Carol Powell – Montessorian of the Year
When the Charity was approached by Carol Powell in 2005 asking for help in implementing the Montessori approach at Gorton Mount Primary School in Manchester no one was aware that this would become a lasting partnership giving the Charity an opportunity to extend the influence of Montessori education into the state sector. From the early days Carol understood the benefits of the Montessori approach not only for the children attending but also for the teachers at the school. It was her leadership and belief in Montessori which enabled the partnership to grow and continue to give children at the now Gorton Mount Primary Academy opportunities to develop into independent and confident learners.
The early days were challenging – the Foundation team were asked to change their approach to working with young children at the same time as having their classrooms re-organised and new learning materials introduced. Attending weekly training sessions was another challenge; however, as children started to take advantage of the freedom to select and engage with activities, the teachers themselves saw the benefits. It was the children who guided the staff in the transformation – just as in the early days of the first Children’s House in Rome.
Carol’s commitment to the approach lead to gradual and on-going training of all the early years teachers at the school and, over time, also to the training of three trainers who continue to deliver the Montessori Diploma at the school. Carol’s understanding of the value of the approach and the need for staff to be trained ensures the continuity of the Montessori approach at the school.
Nominating Carol Powell for Montessorian of the Year gives the Montessori Schools Association an opportunity to thank her for her continued support for Montessori education at the school and to acknowledge the benefits it has brought to children, their families and to staff at the school.
Ten years on, there are hundreds of children who have experienced Montessori in the early years and who have taken their independence and belief in their own capabilities into the primary school and on to their secondary experiences. The annual foundation stage profile results bear testimony to the benefits to the children’s personal social and emotional development as well as to their mathematical achievements and creativity. Two of the children who started at the school in 2005 won scholarships to Manchester Grammar in 2013, the first time in the history of the school. It is a pleasure to visit the school and see the Montessori approach thrive and give children such a positive start in life.
The following statement from one of the teachers at the school celebrates what the school has achieved with Carol’s leadership and bears witness to the staff’s commitment to provide the children with a solid start to their education:
“The idea of using the Montessori approach in our school was introduced to us as a vision, initially as a way to reduce or eliminate the gaps in skills and knowledge that were evident with older children. After the initial introduction, staff were encouraged to read Montessori texts and to see a setting in real life. The differences between private day care and state schooling were immense, but we were able to see through these to identify what the approach offered children.
It did become apparent that the method was not just to fill gaps in skills and knowledge, but could in fact meet the needs of children in a much broader way. It is fair to say that this did not happen overnight, and the true appreciation of the approach needed all of those involved to spend a considerable amount of time immersed within it.
The initial transformation of the environment was a shock to the system. After we had become accustomed to the change to a plainer and calmer environment it did prompt us to think again and re-evaluate what is important to children, what their needs are, and how we could change and offer to satisfy their ever-growing interests. As the staff continued on their learning journeys we were able to use our new understanding to take risks with our provision.
We were happier introducing new materials because it became clear that over time our knowledge of the children was vastly more detailed than it had ever been before. Looking back, our confidence in the approach, our use of it, and crucially the outcomes for the children had energised us to be better practitioners. What the Montessori approach had done was to open us up to looking at children in a refreshed light, to reassess what their needs were and how we could meet them. The consistency of the approach and development of self-management to encourage independent and engaged learners was something that everyone agreed was something that could give the children their best start at school, and for their futures.”