Autonomous and Informal Education Under Threat: Summerhill, UK, Sudbury Schools in The Netherlands and Home Education


  • Alan Thomas Institute of Education, London


Educational alternatives, progressive education, alternative education, home education, human rights, educational rights, OFSTED


Common to the three examples of alternative education mentioned in the title above is the refusal of education authorities to recognise autonomous, informal learning. Summerhill in Suffolk, UK, was threatened with closure but survived, not so much based on the acceptance of the school philosophy as the shortcomings of a school inspection. Autonomous home education would have been prohibited in England and Wales by legislation but for an impending UK election which meant that the parliamentary process ran out of time. At the time of writing, De Kampanje school in the Netherlands, based on the Sudbury Valley model, has been declared "not to be a school" in a recent court judgement. Parents who continue to send their children to the school now face criminal prosecution...


Thomas, A., & Pattison, H. (2007). How children learn at home. London: Continuum.

Thomas, A., & Pattison, H. (2012). Informal home education: Philosophical aspirations put into practice. Studies in Philosophy and Education, online first:






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