History of Education: Selected Moments of the 20th Century

A work in progress edited by Daniel Schugurensky
Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)


A.S. Neill Creates Summerhill

Summerhill was founded by A.S. Neill, in Hellerau, as part of the International School, Neue Schule in 1921. A.S. Neill was born in 1881 in Forfar, Scotland. His father was a village schoolmater. During Neill's childhood days, physical discipline and puritanical values dominated both his father's classroom as well as his family. Neill later received his degree in English from Edinburgh University. He later published A Doninie's Log, in which he expressed his ideas on freedom for children. He later wrote, "I have converted a hard-working school into a playground, and I rejoice. There bairns have had a year of happiness and liberty. They have done what they liked; they have sung their songs while they were working at graphs, they have eaten their sweets while they read their books,they have hung on my arms as we rambled along in search of artistic corners." The original Summerhill school was not originally as Neill intended since Neill strongly believed that it was too ideal. That is, he was opposed to the administrators' ideas of disapproving tabacco, foxtrots, and cinemas. Neill desired for the children to do as they freely chose. He stated, "I am only just realizing the absolute freedom of my scheme of Education. I see that all outside compulsion is wrong, that inner compulsion in the only value. And if Mary or David wants to laze about, lazing about is the one ting necessary for their personalities at the moment. Every moment of a healthy child's life is a working moment. A child has no time to sit down or laze. Lazing is abnormal, it is a recovery, and therefore it is necessary when it exists." Neill's intention was for Summerhill to be a 'free school'; that is, he desired a place for children to be free. In order to acheive this kind of environment, the school does not impose a strict curriculum. Rather, the lessons are option. Moreover, all members of the school attend weekly meetings to revisit and revise school regulations. Changes are made democratically, with students and staff both participating.

Summerhill continued at its former site until 1927, when it later relocated to Suffolk county. The goals of Summerhill are as follows: 1) to allow children freedom to grow emotionally, 2) to give children power over their own lives, 3) to give children the time to develop naturally, and 4) to create a happier childhood by removing fear and coercion by adults. Overall, summerhill aims to build and maintain an environment where all students, staff, and teachers can freely learn and co-exist.

For more information:
http://www.s-hill.demon.co.uk/index.htm Summerhill School homepage

http://www.s-hill.demon.co.uk/tour/tour.htm A Tour of Summerhill


http://www.s-hill.demon.co.uk/history.htm#Summerhill History of Summerhill

Prepared by: Jenny J. Lee (UCLA)

Back to index