Suffolk, UK.  
Private boarding school, 
Founded in 1921,  
Number of students: 70,  
Age: 5-17

Foster children’s autonomy through personalized learning and self-school governance
Summerhill school aims to develop children who can create their own path with their own decisions freely.
They provide children with opportunities of decision making through their unique approaches including 1) free choice of classes and 2) self-school governance. All classes are optional and each child can attend lessons or activities according to his or her interests. The daily life of the school is governed by school meeting in which each adult and child has an equal vote to make decision.

Summerhill school is one of the oldest free schools founded by British educationalist A S Neill in 1921. It has been well known as a model school influenced many other schools in the world.

Freedom for the individual
– Develop children who can create their own path with their own decisions
– Allow children to experience the full range of feelings free from the authority or any control

Personalized learning with free choice and School self-governance
All classes are optional and children are free to choose whether they attend or not
– Children are responsible to make decision on their school life and their community

Personalized learning: free to “choose”
Summerhill provide choices and opportunities that allow children to develop at their own pace and to follow their own interests. The morning hours are applied to the lessons and there are formal lessons structured and organized into a schedule. However, all classes are optional. Children are free to choose whether or not they attend lessons. Children sign up classes at the beginning of each term according to their interests.
There is wide choice of subjects, up to GSCE level. The range of formal subjects offered includes:

-Biology, Physics, Chemistry
-English (Language and Literature)
-German, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese
-Music technology, DJ work, Studio Sessions
-Information Technology
-Vocal Music (by arrangement)

In addition to participating in classes, various options are given, such as play, exchange activities, participation in the school committee, informal learning and so on. School provide children access to materials and resources with which children can undertake individual activities and projects.
Afternoon is free time for everyone to devote to diverse activities themselves wish to address. Children develop sports, games and other entertainment and activities with adult according to their own needs.

Self-school governance: equal to adult
The discipline of the environment where children can learn freely what they want at their own pace is kept in their autonomy.Under the concept represented by “Freedom with responsibility”, children spend their daily lives as a member of the school community.
Children participate in the general meeting that are held twice a week. In the meeting, children and adults discuss various decisions or rules about school daily life. Children participate in it with a vote which is equal to faculty members. Life in the community is also an important factor. Summerhill considers that regardless of whether it is in the classroom or not, the moment the student voluntarily participates in some kind of activity can be learning experience. Through school self-governance activities and experiences in dormitory life, the children’s social development is promoted.

Success in career development and students’ achievement
– Graduates with various careers with their choices
– Receive high evaluation in pupils’ academic achievement and personal development

Career development
Some graduates have professions that require high academic achievement, such as doctors, lawyers, university professors. It shows there is no negative influence on academic ability even if the school allows children with their self-decisions and freedom.
In addition to those professions, there are graduates with various careers with their choices, such as carpenters, musicians, chefs, actors, farmers, newspaper reporters, film makers, engineers, computer programmers, entrepreneurs, etc.
External evaluation
An inspection report in 2016 by Independent Schools Inspectorate(ISI) shows that the pupils’ academic and other achievement was good and the pupils’ personal development is particularly excellent in Summerhill school.
Many visitors from educational institutions all over the world come to learn Summerhill’s unique system. Also there are schools that modeled on the Summerhill throughout the world. Summerhill school has a great impact on school education all over the world.

Children’s experience and awareness of the wider community

The ISI inspection report says that the school needs improvements in enhancing children’s knowledge of current affairs and their experience and awareness of the wider community.


– Summerhill School |
– Independent School Inspectorate(ISI), Educational Quality Inspection Summerhill School, November 2016 |
– A S Neil, Summerhill a radical approach to child rearing |