Young mothers at the Teenage Parents Project at the Hartcliffe and Withywood Tenants Centre in Bristol will have the opportunity to study for the Montessori Foundation Certificate while receiving access to a Montessori crèche.
Eighteen mothers and expectant mothers who use the centre have started the 33-week course, receiving three hours of training a week. Montessori activities are being gradually introduced into the centre’s crèche, with two crèche leaders also participating in the training.
The project was developed as part of the Montessori Community Manifesto, a two-year plan launched last year that pledged to widen access to the Montessori approach to include the most disadvantaged communities across the country.
The Teenage Parents Project (www.teenageparents.org.uk) works with young parents aged 16-25 in south-west Bristol, providing mentoring sessions, education and training.
Chief executive of the Teenage Parents Project Deana Stone said, ‘We are so fortunate to have this project in our community. It has been a blessing. Hopefully we can bring the Montessori approach into the community, giving both parents and professionals access to it. There are parents and teachers in our community who might favour Montessori and now they could work as well as have their children looked after within that approach. Of course it’s in its early stages so we don’t know the outcome yet, but we hope this is just the beginning.’
The Montessori Foundation Certificate is designed for students who want to become Montessori classroom assistants and includes theoretical and curriculum subjects.
Marina Webb, 18, (pictured above right) who studied childcare for a year before having her daughter, now attends the course. She said, ‘It’s been great to learn about other ways of teaching children. You realise that they’re learning so much before they’re ever having academic lessons in school.
‘In Montessori, the children have freedom, they’re not pushed and they can do the activities they choose for as long as they want to, or again and again if they want.’
Barbara Isaacs, director of national strategy at Montessori St Nicholas, believes the Montessori approach is particularly suited to the project. She explained, ‘The Montessori system is focused on children, and mums know children. They intrinsically know whether a technique will work or not, so it’s a very genuine approach.’
The course will run until July, when, Ms Isaacs hopes, some mothers may use it to go on to study for the diploma, some as a stepping stone to other early years qualifications, and some to become trainers for the project in the future.
The official launch takes place today at the Tenants Centre, although the classes began in October. Ms Isaacs said the event had deliberately been scheduled after the start of the project in order to celebrate the commitment made by the participants.
Ms Isaacs said ‘Deana has a great relationship with the mums and she is very able to empower them to do things for themselves. That in itself is a very Montessori idea; to be independent. She was very clear that she wanted the launch to be after the training had started, so the mums could be advocates of their own project.’
She added, ‘It’s a really lovely project, and it has the makings of a very successful one too, as it has really engaged the mums. But it’s still very early days, and now we have to make sure we sustain this.’
Montessori St Nicholas says it hopes to set up similar projects in the future.