Our 2020 Pledge and an Open Letter to Montessori Settings and the Montessori Community
Normally, at this time of the year, I’d be saying that I hoped you had a good summer and be looking forward to the start of the new school year. As we all know, this year is different and, from what many of you have told us, it has been an extremely challenging six months. Many of you have also told us that you are worried about the future and, in some cases, whether you will survive as settings.
We understand that early years, and Montessori, is at a crisis point. The loss of early years settings will have a devastating impact on children and families everywhere. Like you, we believe that Montessori is the best early years education a child can have, so the loss of Montessori settings will be a huge blow to thousands and thousands of children.
At the Montessori conference in September 2019, we made 4 public pledges to the Montessori community. We have worked on these during the last 12 months. In September 2020, we are making one more public pledge to Montessorians. The Montessori Group pledges to focus on ensuring that Montessori survives and thrives.
To ensure that we can deliver on that pledge, we have been looking hard at our strategy and started making changes. We believe that we cannot continue to be, predominantly, a training organisation. We need to do much more and be more vocal about the power of Montessori to change lives.
During the last few months we have been preparing ourselves to be able to deliver on that pledge with some big changes.
You may have seen the open letters we sent to the Minister for Education and to the Prime Minister. During the coming months we will continue to press for Government to take action to support early years settings and quality Montessori. We will be calling for financial support and also for Ofsted to include good Montessori practice in its assessment of nursery and primary schools.
Barbara Isaacs has retired as an employee, but she will continue representing us in campaigns run by the sector, including the sector’s campaign to influence the proposed changes on EYFS and the campaign to abolish the Government’s plans to start base-line testing of 4 year olds in September 2021.
We will keep you informed of our work and progress through
• Weekly Montessori webinars that will start again in September and promoted on our social media.
Support for the Montessori pedagogy
There is nothing more likely to change Government policy than parent power and public opinion. We will continue to raise awareness of how impactful quality Montessori is and how it can provide children with the skills for the 21st century. We plan to do this with a new press and social media campaign being launched in September called #thatsmontessori. If you would like to take part in this campaign, please let us know by email to email@example.com
The campaign will raise awareness amongst the public of what Montessori really is and its ability to create the skills children need to thrive now and in the future. Whilst this is a UK based initiative, we hope to use the initiative to influence outside of the UK too.
We hope that it will increase the demand from parents for quality Montessori and support for current Montessori settings.
Destroying the misperceptions
Recent research we have carried out amongst parents shows that the misperceptions that Montessori is “posh”, “weird”, “alternative” and, in the UK, “for the Southern, white middle class ”, is very strong.
We want to destroy those myths. We want Montessori to be seen not as “alternative” but as “the alternative to current education”.
During the last few months we have started our strategy to do this by:
• Ensuring that we focus on regional press to get the message out about Montessori. Our latest press campaign about the importance of play has (to date) reached 1.3m readers outside of London.
• Preparing for our #thatsmontessori campaign
• In the future, our workshops and FE training will be done more regionally through the creation of regional host centres and this model is being developed for implementation. If you are interested in being a regional host centre, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
• Our webinars will feature a more diverse group of speakers from across the world.
• Selling our London home – Marlborough House. Those of you who have visited our headquarters will have seen it is a beautiful, Grade II listed building in a leafy, affluent part of London. It is, without doubt, the most beautiful place I’ve ever worked but since joining as CEO, 2 years ago, I have always felt uncomfortable that the building sends out the wrong message about Montessori. It perpetuates the myth that Montessori is exclusive.
At the end of last year, we made the decision to sell the building. The sale was not started until recently due to Covid but we have now agreed a sale of Marlborough House and are in negotiations to share space with a very well-known and respected children’s charity that works with disadvantaged children.
There will be more done on all of the above and we will keep you informed via the channels I described earlier.
Raising the status of Montessori educators across the world
This was one of our pledges at last year’s conference. As well as the work done in conjunction with other early years organisations (which we will continue), and influencing policy, we will become more active in this area in:
• The press and social media.
• Publishing research on the importance of having well qualified teachers in early years.
