Activity Update: Statement from the Montessori Group

 

The Montessori Group consists of the charity Montessori St Nicholas and MCI.  Each has a different set of objectives and governance.  The charity owns MCI and pays MCI to carry out some of its charitable activities, as well as carrying out its own charitable activities independently.

 

A reflection on the 2019-20 academic year

 

As you will appreciate, the impact of Covid-19 has been felt across our sector, affecting our whole community. Many Students reported difficulties with planning accumulation of placement hours, as Settings were understandably focused entirely on preparing and planning to support children and families. We remain aware that unfortunately, a number of Settings continue to struggle to return to operational status; many are finding new and creative ways to accommodate appropriate numbers of children and maintain safe ratios and suitable levels of support for staff. When combined, these substantial challenges for many Settings may continue to affect their ability to host placement students or to consider any additional focus on sending staff for external professional development activity.

 

MCI felt this uncertainty directly, through a decrease in the number of enquiries and applications for our courses since Spring 2020. This greatly affected our future planning and financial forecasting, necessary to ensure that we remain capable of offering a robust portfolio of sustainable qualifications that continues to help our community achieve recognition and professional standing in the most efficient manner.

 

Our involvement in Higher Education: re-imagined

 

The Higher Education courses that we have offered in recent years through London Metropolitan University (LMU) have required MCI to be registered with the Office for Students (OfS); the regulatory body for HE in England. As the focus of the OfS Registration process remains centred around larger-scale institutions with very different structures and operational models to our College, smaller institutions continue to feel a substantial regulatory and financial burden as a result of this activity. As such, substantial HE recruitment is generally necessary to support such a registration commitment.

 

Within our immediate circumstances and the uncertainty that we anticipated for HE and our sector into the coming year, MCI took the decision to no longer offer HE courses within our portfolio of academic and professional qualifications. We ceased recruitment for our Level 4 Certificate in Higher Education; our Level 5 Foundation Degree and we have moved to exit the HE market as an Alternative Provider.

 

In taking this decision, the MCI Board and the Trustees of the Charity, remained fully committed to securing opportunities to continue relationships with partners and quality training providers and developing collaborative ways of working and enhance the range of study and training pathways available to those looking to enter our sector. Both vocational and academic routes of study continued to be viewed as essential and valuable to our community and we were determined to build upon the high-quality reputation of MCI’s academic contribution to Higher Education as we took our next steps in educational partnerships.

 

Our partnership with Leeds Beckett University

 

In 2019, building on over 10 years’ experience of delivering both FE and HE course provision at all levels up to Level 5, the Academic Faculty within the Montessori Group launched the first full BA (Hons.) Montessori Early Childhood Practice.

 

This qualification joined a portfolio of relevant and responsive Montessori educational products securing MCI as leading practitioners in expert-delivery. This quality provision had a wide appeal for students nationally and internationally; enabling the specialist skills and transferability of the Montessori pedagogy to support a valid study offer to students who were interested in teaching and early years education but may not yet have considered Montessori education. In short, MCI proved that this type of study and a widened application of Montessori Pedagogy was viable and necessary within tertiary education.

 

Equally important in this collaboration; the charity Montessori St Nicholas, who own MCI, maintains a commitment to fund research into the effectiveness of Montessori education through the allocation of grant-funding. This is a central commitment as part of its key mission and charitable aims.

 

 

 A focus on Montessori St Nicholas (MSN) Charity

 

As a Charity, MSN, strives to fulfil its charitable objectives; promoting exemplary Montessori education by means of training teachers, providing information, advice and support, and undertaking charitable projects to inform and sustain the Montessori community.

 

It is this commitment and focus that has led to the strategic alignment of thinking with LBU. The opportunity to work with this leading University can support both areas – research and academic provision, promoting a positive, collaborative approach to supporting the development and position of Montessori education.   It also allows academic provision to be offered to a much larger student body than MCI could afford to do and, with economies of scale that are not available to MCI.  The charity, Montessori St Nicholas, believes that supporting students directly through bursaries, is better use of its charitable funding than underwriting the substantial regulatory costs required by OfS.

 

Establishing the Montessori Institute of Education

 

To date, the Academic Team of the Montessori Group has trained over 9,000 Montessori educators. Recruitment statistics have consistently demonstrated that 50%+ of Diploma students already held a degree level qualification on entry; it is now time that we are able to offer our graduate community an authentic and highly-valued progression route into Higher Education.

