Education Provider Voice 3

Sarah Cummins – Montessori Consultant

Sarah Cummins has worked with children for nearly 20 years in a variety of roles, but mainly as a teacher, Head of a Montessori school, consultant and advisor. She is passionate about creating environments to meet a child’s needs and supporting parents and educators in their roles with children.

Sarah believes that children are born with a desire to learn and interact with the world and that it is our job, as the adults, to meet their needs. From this belief she founded the consultancy www.thispracticallife.com which has its roots in the Montessori approach to education.

What are the main principals of your approach to education?

My approach to education is based on the teachings of Dr Maria Montessori, one of the world’s most respected educators. The main principals are:

  • Respect for self.
  • Respect for others.
  • Respect for environment.

Why are you interested in progressive education?

The fundamental needs of a child have not changed, it is society that has changed and our current educational system does not meet the needs of a child.

Montessori states that “the education of even a small child does not aim at preparing him for school, but for life,” and this should be how it is.

Education should be about being an independent, happy, community
giving, functioning human being.

In your opinion what are the main challenges of our current school system?

The current school system focuses on testing and test results to determine where a child is at and how they are progressing and also what they should achieve later in life. The testing of a young child has no benefit to the child, only the school. We have wrongly lost trust in our teachers, who are more than capable of assessing their students and knowing their needs.

Formalised school is also starting too early in this country and children are losing that internal desire and drive to learn because they are not being allowed to follow their interest or learn through hands-on learning, exploring and play.

Children should also be mixing with different ages. The age of a child should not determine where they should be!

What are state schools doing well?

We have some incredible teachers in our state schools who really care and they spend so much time planning and preparing for their students. This is a vocation. They too are tired of the politics.

State schools also have facilities far better than some small independent schools. Some offer lots of extracurricular activities that enable children to explore activities they may never have had the opportunity to explore otherwise.

If you could make changes to the state education system, what would be your top priorities?

  • Extend early years to end of Key Stage 1.
  • Abolish all standardised testing in primary school.
  • More freedom for children to follow their interest.
  • More opportunities for children to be independent in their learning journey.
  • No homework.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Take the time to explore all options out there and find what works for you as a family. You need to be confident that whatever educational setting you are sending your child, you believe in and are able to support and work together with the school.

If mainstream is the setting for you, then also know you have a voice and you do not have to follow the ‘norm’. Children are not robots and should be trusted and parents are the biggest advocates possible for that.

Allow your child to grow and develop at their pace and celebrate their uniqueness and find a setting that will do the same.


Follow Sarah Cummins:

You can follow Sarah on Instagram at www.instagram.com/thispracticallife/.

If you are interested in her mentoring or consultancy services for educators and parents, you can visit her consultancy page at www.thispracticallife.com.