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Appendix I -

The Inquiry Team

Appendix II -

Education for Democratic Citizenship

Appendix III -

International comparisons

Appendix IV -

Recommendations for the inspection of exceptional educational institutions and learning environments

Appendix V -

Summerhill as a community

Appendix VI -

Legal issues


Stuart Ainsworth

Stuart Ainsworth is currently employed at the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow) as a member of the Educational Studies Department and co-director of the Equality and Discrimination Centre of that department. Prior to going to Strathclyde in 1976, he was for seven years a lecturer in Philosophy of Education at the University of Waikato, New Zealand and before that a member of staff at the University of Melbourne from 1967-1968. His previous teaching career was in Primary Education in Bedfordshire and then Tasmania, having studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Oxford.

Dr Ian Cunningham

Ian Cunningham chairs the Centre for Self Managed Learning (a non-profit company limited by guarantee) and Strategic Developments International Ltd. (a consultancy company). He is also a Visiting Professor at Middlesex University and a member of the Adjunct Faculty of the Fielding Institute in California. From 1987-1993 he was Chief Executive of Roffey Park Management Institute and previous to that he had been a teacher, a manager, a trainer, a company director, a head of division in a business school and a researcher. He has published over 100 articles, papers and books in the areas of learning and management.

Dr Harry Gray

Harry Gray chairs the MES Group Ltd. and is a Visiting Professor at the University of Salford. He also chairs the European Network for Innovation and Learning in Organisations and Communities. He has been a teacher in schools and in universities as well as a business consultant. He has also acted as an adviser on higher education to the Department for Education and Employment. He was the founding editor of the journal ‘Educational Change and Development’ and he has published over 100 articles, papers and books, mainly in the areas of education, management and learning.

Derry Hannam

Derry Hannam received a Bachelor of Education degree from Oxford University and a Master of Philosophy degree from Exeter University for research into aspects of pupil decision making and creativity in arts education. He taught in comprehensive schools for 21 years becoming deputy head and at times acting head of the Anthony Gell Community School in Wirksworth, Derbyshire. He is an Ofsted Trained Inspector who has participated in seventy inspections of comprehensive schools. Currently an adviser to the Council of Europe Education for Democratic Citizenship project he is involved in teacher training in Eastern and Western Europe.

Dr Peter Honey

Peter Honey is a chartered psychologist who works as a management consultant. He worked for Ford Motor Company and British Airways before becoming freelance in 1969. He specialises in anything to do with people's behaviour and its consequences, and divides his work between designing and running training programmes, consultancy assignments and writing. He has written widely on behavioural topics in over fifty publications.

Jill Horsburgh

After graduating in Modern History from the University of Oxford, Jill Horsburgh took a certificate in education from Leicester University. Her first teaching post was at Downe House School and she then moved to Benenden School in 1978. At Benenden she was successively Head of History, Housemistress and Assistant Head. In 1996 she was appointed Head of the Godolphin School, Salisbury.

Colin Reid

Colin Reid has worked all his career in independent boarding schools - as a volunteer in Africa, six years at a conventional public school, followed by nine years as Housemaster and Head of History and Politics at the United World College of the Atlantic - the international sixth form college which pioneered the International Baccalaureate. He has been Head of St Christopher School for nineteen years and he has been on the team at nine independent school inspections. He was chairman of the Boarding Schools Association 1987-89 and is currently on the executive committee of the Society of the Heads of Independent Schools.

Dr Michael Rosen

After taking a degree in English from Oxford University, Michael Rosen took an MA in Children’s Literature and then a PhD in the same field. Since 1976 his work has been a mix of: writing children's books; visiting schools as a performer, a leader of workshops or as a writer in residence; making schools TV and radio programmes usually on literature and poetry; lecturing in children's literature, creativity, children's own writing and children's reading; working for BBC World Service and Radios 3 and 4, usually in the fields of language and literature; and occasional journalism. He has also been an external examiner in the School of Lifelong Learning and Education at Middlesex University.



