Manchester Montessori School

Graham Mellor's picture
It seems the proposal to establish a Montessori free school in south Manchester is at a fairly early stage. Over the last few weeks there has been the beginnings of a local publicity campaign and they have set up a Google website seeking support .
At the moment there is no rationale is provided publicly for the proposal other than Montessori schools are a good thing and the legislation allows us to do it. Its not clear exactly what the location could be - south Manchester is quite a big area and is not, by and large, short of good primary schools. At this point I'm not sure what the interest will be. There has been a recent shortage of reception places that the local authority has had to address but this, in itself, is not sufficient to justify a new school.
I would be interested if anyone knows more about the proposal and to hear from any other LSN members based in south Manchester.
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Francis Gilbert's picture
Wed, 02/02/2011 - 18:00

The website is deeply, deeply mysterious. We don't know some vital information:
Who are the parents who want the school?
Where exactly will be situated? Postcodes?
Projected costs? Year groups?
It feels yet again like a sealed-off group is seeking to grab taxpayer's money.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Wed, 02/02/2011 - 18:04

I've emailed the school with these questions as I always do when I write something on a free school. Funnily enough, none of them have responded so far except for Toby Young!

Rosemary Mann's picture
Wed, 02/02/2011 - 23:29

I suspect the truth is that this is a small group of well meaning parents who like the idea of Montessori and fancy their chances. Who wouldn't want to give it a go? They probably don't have a lot of information to hand being at the beginning of their campaign. However like you I am also concerned about such a school in my area as again there has been little in the way of a business case for a Montessori philosophy. Personally I find it limiting of choice rather than extending it and potentially bringing children into the area if it finds there is not enough demand locally which in our case completely contradicts the rationale in the first place, which was/is a means of meeting the shortage of reception places. However our local authority seems to be well on the case this year hence I am not sure what this new free school would add to the mix other than confusion.! In addition I would be very surprised if local parents actually forego a state school place to take their chances with what is effectively a new provider trialling a new educational approach. Are they really at the last minute going to take that leap of faith? Ardour and passion have a tendency to cool down as relationships progress. When a new school is proposed its all great and wonderful but over time as in all relationships the weaknesses will be exposed and people may decide they'd rather stay with the 'devil' they know. The proof therefore will be in the eating. Its easy to become alarmed when these ventures appear on the scene but I've come to realise that ultimately there will be many that don't pass muster so perhaps its time to worry only when they present a real threat? Of course its not wise to lose track of these altogether!

Francis Gilbert's picture
Thu, 03/02/2011 - 16:11

I received this email in response to my queries:

As Graham Mellor rightly points out, our proposal to establish a Montessori Free School in South Manchester is still at a fairly early stage. This is the reason why your questions cannot be answered from the website information provided.

Parents who want the school: Local parents with young children who feel that all children benefit from the Montessori approach to teaching and learning.
Where exactly will it be situated: This is simply not known at this stage as it depends on what suitable location can be found.
Postcodes: Interest has been expressed by parents across South Manchester and beyond. M13, M15, M16, M19, M20, M21, M22, M24, M26, M32 and as far as SK8, WA14, BL3, OL12
Projected costs: Too early in the process to be deternined yet.
Year groups: Provisionally primary, to cater for children from Reception to Year 6.
Social demographic: Anybody in Manchester. Free Schools are not allowed to select until they are oversubscribed. Admissions criteria after this point have to be agreed with the Department for Education.

Kind regards,

Ms D.J. Brockhaus-Grand

Francis Gilbert's picture
Thu, 03/02/2011 - 16:40

I think the worry is that many parents are concerned that our state schools are becoming too obsessed with academic approaches; Gove's reading test for 5 year olds will only increase this. This may send well-meaning parents to Montessori free schools which have the freedom to opt out of the tests (I believe). So Gove's desire to make state schools more "academic" means that many liberal parents will look to free schools for answers. Surely, the solution is to grant our existing state schools more freedom and ditch these idiotic reading tests?

Graham Mellor's picture
Thu, 03/02/2011 - 20:26

Rosemary - you could be right about the prospects of this one - the Free School would be up against many good quality state schools and (unfortunately) a strong private sector. But as you say, we need to keep an eye on it.

Thanks for asking the questions Francis. As with all Free Schools, my main concern is the drain of resources and other negative impacts on the existing schools in the area - the fact that its Montessori doesn't compensate for this. Personally I find the state school so-called "obsession with academic approaches" is over-played - my daughter's school (Broad Oak) certainly caters for more than this narrow agenda.

I've responded to the proposal via the website politely suggesting the parents should put their time and effort into the existing local schools (joining me and many others), rather than set up in damaging competition. Perhaps others could do the same.

Graham Mellor's picture
Thu, 03/02/2011 - 20:37

Rosemary - you may be right about the prospects of this one. The area is not short of good quality state schools and (unfortunately) has a strong private sector. But, as you say, lets keep an eye on it.

Thanks for asking the questions Francis. As with all Free Schools, my objection is the loss of resources and other damage done to the existing state schools. The fact that its a Montessori does not compensate. Personally I think the state school so-called "obsession with academic approaches" is over-played. Certainly my daughters school (where I'm also a Governor) caters for more than this narrow agenda. But as you say, to the extent its true then it should be a matter for national polic.

I have responded to the south Manchester proposal via the website politely asking them to think again and throw their time and energy behind the existing local schools rather than set up in damaging competition. Perhaps other people in Greater Manchester who agree could do the same.

Ariana Yakas's picture
Mon, 21/03/2011 - 18:09

I live in the area and all my three children have gone to the local primary schools. The local schools are all excellent schools. I should know as I have been a governor in this area for over ten years! We do need to keep an eye on this. I will definitely go on their website and voice my concerns and pass the message on to anyone else I know.

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