ME(UK) Policy Agenda

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MONTESSORI EDUCATION (UK) POLICY AGENDA

Introduction

Montessori Education (UK) Ltd is a Registered Charity, No 1089282 with an agreed extension of its remit to include Scotland and Northern Ireland. Its mission is to promote quality and excellence in Montessori education and training and to uphold the Montessori ethos of education for peace through ensuring that children are respected and their integrity protected as the architects of the society of the future.

The organisation came into being in 1993 because there was no single body in existence in the UK that would speak for all Montessorians at a time when the profile of the early years sector was changing rapidly. With limited financial resources, but an unshakeable commitment to inclusiveness, ME(UK) began the slow and often difficult process of bringing about unity among various organizations representing Montessori interests in the UK. From the outset the Council of ME(UK) has always operated on the basis of equality of representation for member organisations regardless of size or financial assests, and irrespective of individual differences. It is ME(UK) policy always to speak for Montessori in an informed and inclusive way.

As ME(UK)'s single Montessori voice began to resonate, the Montessori approach came to be more readily accepted within the early years community. This has led to recognition of the place the Montessori method rightly holds against the wider perspective of early years practice. Montessori's unique position was highlighted in evidence given in May 2000 to the Select Committee on Education and Employment, and in Baroness Blatch's representations to the House of Lords in May 2002.

The Vision

In 2007 the Montessori approach to education celebrated its centenary, with the anniversary of the opening of the first Casa dei Bambini in Rome marked by a major international conference. Running through the many and varied contributions made at the conference was the conviction that amid the shambles of the many education systems that litter the globe the Montessori approach shines like a beacon and deserves to be as widely known as possible. It is time for it to cease being the preserve of a small, initiated circle of practitioners and for it to become as widely adopted as possible, so that as many children as possible around the world can benefit from this unique preparation for life.

With this as an objective there are risks - popularisation often goes hand in hand with cutting corners and reducing quality. The mission of Montessori Education (UK) is to ensure this does not happen in Montessori provision and practice in the UK.

Achievements to Date of Montessori Education (UK)

In England ME(UK)'s decade-long battle for the Montessori diploma to be recognised without its integrity being compromised appeared finally to be won with the diploma's inclusion, on its own terms, in the DfES's List of Acceptable Qualifications, subsequently revamped as the Children's Workforce Development Council's qualifications database. Renewed discussions are in progress to achieve more permanent recognition of Montessori qualifications in the UK.

Since it was set up ME(UK) has gained recognition from national policy makers for the early years for its ongoing work on defining, harmonising and upholding established standards for Montessori schools and teacher training in the UK. This it has done by means of:

  • The ME(UK) School Accreditation Scheme - one of the first tranche of national schemes to achieve Investors in Children endorsement.
  • The ME(UK) Code of Practice for Montessori Training Providers delivering an ME(UK) Montessori Learning Programme - at the core of the ME(UK) Accreditation of Training scheme, which is underpinned by learning outcomes shared by all the training providers signatory to the ME(UK) Commitment to Quality in Training.

ME(UK) works to promote quality at the grass roots level as well by offering opportunities for continuing professional development through its membership oranisation 'Friends of ME(UK)' and its termly on-line Bulletin which enables the voice of Montessori professionals in the field to be heard.

ME(UK) disseminates information to the public, parents, official enquirers and schools though its website, www.montessorieducationuk.org and by telephone on a wide variety of issues relating to quality standards, accreditation of schools and training and Montessori practice in general.

Montessori Education (UK)'s Current Activities

At the present time Montessori Education (UK) is engaged in:

  1. Running a quality assurance system for the accreditation of Montessori schools. The process is rigorous and challenging, but essential for schools wishing to offer an authentic Montessori learning experience for the children in their care. The accreditation is carried out against the criteria laid down by Maria Montessori herself, and refined by subsequent generations of committed practitioners. ME(UK) does not accredit Montessori provision against criteria established by other scales or systems, such as the EYFS or ECERS-R.
  2. Supporting CPD among practitioners. This is done by means of the accreditation processes themselves; by the professional development offered in the context of Accredited Schools Day; and through the vehicle of an annual national conference with a stongly Montessori theme.
  3. Engaging the government at national and local level to safeguard the integrity of the Montessori approach; to campaign for greater inclusion of Montessori practice and principles within or alongside the National Curriculum and to work to enable all children in the UK to have the option of experiencing a Montessori education.
  4. Accrediting Montessori training to ensure that holders of Montessori diplomas are recognised professionally on a par with holders of other early years qualifications, and to ensure a standardisation of quality in training.
  5. Supporting the grass roots Montessori community, primarily through the ME(UK) website and termly bulletins.

Objectives for the Next 5 Years

  1. To extend the range of quality assurance to cover birth-3 and 6-12.
  2. To continue to work on quality assurance for training so that an increasing number of students enters the work force with a thorough grounding in authentic Montessori practice.
  3. To provide targeted CPD for Montessori professionals according to their job role: mentoring assessors, mentoring in-house mentors and others.
  4. To expand the range of activities associated with parent education.
  5. To achieve equal funding for Montessori provision and training.
  6. To continue to develop a body of Montessori research and literature
  7. To support Montessori's vision of the universal child through: Facilitating working abroad; developing cultural exchanges through developing links; exchanging information, materials and teachers.
  8. To support quality in Montessori provision in areas of social deprivation in the UK and abroad.