Education for Citizenship becomes a statutory requirement as part of the National Curriculum for state schools from 2002. This will require ‘...that knowledge and understanding...are acquired and applied when developing skills of enquiry and communication, and participation and responsible action.’ There is extensive research evidence that didactic instruction in authoritarian settings fails to achieve these outcomes. The experience of many pupils in many schools for most of the time, especially secondary schools where the Citizenship Order has statutory effect, is precisely one of being didactically instructed in a compulsory, and inevitably overtly coercive if challenged, classroom setting.

Opportunities for experiential learning of democratic skills are minimal in most classrooms in most schools. Some schools create extra-curricular situations such as school councils but usually these only involve a minority of pupils. Research shows that in over half of the roughly 50 per cent of English secondary schools that have such structures pupils regard them as tokenistic and of no relevance to their experience of school and certainly not positive learning opportunities for participation skills. The introduction of the skills element into the Citizenship Curriculum for all pupils, in particular the inclusion of participation and responsible action skills thus presents a major challenge to current practice in state schools.

In the main body of the Ofsted report on Summerhill (para. 62, p. 11) the inspectors state that ‘...The democratic ethos of the school, its philosophy and values, put it in a very strong position to claim to meet many of the aims of education for citizenship and the teaching of democracy in schools’ This seems to be a convoluted way of saying that it does meet those aims. Main Finding 8 (p. 3) concludes ‘...Because of their democratic participation in most aspects of decision-making in school, pupils have a practical understanding of citizenship.’ We would entirely endorse these judgements especially as these aims are now clearly stated to include the skills of enquiry, communication, participation and responsible action in the National Curriculum Citizenship Order that had not been published at the time of the inspection.

Clearly the skill of responsible action implies the acquisition and engagement of moral values in real situations. There is ample research evidence to demonstrate that exhortation is useless in this field. It is perfectly possible to get all the morally ‘right’ answers in simulations and to behave selfishly and destructively in real life. The ‘practical understanding’ that Ofsted refers to is crucial and very hard to develop in the coercive environments that constitute many schools.

The Ofsted report fails to give sufficient weight to this achievement of Summerhill. It reflects the failure of English politicians and education policy makers to face up to the dilemma that tight adult imposed control over the behaviour of young people is incompatible with the kind of Citizenship learning that it wishes to see. Good citizenship in a democracy, indeed the whole notion of ‘goodness’, implies freedom within the constraints dictated by the equal rights of others. This is achieved magnificently at Summerhill and is a very precious resource for others to study. To ‘kill’ the school at this stage would be analogous to deliberately destroying natural herbs from which pharmaceutical breakthroughs might be obtained.

Throughout the developed world there is grave anxiety about the lack of commitment to democratic values and processes by young people and the realisation that schools must change is becoming widespread in those most closely involved in studying the problem. The IEA (International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement) study in 24 countries concluded at the end of its first phase in 1998 -

The Council of Europe ‘Education for Democratic Citizenship’ project which ends this year stresses the importance of students participating in decision making in schools and also that we know very little about how to bring it about in any meaningful way. When the foreign ministers of the member states, including our own Robin Cook, met in Budapest in May 1999 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Council they included as a key issue in their declaration the importance of ‘learning democracy in school and university life, including participation in decision making and the associated structures of pupils, students and teachers.’

Now is the time to learn from this aspect of Summerhill not to threaten it with closure. The Social Services report comes very close to saying as much. On p. 3 it states that Summerhill ‘...encourages children to participate in decision making about the things which affect their lives...’ (virtually a direct quote from Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child). On p. 4, while being careful to say that it is not their job to comment on academic attainment, it quotes the feelings of the pupils that they have developed, (i.e. learned) citizenship strengths such as tolerance, assertiveness, patience and understanding and concludes ‘... If so, the establishment will have done the pupils and society a service.’ Finally in para 2.3 it concludes that the qualities of Summerhill as a safe, conflict resolving community built on open discussion of real-life problems and concerns provide a model for other schools which ‘...could do worse than replicate the Summerhill approach...’