• A new Montessori Accreditation and Endorsement Framework (MAEF) will highlight quality Montessori in education systems in schools and countries that wish to make that statement and the importance of qualified teaching staff as a foundation for quality Montessori.
• Our influencing work.
• Highlighting the importance of quality Montessori.
Practical support for Montessorians
We know that there is a lack of supply of qualified staff. There are a number of reasons for this, as we all know and that have been reported in numerous studies, papers, articles – low pay, lack of status, and a rapid decrease in the number of young people wanting to study early years and Montessori. We know that training can be costly and challenging when settings are facing financial difficulty.
Our new strategy will tackle all of these issues through the work shown above but also:
• We have expanded the range and number of our free/low cost CPD courses and will continue to do so.
• We will be launching, through our new regional Host Centres, courses for 0-3 training, child minders and shorter specialist courses.
• Actively seeking a partner to allow us to offer apprenticeships/T-Levels
• Recruiting more regional MCI Ambassadors to support Montessorians at a local level.
At the beginning, I said that the Montessori Group’s plans were to move away from being a predominantly training organisation. As part of that strategy, we have decided that we will no longer offer HE directly.
Instead we are partnering with a large University in the north of England to set up a Montessori Institute of Education. They will work with us to offer undergraduate degrees, Masters and PhDs. It will become a global hub of Montessori research and will have the world’s first Professor of Montessori Education. Teaching will continue to be online as well as physical.
We believe that this partnership will firmly embed Montessori into the mainstream educational world; guarantee the long term of Montessori HE training and raise the status of Montessori teachers.
As part of our partnership, we will be offering a 100 free introduction to Montessori pedagogy and practice courses each year.
We hope that the partnership will be launched in early September with a joint public statement.
As I have said earlier, in the longer term our FE courses will also be delivered through our regional Host Centres who will act autonomously in delivering our MCI courses i.e. they will sell and deliver the courses in partnership with us.
Our CPD courses continue online.
We all know of Maria Montessori as an educator but also as a social activist. The new open learning course that will be launched on the 150th anniversary of her birthday will highlight the work she did on social justice, women’s rights and peace.
One of our pledges last year was on education for sustainability i.e. teaching children that we are all part of one world and the importance of respecting the natural world around us.
Last year we piloted a project with the Jane Goodall Institute to bring Montessorian values and pedagogy into their successful Roots and Shoots education programme. This work will continue in 2020 through to 2022. Our combined teacher’s packs will be sent to nearly 150,000 primary school teachers in the UK – both in the private and public sector.
We are also working with WeRtheFuture to encourage young people and children to engage with ocean conservation and have already run 8 webinars with young people talking about the ocean and water.
Finally, I know that many of you will have seen the devastation of the explosion in Beirut. Dalia, a former MCI student and owner of Lemonts, a Montessori school in Beirut, is keen to do something for the children of Beirut. We have put her in touch with a charity that has worked with children suffering trauma following a huge, unexpected event (such as earthquakes, war, etc). The charity helps children deal with trauma by encouraging them to write fictional stories about their experiences and running workshops for parents. This has proven to be hugely successful elsewhere and is rare in being a child-led answer to trauma. We will fund the work.
I am actively looking for good quality, grass roots, social impact projects to support. If you know of any that you would like to propose, please do get in touch by email.
The above are just some of the ways in which we are working to ensure that Montessori survives and thrives but it is not all that we will do. We continue to evolve our plans to meet your needs and society’s needs. We will keep you informed of what we are planning but we also want to hear from you as to what you need and how we can help you.
We are in a new world and the transition into it is painful, challenging and is impacting on children everywhere. The Montessori Group will continue to remain agile, proactive and focussed on ensuring that children have access to the best education they could have – a Montessori education that starts at birth.
CEO, Montessori Group
PS: A lot of what we already provide will be staying, including:
• The magazine – a new issue out in December.
• We will still have a phone number you can call for any questions.
• The forum for Montessori students.
• Train the trainer workshops.
• A list of quality Montessori schools on our website for parents to find a school near them.