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Ian Warder
explains how he teaches a class of pupils who are at different stages
 real 28k

Thursday, 3 February, 2000, 00:39 GMT
Summerhill - a teacher's point of view

Ian Warder Ian Warder: "Children come to lessons interested and motivated"

By Alison Stenlake

You could be forgiven for thinking that being a teacher at Summerhill School might be frustrating or even disheartening.

After all, how are you meant to feel if pupils repeatedly shun your lessons, and there's nothing you can do about it?

But while they have had to adjust their teaching strategies to cope with the school's unusual approach, the teachers at Summerhill don't seem to find it a problem.

Ian Warder teaches maths - a subject singled out in the Ofsted report because, inspectors said, the school's policy of non-compulsory lesson attendance had led to some pupils dropping the subject for as long as two years.

Ian Warder helping pupil Mr Warder is able to give pupils individual attention

Some might say that the practicalities of keeping tabs on what stage each individual pupil had reached with their work, then trying to teach classes in which pupils were at different levels, would drive teachers round the bend.

But Mr Warder, who is married to Summerhill's art teacher and has two children among the pupils, said the school's approach had many benefits.

"The first thing is that when children do decide to come to lessons, they come interested and motivated to learn," he said.

"The classes are very small. Typically the largest size class I have has about 10 students, which means I can do individual work with each student. Students can also teach each other, with my supervision.


"I have to make quite a lot of adjustments, which I can do. I'm not saying it's always easy. But in the state system, or a system where you have to go to lessons, there are adjustments you have to make there.

"In a state school, you've got a large group to manage and you have to adjust to the fact they're all doing things at different paces, and sometimes you have to move on even though you feel like someone hasn't really got something, because it's not fair to the others who are all waiting.

"The only time I get upset is if a student has signed up for a lesson and has told me they want to do a GCSE, and I can see that they're not doing enough work, or I feel they're not doing enough work.

"If that happens I usually tell them, but I don't mind them having that choice, I think it's a really good thing.

"If you're in a school where there's freedom, you have to say there really is freedom, and that can be a valuable learning experience for that person.

"I can't really turn around and say "You should be doing that", because that's not freedom. I can give them my opinion and the benefit of my experience, and make sure they understand what the reality is."

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03 Feb 00 |  Education
School defends its freedoms

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