However you cannot replicate that which does not exist.



Examples of state-funded schools where lesson attendance is not compulsory and inspection is conducted to pre-agreed criteria that reflect this reality.

It must be stressed that these three schools are drawn from examples that exist in many countries such as Australia, Austria, Denmark, Ecuador, Germany, Holland, India, Japan, Nicaragua, Norway, Switzerland, Ukraine, United States of America.

The Danish approach to the funding and inspection of alternative schools is probably the most flexible in the world. There are a number of Summerhill type ‘progressive free schools’ in the country usually parent initiated. Such schools receive government financing regardless of ideology, political or religious motivations. Such schools may seek advice from the Ministry of Education but are subject to a bare minimum of rules as to process or curriculum content. They must in the broadest way ‘measure up’ to the standards of municipal schools but the inspection procedure is under the control of the parents themselves. They must choose a ‘supervisor’ to check the levels of achievement in Danish, mathematics and English only. Obviously a supervisor will be chosen who understands and is sympathetic to the philosophy of the school. Rarely will a supervisor be unsatisfied. In this event he/she is obliged to report this to the local education authority who may require a second ‘inspection.’ In extraordinary circumstances the Ministry may establish ‘special supervision.’ This is extremely rare and requires the school to be teaching Danish so badly that ‘the children’s ability to cope with life in Denmark may be impaired.’

One former Ofsted inspector commented to us: -

"The Ofsted approach to the inspection of innovative democratic schools could well claim to be the most insensitive, unperceptive and intimidatory in the world. It seems to be calculated to deprive the English school system of the kinds of alternatives that are positively encouraged elsewhere."



We urge the Secretary of State to consider making alternative arrangements for the inspection of Summerhill along with other exceptional educational institutions and learning environments. Such arrangements:-

Such an inspection would make comments that would be of value to the school as well as helpful to those elsewhere interested in the school (including many people in other countries) wishing to understand the degree to which Summerhill was succeeding in its aims.

We also urge the Secretary of State to consider the proposals made by Ofstin (the Office for Standards in Inspection) at Durham University. Their ‘Evidence and Recommendations to the Education Sub-committee of the House of Commons Select Committee on Education and Employment’ submitted in January 1999 has some useful ideas which could help to provide a better framework for inspecting schools such as Summerhill. We especially commend the following suggestions from Ofstin:-

The Ofsted inspection could have been more valid if it had worked to the above principles.



This is a ‘safe’ school both physically and psychologically. The sense of safety comes in part from the presence of caring adults and friendly open peers but also very substantially from the structure of the weekly meetings and tribunals which make it possible to bring issues that threaten individual or collective well-being to public attention. This was overwhelmingly the view of the pupils - in fact we could not find any who would say otherwise. It was also the unanimous view of the parents in the often very moving questionnaire replies. This is a very important statement to be able to make about Summerhill and one that cannot be securely made about a significant number of supposedly successful schools in both the maintained and the private sectors where bullying that is psychologically and physically menacing is not uncommon.

Relationships between pupils are generally very good. The commonly observed tendency for pupils to socialise in racially homogenous groups was almost totally absent at Summerhill. The absence of conventional gender stereotyping was also impressive. Boys and girls spontaneously worked together on committees and around the computers, played table tennis and skateboarded in mixed groups, and sat together at mealtimes. The school’s aim to be a place ‘...where children are given the space to be themselves...’ is being realised. Although the hierarchy of progressive privilege, based largely on age, was to some extent evident in social groupings, many examples of pupils sharing experiences across a wide age range were also observed. It is almost impossible for a pupil to avoid taking responsibility for some aspect of school community life. There are committees for End of Term, Bar, Cafe, Skateboarding, Shop, Social, and the Prevention of Swindling (monitors large transactions between older and younger pupils) together with Ombudsmen, Beddies Officers and the officers of the Meeting and the Tribunal.

