Education Provider Voice 9

Leonor Stjepic, CEO of the Montessori Group

Leonor Stjepic is the CEO of the Montessori Group, which is a training college, resource hub, and charity that promotes a child-led approach to learning and support to the Early Years workforce.

They are a world-leading Montessori organisation, offering support to 800 nurseries in the UK that teach 30,000 children each year.

What are the main principles of the Montessori approach?

The Montessori approach is a global philosophy for life. At its core, it is a child-centred approach to learning that’s backed by scientific evidence showing children develop best through active learning, within an enabling environment, and guided by well-trained teachers.

A Montessori education is all about nurturing independence, creativity, curiosity, problem-solving, and leadership – traits that are more important than ever in our complicated world.

The Montessori philosophy is based on the fact that learning happens everywhere, and the method can easily be transferred into home life. Learning by doing everyday activities, like helping do the dishes or pouring water from a jug, supports young children’s development. Our recent research has shown that 88% of 4-6 years olds enjoy playing with household objects, showing children are natural learners, and that 95% of families are already using the Montessori approach without even knowing it.

Why are you interested in progressive education?

We often hear that Montessori methods aren’t for all but that’s not the case. Accessible, fun, practical, and rooted in science – that’s Montessori. Many Montessori activities can be adopted in every home and every child can gain from the philosophy. We want to see Montessori become part of mainstream education and a better understanding of what it can offer for all.

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

The way education works needs a radical change. The current education system focuses too heavily on exams and memory recall, rather than giving young people the space to learn to love learning!

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

The Montessori approach promotes the development of ‘soft skills’ that are essential for life, such as resilience, confidence, independence, communication, and critical thinking. Emotional intelligence is also nurtured, developing flexibility, adaptability and empathy. It is these skills that are vital to future success as an adult and are most valued in a changing workplace that is increasingly less focused on technical skill (research from Accenture suggests 90% of worker time will be potentially impacted by technology).

The Montessori Group believes:

  1. From birth to age seven, children learn best with time and space to play. Formal education should start later to reflect this. Currently, the Early Years Foundation Stage and its play-based curriculum ends at age five, but this should be extended to the age of seven. This would be in line with the majority of the most educationally successful countries in the world, such as Sweden, Finland and Poland.
  2. The high-pressured system of testing and examinations does not reliably measure young children’s progress, can have a negative impact on mental health, and does not allow children, teachers, or parents to thrive. The statutory reception baseline assessment with four-year-olds should be scrapped, not just delayed.
  3. With technology changing the job market, soft skills such as problem solving, communication, creativity, and resilience are more important than ever for the future of work. The curriculum must adapt to reflect this.

Follow the Montessori Group


Follow Leonor Stjepic