Montessori education is an educational approach developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori based on her extensive research with “phrenasthenic” (mentally challenged) children and characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development. Although a range of practices exist under the name “Montessori”, the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) and the American Montessori Society (AMS) cite these elements as essential:
- Mixed age classrooms, with classrooms for children ages 2½ or 3 to 6 years old by far the most common
- Student choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options
- Uninterrupted blocks of work time, ideally three hours
- A constructivist or “discovery” model, where students learn concepts from working with materials, rather than by direct instruction
- Specialized educational materials developed by Montessori and her collaborators
- Freedom of movement within the classroom
- A trained Montessori teacher
KEY CRITERIA OF MONTESSORI QUALITY
Any school with a Montessori-Qualified teacher which adheres to the philosopy and ethos of Maria Montessori can apply for Montessori Accreditation.
The Key criteria for ME(UK) Montessori Accreditation, which must be met by all schools in order to be accredited, are:
- Children must be safe, secure and safe guarded at all times.
- The school is led by a Montessori-qualified teacher, there is evidence that non-Montessori qualified staff are undertaking Montessori professional development.
- Classes have a mixture of ages.
- The working time lasts for an uninterrupted period of at least two and a half hours, preferably three. During this time the children mostly work individually, but come together when they wish to, in small or larger groups, at different periods during the day. These periods are not set, but arise out of the needs of the children on a daily basis. Children should have free access to snack throughout the work cycle.
- Children have continual and free access to a full range of the Montessori materials appropriate for their ages and stages of learning.
- Classes are run in such a way that they promote the children’s freedom to make spontaneous choices, indoors and where possible outdoors; to be independent; to complete cycles of work; to develop a sense of responsibility within the group; to use the materials properly and to work on their own or with others as they like.
- Children actively engage with Montessori materials and activities that are designed from a developmental point of view and which lead them to successive levels of discovery about their world.
- Materials are displayed in an orderly and logical way, well maintained and complete.
- Schools undertake written observations of the children which inform their assessment, review and planning of the provision.
- Management structures allow for the implementation of Montessori principles and support staff in their professional development.