There are two sections to this page. The first is an overview of the approach we take to study. The second section describes the work that took place over the previous academic year (2016/17).
The young people experience a rich curriculum with a diverse range of experiences under the categories of:
- Self-expression - the Language Arts, Visual and Performing Arts, and Sport.
- Psychic disciplines - Mathematics, Modern Foreign Languages (French, Spanish, German), Latin and Ethics
- Preparation for adult life - Geography and Biology ; Physics and Chemistry; History
The curriculum is structured as a series of courses or 'conversations'. There is a narrative that unifies the contents of each course, and that places the courses in the larger context of curriculum.
Typically, between 6 to 30 young people participate in a course. It is typical for there to be an age band of at least 2 years for each course. Returning to concepts as part of a spiral curriculum is integral to the way we consider curriculum.
These courses form the backbone of curriculum but do not fill the young people's time. The explicit intention of our curriculum is to give orientation to the discipline and encourage exploration within it.
As at any other age level in Montessori, the emphasis is on cultivating the student’s capacity and motivation to be independent and lifelong learners. Our experience is that passion is what fuels the pursuit of knowledge. Since each student is unique, and passionate about different things at different times, the emphasis in the Montessori approach is to create an environment in which students have freedom to pursue their interests, under the mentorship of a Guide who ensures they are growing in intelligence, skills and knowledge.
There is an atmosphere of delight in discovery; that knowledge isn’t a burden but a privilege, and that learning is fun. Outside of the structure of these courses, faculty (called “Guides”) offer lessons to individuals or small groups, based on their interests and needs and allow them to go further and deeper.
Ownership of learning
The Guide meets with each student regularly, initially weekly and then as often as the student needs. The purpose of these one-to-one meetings is for the student to take increased ownership of their learning and be increasingly responsible for deciding how to use their time. The Guide facilitates this process, providing greater or lesser structure and direction for the fortnight and months ahead, depending on the individual student, in light of their longer-term goals. The Guide’s objective is to help the student manage their time well, keeping the educational objective in mind.
The meetings are an opportunity for the student to discuss their work as it stands, and the direction they intend to take it in the following week. Support and direction they may need from their Guides during that period emerges from these conversations.
These one-to-one meetings between student and Guide lead to increased ownership and independence.
Independent and collaborative study
A large open-plan study area is the focal point for this work, prepared with relevant educational materials for the different subjects: probeware for Science, artefacts for History, or manipulative materials for Maths. The study area includes a library in a beautiful conservatory, an art and craft studio, a workshop and an integrated science laboratory. Within this study area subject specialists deliver one-to-one and small group lessons, and facilitate seminars that add diversity and depth to the students’ fields of interest.
The (non-resident) young people’s community has two work cycles: two sets of 3 hours (in the morning and afternoon). These open ended blocks of time are fundamental to the Montessori approach. Lessons are given to individual or small groups during the work cycle. These are mainly spontaneous with the young children, partly scheduled with the older children, and mainly scheduled with the adolescents.
Students have all the time they need to work independently or collaboratively within and across work cycles. Freedom from fixed schedules means that students are able to work for lengths of time on projects that interest them. Their work becomes very individual, based on their personalities, their interests, their motivations, and their life experiences. They take pride in their work because they feel a sense of ownership over it, and this is reflected in the quality & attention to detail they bring to their work.
Preparation for the next stage
The young people pursue courses of study in Maths, English Language & Literature, Art, the Sciences, History and Geography and a choice of French, Spanish or German progress through their time in the YPC. Courses in psychology, sociology, politics, anthropology, architecture and economics are introduced from time to time. Some of these courses are modular, others are ongoing - for example Latin has been a standing course for 3 years now.
Progress in most subjects is internally assessed. Students are prepared to sit their GCSEs in English Language and Mathematics at age 16.
By 15 or 16 they have typically developed a clearer sense of the contribution they wish to make as an adult and have been given an understanding of the qualifications that are required to enter a particular field. Our Careers Guidance Policy offers more information about this.