 

Many of our ex-students, graduates and colleagues will be able to apply directly to Leeds Beckett University for undergraduate courses (for example early-years specialisms; primary education) and post-graduate courses (including Masters level; Post-graduate certificates and teacher training courses). Additionally, PhD programmes will be made available and we are hugely proud to be able to confirm that we will be launching the very first Professorship for Montessori Education.

 

We continue to be alert to the strong national demand for qualified Montessori practitioners, able to lead Montessori practice, with recent surveys carried out showing that 67% of Montessori Schools are finding it difficult to recruit Montessori trained staff.

 

The additional opportunities within this suite of qualifications will allow students to gain extensive research skills and begin to make substantial impact and change in their own practice; that of their colleagues and wider communities as the Montessori Approach is positioned as an important consideration and rich resource of evidence in improving education for all.

 

 

A focus on Montessori Centre International (MCI)

 

An updated portfolio of courses and qualifications to fulfil the needs of our working community

 

Our Further Education courses continue to be offered in conjunction with Crossfield’s Institute. This is long-standing partnership for the organizations, and one which we all value greatly.

 

We have started to re-align this relationship in recent months to ensure that our portfolio of CACHE (NCFE) qualifications remain current, relevant and reflective of the needs of our wider community of both prospective students and employers in industry.

 

We remain committed to offering a suite of qualification products for FE and for professional development (non-accredited courses awarded by MCI directly); these include:

 

  • Level 3 Diploma in Montessori Pedagogy (Early Years Educator) – an ideal course for those looking for an entry level achievement, widely recognised, for working in industry (CACHE/ Crossfield’s Institute)
  • Level 4 Diploma in Montessori Pedagogy (Early Years Educator) – an ideal course if you’re starting a career in Montessori education; it’s a nationally recognised qualification with the added benefit of flexible study options (CACHE/ Crossfield’s Institute)
  • Integrating Montessori Practice (IMP) – specialist Knowledge in Montessori Pedagogy for qualified early years practitioner or qualified teachers wishing to add Montessori professional specialism to their practice
  • Infant Specialism course – developed specifically for practitioners who already have gained their qualifications (L3 and above/licence to practise) and experience in working with children, preferably with infants in a home-based setting or in a nursery. This course helps professionals to deepen their knowledge and understanding the development and caring for infants and encourages practitioners to focus their study on this highly important period of the child’s life.
  • Specialism in Montessori Childminding – a professional development opportunity through a course developed specifically for practising, registered childminders who already have gained their qualifications (L3 and above/licence to practise, or completed their LA’s childminding course) and also have experience in working with children in a home based setting. This course helps childminders to gain knowledge of the Montessori pedagogical principles and offers practical ideas on how to prepare the home – based environment to serve the child’s holistic development through Montessori activities.

 

We have also been approached by several large employers to support their own development of in-house training and this is a challenge we look forward to working on in the coming months.

 

We continue to strive to ensure that high-quality MCI training is available regionally and internationally and our most recent development to support this initiative is the opportunity for host-centres to work with our support and guidance to prepare their own delivery models across the UK and overseas.

 

We have a selection of locations for this form of remote delivery ready to launch in 2021 and these courses will join with our programme of apparatus and specialist workshops; all of this we will publicly advertise nearer the time.

 

Continuation of central activities and community networks

 

For many years the activities at MCI have been wide and varied, each supporting high-quality access to Montessori based services or training or work with partners and other education providers around the world. This breadth of activity has not changed; however some the content of what we deliver and promote has developed and been refined to provide a secure base for our future operations.

 

MCI permanent staff continue to work alongside freelance and professional colleagues; our new business relationships provide access to a selection of experts from wider and aligned fields of practice and industry; our educational and research collaborators support our networks of contacts and we continue to engage with our wide community of practitioners both nationally and internationally.

 

We continue to maintain a leading industry voice for the embedding of Montessori-inspired educational practice and promotion within Digital Education. We have recently started further collaborative and consultancy-based work in this field building on our capacity to share our high-quality expertise in this area of study and student development.

 

Talking Montessori is a series of widely attended webinars hosted by the Montessori Group with the aim of uniting people across the global Montessori Community. The webinars feature a variety of guests from the Montessori and Early Years sectors in conversations around current topics. While some webinars are more suitable for those working in Montessori education and the early years sector, others cover subject matter that is broader in appeal; for these we welcome parents, and anyone interested in the subject matter.

