We are in November now and the nights are drawing in, the weather has set itself into its customary pattern of rain and greyness and gloom. It is the time of year where one can really feel the seasons shifting and the swing into Winter from Autumn is beginning. At this time, certain countries across the world remember and commemorate the fallen of the wars since the First World War on Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day and we in England look to our own local war memorials as well as the Cenotaph in our capital city London, as our focus of this remembrance. This year was particularly special as we remembered the centenary of the First World War. The Tower of London was a huge focus, with its art installation Blood-Swept Lands and Seas of Red involving a sea of 888 246 ceramic poppies representing each one of the Fallen in the Great War. As the volunteers work now to remove each one of the flowers ‘planted’ in the lawn by the Thames, and we move past the focus of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, it is important that we do not lose the emphasis on peace that has been shared by the many recently.
“The child’s first conscious bid for independence is made when s/he defends him/herself against those who try to do the action for her/him”.
Maria Montessori (1870 – 1952) based her whole science of teaching on observation of young children. Her observations led her to her discoveries which underpin the Montessori approach and remain as relevant in 2014 as they were in 1911 when she published her first book – The Montessori Method, later re-issued as The Discovery of the Child .
There have been changes to the EYFS requirements and the Independent School Regulations over the summer requiring providers to promote ‘Britishness’ in their work. This only affects English schools and settings.
“We believe in children’s potential”
Last issue I wrote about learning as an emotional experience. Many prospective students are interested in the Montessori approach because they make an emotional connection with Montessori’s ideas about children, as expressed in her writing, for example, “No one can be free unless he is independent.”
The pace of change and new developments continued throughout the summer with three new consultations requiring responses. Since January 2013 we have responded to 16 consultations from DfE, Ofsted, the Treasury and Revenue and Customs, and the Department for Communities and Local Government, as well as inter-departmental reviews. Whilst this shows a creditable attempt to join up policies, the sham nature of some consultations was shown last summer when, in the midst of one on introducing baseline assessment which included questions on whether this should come in Year R, Year 1 or Year 2, Liz Truss the then Minister responsible went on BBC’s Newsnight and spoke about the ‘new Baseline Assessment in Reception classes’. The House of Lords set up a Select Committee to investigate affordable childcare earlier this year. MSA’s submission focused mainly on the tension between the government’s wish to raise levels of required qualifications whilst funding places for three and four year olds at increasingly uneconomic rates. Matters were not helped by the Committee referring to the places as being ‘subsidised’ when they do meet actual costs. DfE consulted on Proposed New Independent School Standards (that is, new regulations).
There are some things that children gravitate towards. Whether at home or at school, if we observe children over a period of time, we may well see the child choosing to play with or work with the same things on more than one occasion. Favourite toys, favourite things to do, both in the home and in the classroom. In the prepared environment of the classroom, we try and make the activities on the shelves as appealing as we can so that they ‘call’ to the child, as Montessori described. We consider the appeal to the child of the materials, which speak to the child on an unconscious level and encourage them to make independent choices.