The coalition government introduced free schools in 2010 as part of its “Big Society” initiative, with the stated aim of pursuing “innovation, diversity and flexibility”. The government defines free schools as “all-ability state-funded schools set up in response to what local people say they want and need in order to improve education for children in their community”. In fact, the UK has a long history of educational diversity, including the original “free school”.
A. S. Neill, a Scottish writer and education philosopher, created a community in which children could be free from adult authority, which in 1927 became Summerhill School in Suffolk, probably the world’s best-known “free school”. The school and Neill’s “free school” ideas became famous through his writings and lectures. Professor Shinichi Hori was impressed by Summerhill and translated many of Neill’s books into Japanese, later establishing his own schools in Wakayama, based on Neill’s educational philosophy of liberty and democracy exercised by children.
Although the current government and A.S. Neill differ in their definitions of “free school”, they both refer to alternative forms of education offered to the public, with or without state financial support. In this seminar, we will look at the options for alternative education, and what critics say about it.
The two speakers at the seminar will be Professor Hori and Mr Henry Readhead. Mr. Readhead himself attended Summerhill School and is now a teacher there; he is also a grandson of A. S. Neill.
Summary of the seminar, Diversity in Education Alternative Schools, PDF
About the contributors
Dr Shinichiro Hori
Dr Shinichiro Hori is the founder of several alternative schools in Japan, with the first being Kinokuni Children’s Village in 1992. Inspired by the founder of Summerhill School, A.S. Neill, Kinokuni is an open and democratic community set in a rural mountainous area in Wakayama Prefecture. Dr Hori was formerly Professor of Education at Osaka City University, and has founded other children’s villages in Fukui prefecture, Kitakyushu, Yamanashi prefecture. He has also been involved with the reopening of Kilquhanity School in Castle Douglas, Scotland.
Henry Readhead is a grandson of A.S.Neill, the founder of Summerhill School. Born in 1977, he attended Summerhill School from the age of three to sixteen. Readhead moved to London in 1997 for study, but then returned to Summerhill after two years to support his family through the threat of closure to the school by Ofsted. In 2003, Readhead started up a professional recording studio whilst also serving as head of music at Summerhill, and has worked with artists such as Mad Professor, Ed Sheeran and Neil Innes. He has given a number of presentations about the school throughout the world, and is a member of the school’s management team with his mother and brother, Zoe and Will Readhead.