Jul 30 , 2023
If you are intrigued by the Montessori principles and have discovered them for your infant or toddler at home, you may want to try enrolling your child in a Montessori school.
I'll go through a few considerations to keep in mind when looking for a Montessori nursery or school. Some material will be global, but the most of it will be particular to the United Kingdom.
To begin, you should be aware that the name "Montessori" is not a trademark and is not protected in any way. It means that any school can call itself a Montessori school. As a result, it's up to you, parents, to distinguish between the good ones and the less "authentic" ones.
1. Visit the school or nursery to get a feel for it, and speak with as many members of staff as possible (not just the principal, if feasible). Check to see whether they have an open door policy (can you show up unexpectedly? If not, why not? It could be because they need to free up a staff person to give you a tour, which is an excellent reason).
2. Examine their Ofsted report online, but keep in mind that a "Requires Improvement" grade could be for something simply administrative. Learning and safety may not be jeopardised despite a "requires improvement" status. On the same vein, even if the school is good or great, you should still go and form your own assessment.
3. Examine whether they are members of the AMI (Association Montessori International) or the Montessori Centre International. These are the two bodies in the United Kingdom that provide "official" Montessori accreditation. They have their own set of requirements to meet. However, if the school you're looking at is accredited, there's a good likelihood it's going above and beyond to adhere to Montessori ideals. At the same hand, if this is not the case, it does not imply that the institution is poor because accreditation is costly. They might not be able to afford it.
4. Materially, look for an uncluttered space with neutral colours and natural materials, specific Montessori material displayed on shelves (look further than the iconic Pink tower that should have 10 cubes! ), and specific learning areas (these are Practical life, Sensorial, Mathematics, Language, Cultural, and an Art corner that is often part of the Practical life area as well).
5. Garden with natural outside activities (such as gardening, animal care, natural possibilities to move...) and the potential of working outside with material, possibly with a free flow between indoor and outdoor.
6. A competent Montessori teacher (also known as a directress) should lead the classroom. Inquire about the teacher's credentials.
7. Vertical age division. We don't have many true 3 to 6 year old groups in the UK because children start reception at the age of four. In general, there are two age categories in preschools: 2 to 3 and 3 to Reception. At the primary school level (a Montessori school will refer to the first level as primary and the second level as elementary), you will have the appropriate groups (3 to 6 years old and 6 to 12 years old, or within the last group, two sub-groups: 6 to 9 and 9 to 12).
8. The activity cycle should endure at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of uninterrupted activity inside the Montessori setting (the time required for a child to complete a "work cycle" in order to settle and learn). When we say "uninterrupted," we mean 2 hours and 30 minutes without a break to do other responsibilities (such as necessary group time, an outside provider giving a programme, a group outdoor time...).
9. Many Montessori schools will want your child to attend at least three sessions in order for him to settle in.
10.Children should have unrestricted access to food and water (group snacks are not common in Montessori classes). Children are encouraged to prepare their own snacks (pouring their own drinks, cutting their own fruits, etc.).
11.Them have access to breakable materials, scissors, and materials that you may believe are not "safe" (in reality, they are when we educate them how to use them properly).
12. Art should emphasise skill mastery and process over product (again, 20 cut and paste crafts in a Montessori school are uncommon).
13. Literature should reflect the real world (a high number of fantasy-based literature may indicate that the school has compromised on some beliefs).
14. Some differences exist between an AMI school and other Montessori schools, and you must decide which type of school you prefer (if you have the option where you reside). Non-AMI schools may have incorporated some pretend play toys (still based on reality), but they offer them in the same way as the Montessori materials (same rules apply for the toys and the Montessori materials).
15. In a Montessori school, neither group time nor extra-curricular activities (such as ballet, yoga, or forest school) are required. Ask your child what he will do if he does not want to participate.
16. All nurseries and preschools in England follow the EYFS curriculum (similar curriculum is implemented in other parts of the UK), and the Montessori curriculum does not need to be adapted to fit the EYFS, as all of the EYFS criteria are inherently part of the Montessori curriculum (thanks to the genius of Maria Montessori who carefully observed the needs of children more than 100 years ago, so her curriculum is still relevant without the need to change it).
17. The government-funded 15 hours may be available in the school, but they are not required. What they can charge in addition to the funded hours is determined by the Council in which they work. (I could write an entire blog entry about the 15 hours that are not free and were previously underfunded, jeopardising the future of nurseries and preschools).
18.The Montessori classroom could be described as a busy beehive, with many children working in different areas of the classroom, walking around mats, taking material from shelves, quietly talking to a friend, and teachers being very discreet, generally sitting on a low chair, taking notes, and presenting to one child. I encourage you to visit a school in action!
19. Finally, visit various types of schools to see what you like best, compare alternative types of learning (you might be able to find a Reggio Emilia or Steiner school near you), and ensure that the Montessori principles are a good fit for you and your child.