Relationships between staff and pupils are also very good. There was a complete absence of the fear and apprehension often to be found in schools. A range of feelings could be safely expressed with a result that mutual respect was the norm.

Staff have often been at the school for a shorter time than the pupils and it could be helpful for the school to have a lower staff turnover. However relationships between staff appear to be becoming more mutually supportive and collegial than may previously have been the case. There was certainly evidence that more experienced teachers were sharing their skills and systems with relative beginners.



The European Convention on Human Rights, U.K. Law and Summerhill's Philosophy

The following are notes based on various provisions of and findings under the European Convention on Human Rights and relevant UK legislation. We believe they may well be germane to the fundamental question of whether Summerhill has a legal right to continue its own philosophically distinctive path. Included in these notes are quotations from relevant legal sources.

A. The European Convention: Parental "Philosophical Convictions"

  1. It seems clear under Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights that, in the exercise of any functions which they assume with respect to education and teaching, states have a general legal duty to respect the religious and philosophical convictions of parents.

    "No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions."

  2. From the definitions given in important cases there seems little doubt that the views and values lying behind Summerhill’s practice would count as "convictions".

    "In its ordinary meaning the word "convictions"... denotes views that attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.’

  3. Below we set out several important considerations as to why the convictions underpinning Summerhill should be viewed as meeting other key criteria for being "philosophical convictions". These criteria are that they "relate to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour", and that they are "worthy of respect in a 'democratic society'" and are "not incompatible with human dignity".

    "Having regard to the Convention as a whole, including Article 17, the expression "philosophical convictions" in the present context denotes, in the Court’s opinion, such convictions as are worthy of respect in a "democratic society" and are not incompatible with human dignity: in addition, they must not conflict with the fundamental right of the child to education, the whole of Article 2 being dominated by its first sentence.’

B. The European Convention on Human Rights & the Right of the Child to Education

  1. Parental convictions may, however, in particular cases be deemed to "conflict with the fundamental right of the child to education". In any such case the first sentence of Article 2 of Protocol 1 ("No person shall be denied the right to education") would take precedence over parents' convictions.
  2. Importantly in this respect, in the case of Campbell and Cosans v United Kingdom, "education" was defined as follows:

    "the education of children is the whole process whereby, in any society, adults endeavour to transmit their beliefs, culture and other values to the young, whereas teaching or instruction refers in particular to the transmission of knowledge and to intellectual development.’.

  3. It is a matter where judgements might differ, but there is an arguable case that, by contrast with some current emphases in state schooling in England, which concentrate more on "teaching or instruction", Summerhill has always given the wider aspects of "education" more prominence and therefore could hardly be said to be denying its pupils their right to education.

C. The UK reservation to Article 2 Protocol 1

  1. At the time of its signing Protocol 1 the UK government entered a reservation about article 2 of Protocol 1.

    '... in view of certain provisions of the Education Acts in force in the United Kingdom, the principle affirmed in the second sentence of Article 2 is accepted by the United Kingdom only so far as it is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training, and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure..'

  2. What precisely lay behind this choice of wording is beyond the scope of these notes, but with respect to "efficient instruction or training", we have made clear, in the body of our report, that we are convinced that the GCSE results achieved by Summerhill make it more successful than the national average. Moreover, the Ofsted inspection itself found little wrong with the quality of teaching: such matters as they raised are already being dealt with by the school.

  3. Certainly, unlike other countries where governments help to fund similar schools, Summerhill is not funded by the government so there can be no question of the government incurring "unreasonable expenditure".

  4. What hardly seems possible is that a reservation could be entered which would in effect render parental rights empty and instead imply that the state had the right to direct the fundamental values even of long established independent schools.