 

Open Learning is our commitment to creating a global community of learners, currently with over 2800 sign-ups from 98 countries. Our Charity supports MCI to ensure that this world-first; a site dedicated to Montessori courses for everyone – remains accessible; offering short courses for anyone interested in Montessori – parents, teachers, families and nurseries.

 

Under our social impact programme, we have made a public pledge to support the Montessori community.  In the coming weeks we are expecting to speak to political decision makers to highlight the importance of the Montessori Approach in supporting positive societal change, reducing the attainment gap between children from different economic backgrounds and the status of early years educators.

 

Barbara Isaacs is representing us in the Early Years Sector Coalition, whose focus will be the proposed changes to EYFS and what that will mean to early years practitioners.  Barbara is also representing us on the More than a Score campaign, that is calling to an end to SATs testing of primary school children.

 

Our Education for Sustainability programme involves working with other organisations to provide Montessori based activities for young children around the theme of respecting and protecting our planet.  We are working with the Jane Goodall Institute Roots and Shoots programme to provide teachers packs to state primary schools and with WeRtheFuture to give young people internationally an opportunity to debate and share ideas on ocean conservation.

 

Finally, in September 2020 we are launching our #ThatsMontessori campaign to break down the misperceptions of Montessori amongst the public.  Through an interactive, fun social media and press campaign we will make Montessori come alive for the many millions of people who are yet to discover the benefits of Montessori.  If you are interested in participating, please contact gabrielle.lacey@montessori.org.uk

 

We expect to launch activity to support our Montessori Accreditation and Endorsement Framework (MAEF) in 2021. In the interim, current MEAB/ MAI settings have received recent communications to confirm our intentions to offer a free-of-charge extension to their certificate expiry dates due to the Covid situation and in order to acknowledge the impact on our sector in general. We have paused all on-going accreditation processes due to the need to minimise all unnecessary on-site activity and we have started a list of interested parties for future accreditation activity. We will prepare a separate scheme of communications ahead of the 2021 launch and keep everyone informed.

 

In order to keep our communities up-to-date with current information about these new opportunities available from MCI we are planning regular communications via webinars, our Montessori Voices Facebook group, regular newsletters from  our CEO and our new Montessori Group and MCI websites.

 

FAQ:

 

  • How can I learn more about applying to study with the International Montessori Institute?

Please contact James Archer, Centre Director of the International Montessori Institute at the Carnegie School of Education at Leeds Beckett University. You can connect with him by contacting Preeti Patel at MCI (Preeti.patel@montessori.org.uk) directly and registering your interest.

 

  • As a Higher Education graduate from MCI; how can I study further with the International Montessori Institute?

As a Level 4 (Cert HE) or  Level 5 (FdA) award holders from MCI, the International Montessori Institute will be able to invite you to apply for further study at the next HE level for you; best suited to your progression requirements and your career gaols. If you would like to know more, please register your interest with Preeti Patel at MCI (Preeti.patel@montessori.org.uk).

 

  • Will my MCI qualifications still be valid? Can I continue my studies?

To reiterate, there is no change to any previous qualification; award or certification gained through MCI; their currency and recognition remains in place and they retain their validity as informed by the particular programme of study. The development of a partnership with LBU has no bearing on these previous awards except to act as a passport towards an opportunity to access a new suite of Higher Education qualifications awarded by LBU. In 2020-21, there are no operational or study mode changes for any current students. We urge any current student to contact Head of Education, Preeti Patel at MCI (Preeti.patel@montessori.org.uk) at their earliest opportunity for an individual discussion; personal communications have been sent to students.

 

  • Will settings lose their accreditation?

The partnership with LBU is both academic and research based. Our new Montessori Accreditation and Endorsement Framework is a professional service which will be supported through MCI. There is no change to the standing or relevance of past accreditation achievements; these remain in place for settings and the recognition of high-quality Montessori practice that they represent maintains its currency and value for our wider communities and families alike. Further details of the new Framework will be released in due course. Please contact Gabrielle Lacey to register any initial interest in learning more about the new Framework in the interim (gabrielle.lacey@montessori.org.uk).

 

  • Will the Montessori philosophy be lost without a central MCI (London) College?

No, the London campus location for the College to date is incidental; our commitment to the Montessori pedagogy remains front and centre within our work.  We will have a smaller London base, based within an existing educational and charity cluster but we are keen to ensure that practitioners throughout the UK are able to access MCI training without having to travel to London.