, as stated by the Professor in an address given by him last March at the College of Preceptors, are, briefly, that the Montessori system—
(a)Accelerated the normal development of the child on many sides of his nature.
(b)That it fostered independence and self-reliance.
(c)And that it produced unselfishness and consideration for others.
4.An experiment with the children of the rich.—In the autumn of; 1912, Mrs. Sanderson, of Lyndhurst, started a Montessori class for her own children and those of her neighbouring friends. The class is under the direction of Miss Dufresne, who had previously studied the system in Rome. The experiment is considered an undoubted success, and proves the applicability of the system to rich as well as to poor children.page 23
5.The Canterbury Road Council Infant School experiment is very similar to the experiment carried out at Blackfriars, Sydney. The teachers conducting the experiment had never been to Rome, and had never seen a Montessori school at work. They carefully studied the book and applied the method with results very similar to those obtained at Blackfriars.—
(a)The two classes at Canterbury Road in which the experiment is being tried number respectively forty-eight and sixty children.
(b)Each class is under one teacher.
(c)The results in each case are so gratifying that the mistress, Miss Phillips, has decided to extend it gradually through her school. The thing that impresses Miss Phillips most strongly in the Montessori system is the effect of freedom on the character.
6.In Sunderland, in the north of England, Miss Kate Bryers, head mistress of the Barnes Infant School, is carrying out a Montessori experiment in the babies' class in her school. The experiment was only begun in July, but, like all the others previously mentioned, it promises to be highly successful.
7.The London County Council has introduced the Montessori apparatus into one or two of its schools, and one of the leading mistresses was sent to Rome at the beginning of this year to study the method, with a view to introducing it more largely in the Council's schools. This lady had returned to London, and was about to begin operations when I left.
8.In March, 1912, a Montessori Society was started in England. This Society numbers among its members many leaders of educational thought, and it has for its object the introduction of the Montessori system of education into England.

These are a few of the schools in England in which the Montessori method has been tried and so far found successful. They do not by any means represent all the schools that are taking it up. Indeed, before I left England, it was scarcely possible to visit a school that was not doing something in the matter. In and around London many schools were beginning the experiment of applying the Montessori principle of self-education through liberty to the older pupils.