  5. It should also be added that the scope of any reservation entered concerning Article 2 of Protocol 1 extends only to legislation existing at the time the reservation was made, and not to any subsequent legislation.

    "Under Article 64 of the Convention, a reservation in respect of any provision is permitted only to the extent that any law in force in a State’s territory at the time when the reservation is made is not in conformity with the provision."

In the current case, the requirement by the Secretary of State for Education that pupils at Summerhill should "study a sufficiently broad and balanced curriculum, aiming at standards of attainment in line with national expectations", if it appeals only to legislation passed subsequent to the reservation would seem, on these grounds, not to be valid.

D. UK Educational Legislation prior to 20th March 1952

  1. Some elements of UK legislation on education prior to the signing in 1952 of Protocol 1 may be pertinent. Section 36 of the Education Act 1944 establishes the responsibility of parents.

    "The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable:-

    (a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and

    (b) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise"

  2. The first point to be noted is that the term used is 'cause' rather than 'coerce'. It is arguable on behalf of Summerhill parents that by sending their children (it has to be said almost invariably with the children's consent/own choice) to Summerhill they are discharging this responsibility, since there is evidence both from parents and children that they have fared much better, including in simple academic terms, than they were under more coercive systems.

  3. Secondly it is important that the right to education "otherwise" (which in effect often means at home) is recognised, especially if Summerhill is going to be closed, since the children currently there may well have to be educated at home. It is also from this sphere that some definitions of "suitable" education have come.

  4. 'Suitable' education was clarified in a case at Worcester Crown Court in 1981 in the case of Harrison & Harrison v Stevenson (QB (DC) 729/81), where it was defined as education which was such as:

    "1. to prepare the children for life in modern civilised society, and

    2. to enable them to achieve their full potential"

  5. In the case of R v Secretary of State for Education and Science, ex parte Talmud Torah Machzikei, Hadass School Trust (1985) , Mr Justice Woolf held that:

    "... education is 'suitable ' if it primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the country as a whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child's options in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so."

  6. Our attention has been drawn to two judgements concerning home education which it is said have established legally that home education can follow the "autonomous education" precepts of such educators as A.S. Neill, where the onus is on the child to choose the course of education to be followed. One case is that of Harrison & Harrison v Stevenson noted above. The other is Ormod & McCullogh, (1982), QB (DC) 729/81, Worcester.

  7. What the definitions in the two judgements referred to earlier raise, however, is how one is to judge what a person's 'full potential' is and how 'foreclose the child's options in later years' is to be interpreted. In the case of the first this is the sort of phrase which is often used in education, but it is clear from a moment's reflection that fulfilling some potentials may necessarily mean foreclosing on others, at least at that time. This is a standard criticism of Dewey's notion that education is 'growth'.

    In the body of this report we have signalled that important developments concerned with self-assuredness, autonomy and responsibility are at the heart of the education sought by parents at Summerhill. In our view these could well be compromised by moves which undermine the basic philosophy of the school for some (possibly marginal) increments of academic learning for which no real evidence has been produced that they will necessarily be secured.

    Indeed for some pupils the evidence of their previous experience of schooling clearly suggests that the opposite might be the case; their academic success could be compromised by changes to Summerhill's basic philosophy.

  8. By contrast, what we learnt from our extensive experience of the school, including interviewing a very substantial proportion of senior pupils in some depth, strongly suggested to us that these were young people who were very capable of adapting to many different circumstances, of taking informed decisions about their own lives and who were well used to exercising responsibility for themselves.

  9. What this raises again is the issue of who is to define what is a "suitable" education. Certainly the 1944 Education Act also appears to give considerable weight to the wishes of parents, since Section 9 states that the Secretary of State must:

    "... have regard to the general principle that pupils are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents, so far as that is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training."

