Interview - Carol Powell, Headteacher at Gorton Mount Primary School

Carol Powell has been named Montessorian of the Year by the Montessori Schools Association.

You've been using Montessori at the school for ten years now. What originally attracted you to it?

I approached the Montessori Schools Association because I thought it would help immediate challenges. I thought Montessori would meet children's needs in a sensitive way.

I also knew it would develop behaviour for learning and encourage children to take risks. There's a belief in Montessori that a child's natural curiosity is a vital part of learning. Another thing that's embedded is behaviour change - you give children what they need when they need it.

How do you use the Montessori philosophy in the school?

The Montessori ethos of trusting the child to tell you what they need when they need it runs through the school.

We use the Montessori equipment in nursery, Reception and Year 1. But we use the same equipment up to Year 4 for children with skills gaps or who have not been to school before and are new to the UK.

How has Montessori benefited children's learning?

We're based in east Manchester and there are lots of children moving in to the area, arriving in the UK with no English. Children were coming into nursery and Reception scoring below 26 months on baseline assessment, so starting points were and continue to be very low. For children entering nursery and Reception, 100 per cent of them are below the age-related standards, with 75 per cent below 26 months and they're supposed to be three years and three months.

The school has nearly doubled in size to 654 children - in 2003 when I started we had 348. We have a 60-place nursery that feeds into 90 Reception places.

Grades have improved greatly. Results in the Foundation Stage Profile went up 20 per cent two years after introducing Montessori. The local authority was so surprised that it thought it was an administrative error. Ninety-nine per cent of all children starting in any year across school from Year 1 to 6 are below national standards, but 82 per cent of children leave school in year 6 at national standards. I believe the Montessori ethos is part of the reason for that. It develops behaviours for learning very quickly.

How do you feel about the award?

The award is a recognition of the longevity of Montessori at Gorton Mount and the consistent diligence of the team who deliver learning for our children. And I'm flattered to be named Montessorian of the Year.

Carol Powell was speaking to Catherine Gaunt.

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