Gorton Mount Primary School, Manchester

The background

During 2004 discussions took place between the Montessori St Nicholas CharitGorton Mount Primaryy and Carol Powell, then Head Teacher of Gorton Mount Primary School in Manchester. They were intending to develop the idea of introducing Montessori methods of teaching into Gorton Mount in order to add value to the educational experience of the pupils there, and because Carol Powell herself believed in the holistic approach and methods used in Montessori teaching.

The discussions culminated in a joint proposal being put first to the governors of Gorton Mount School and the trustees of the Charity and then, with their approval, to Margaret Hodge MP (Minister of State for Children at the time). Out of this came an agreement to jointly fund the project with £80,000.

Gorton Mount School faced some serious and challenging problems typical of many inner city schools, and until 2003 the school had been in special measures.

The project aimed to demonstrate that the introduction of Montessori methods of teaching to a state primary school environment can substantially and positively impact on the learning experiences of the children. The hard work of the Head Teacher, staff and governors saw the school taken out of special measures, and the test was to see how the addition of Montessori method would aid this improvement.

Carol Powell's observations

Carol Powell’s observation was that “Montessori was introduced in 2005 to our nursery and reception class. As a way of teaching, I instinctively know it is right. The children are much more skilled than they were before. Our results have gone up and the best thing for me is that they have improved their socialised behaviour.

“It has also had a profound effect on the teaching staff. They have been given a whole new lease of life as teachers. They have rethought their approach to children and become better, more rounded teachers because of it.

“Montessori started out in an area not unlike Gorton. It’s come home to its origins. We’re giving it for free – it’s a child’s entitlement to have the best education they can get.”

The Project

The initial phase of the project was for the period September 2005 to April 2006 during which Montessori teaching was introduced into the Foundation Stage only with 100 pupils in the project cohort. The trustees of the Montessori St Nicholas Charity agreed to back the Gorton Mount project in its entirety believing that this was a valuable opportunity to test Montessori teaching in a mainstream state school environment.

In February 2006 an initial report on the Gorton Mount Project was produced; the findings were a vindication of many aspects of Montessori ethos and practice. At the beginning of 2007 the second phase of the project got under way with the training to full Montessori diploma level of 14 staff at Gorton Mount, which was again a collaborative project between the school, Manchester LEA and the Montessori St Nicholas Charity (MSN).

The future

The training of staff has continued since 2007, initially by an MSN appointed tutor and later, in 2010, with the school training tutors from within the teaching staff. To date more than 30 teachers and TAs have received Montessori CPD achieving the Montessori diploma or Foundation certificate. The success of the projects has been documented in a variety of publications and whilst Montessori pedagogy is deeply rooted in the Foundation Unit of the school, the principles of respect for the uniqueness of each child within the school continued to flourish in both Key stage 1 and 2. In 2013 two of the boys who joined the Montessori nursery in 2005 achieved scholarships to Manchester Grammar, demonstrating the benefits of high quality early years education as the foundation for successful later learning. Each year children who have benefitted from Montessori experiences in the foundation years have achieved high scores in the foundation stage profiles and Key stage 1 and 2 SATSproviding evidence of the benefits of this approach to their learning.

The Foundation Unit of the school has demonstrated its commitment to its Montessori ethos, having participated in the MEAB accreditation in 2009 and was reaccredited in 2012.

In 2012 Gorton Mount became an Academy under the leadership of the Bright Futures Education Trust and part of this partnership has been a plan to relocate the school into newly built premises. This plan became a reality in the spring of 2016 when the whole school moved to their new premises and they adopted the name Rushbrook Primary Academy.

The school’s strong commitment to Montessori is evident in its plans to introduce the Montessori approach to its sister primary school, with training of the teachers starting again in September 2016.

The experience of Gorton Mount (now Rushbrook Primary Academy) is inspiring other primary schools to seek partnership with Montessori St. Nicholas  – click on the links below to find out more about each school.

Aldersbrook Primary School

Stebbing Primary School, Dunmow, Essex

St Thomas More Primary School, Saffrom Walden, Essex