E. Toilets, Philosophy & Article 2 Protocol 1

  1. One of the Secretary of State's grounds for issuing a Notice of Complaint is that toilets at Summerhill are not segregated by sex or by age. As we have indicated we have no doubt that Summerhill is following faithfully the philosophy of its founder in this, since open and equal relationships are part of how Summerhill has always worked. Further it is clear that this policy is supported by the students and the parents, as well as the staff.
  2. Whilst there is 'guidance' on this, it only has the status of guidance. The most recent Social Services draft report (December 1999) again made clear that Summerhill was not following the guidance, but also made clear that it did not think that the welfare of students was in any way sufficiently compromised for the Secretary of State's interference to be sought.

  3. It might be thought that this issue is not sufficiently weighty to come under the rubric of 'philosophical convictions' in Article 2 of Protocol 1. However, it does seem to us a constituent aspect of why relationships at Summerhill are as open and equal as they are, and that, should practices be changed at the behest of the Secretary of State, those relationships risk being made less natural for no good reason.

  4. Further, it should be pointed out that there is clear advice to be gleaned about what does and does not come under Article 2. Firstly, the Article itself states:

    "In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect ... "

    Further, in explanation of this the Court in the Campbell & Cosans case referred to the previous Kjeldsen, Busk Madsen and Pederson case and held that:

    "the second sentence of article 2 is binding upon the Contracting States in the exercise of "each and every" function that they undertake in the sphere of education and teaching, so that the fact that a given function may be considered to be ancillary is of no moment in this context."

  5. It is clear to us that the founder of Summerhill believed, and that its present Principal believes, that the non-segregated toilet arrangements are an integral part of the experience of Summerhill and thus part of the overall education there.

F. Pluralism, Democracy & Education

  1. In general members of our group felt strongly that what was happening to Summerhill raised fundamental issues about human rights in a democracy, especially the extent to which the state should be empowered to insist on its prescription for a suitable education against the wishes of informed and responsible parents.
  2. Nor is this out of keeping with interpretations of the intent of Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention. This was made clear in the case of Kjeldsen, Busk Madsen and Pederson v Denmark which concerned parental objections to sex education in state run primary schools.

    "The second sentence of Article 2 [of Protocol No 1] aims in short at safeguarding the possibility of pluralism in education, which possibly is essential for the preservation of 'democratic society' as conceived by the Convention. In view of the power of the modern State, it is above all through State teaching that this aim must be realised."

  3. Some might now beg to differ about the last sentence: but the intent to link pluralism, parental convictions and democracy is clear. In the particular case the parents lost, significantly because it was said that they could make known to their children at home their views on sexuality.

    In the case of Summerhill, however, it is almost certain that many of the parents (and for that matter the students themselves) would have their right to have their convictions respected denied to them if the school closed or changed. Living, and learning to be responsible for oneself, within a self-governing community, is an integral part of what the whole Summerhill experience is about. Interviews with students, and parental comments, made clear that this was a vital part of what they valued about Summerhill. This is not something which could be replicated at home, which is where some of the students might well have to be educated if the school were to close.

    Part of the Campbell and Cosans judgement is pertinent here. The Court found that there had been a violation of the first sentence of Article 2 Protocol 1 namely that the year long suspension of Jeffrey Cosans had constituted an infringement by the state of his right to education since:

    "His return to school could have been secured only if his parents had acted contrary to their convictions, convictions which the United Kingdom is obliged to respect under the second sentence of Article 2... A condition of access to an educational establishment that conflicts in this way with another right enshrined in Protocol No. 1 cannot be described as reasonable and in any event falls outside the State’s power of regulation under Article 2."

    "There has accordingly also been, as regards Jeffrey Cosans, breach of the first sentence of that Article."

  4. Members of our group are convinced that state interference with the philosophy of a school with Summerhill’s established traditions and widely publicised practices would exceed the legitimate power of the state, and thus be incompatible with both the spirit and letter of the European Convention on Human Rights.