New Ideals In Education

New Ideals in Education 1914

(creating a culture and history of children's rights in schools)

In celebration of the community of educationalists, teachers, artists, inspectors, politicians, prison workers, adult education workers, doctors, professors and children who created, looked for, shared and promoted schools based on 'liberating the child'. They met in July 1914 at East Runton as the Montessori Conference, and then onwards met every year as New Ideals in Education.

At every conference they stated their values, written by Percy Nunn, first director of the Institute of Education, and a brief history of the community. These were also stated at the beginning of the comprehensive conference reports, with full lists of all the delegates. Their presenters created or worked in schools that practiced 'liberating the child'. They searched for such practice, and from the third conference added, 'Experiment Days', to share the results. They published these working case studies as pamphlets sent free to all schools and teachers. They influenced practice at the chalk face, they influenced the new education laws, and they influenced the training of teachers.

Prof Michael Fielding explains to George Green's students how Alexander Bloom, part of the New Ideals movement, ran St Georges in the East Secondary School (1945-55), Stepney, as a democratic and co-operative community.

Prof Michael Fielding explains to George Green's students how Alexander Bloom, part of the New Ideals movement, ran St Georges in the East Secondary School (1945-55), Stepney, as a democratic and co-operative community.

This website and the linked events and publications aim to honour this history and build on their much forgotten and marginalised work. When everything they saw as the threat to children's health and freedom is now dominating the education debate and world - inspections, exams and measuring, national curriculum and parent power of teenagers - we need their voices and their practice more than ever.

Community text


Members of the Community text


The First World War & the Home Front text


Inspirations for the Community text




Children running businesses, co-operatives and supporting Fairtrade.

Children running businesses, co-operatives and supporting Fairtrade

New Ideals in Education promotes children running their own projects, controlling their own learning, and running their own businesses. In France this was very successful. The children ran co-operatives, some of the earliest were linked to printing. Dr Arthur Brock spoke at the New Ideals Conference on the use of creative work as therapy for shell shocked soldiers, his patients included Wilfred Owen, and how we needed to create healthy children by their schools getting them to express their creativity through work embedded within local culture, art and craft.

“The formation of school co-operatives (see 1923 French Conference) led to wonderful development of this aspect of team work the child - buying and selling in earnest and attending to all the accounting in the same way as would be done in a business undertaking.”

T.J.Gueritte, 20/10/1923 Gloucester Journal

The French school inspector, Cousinet, made presentations on co-operatives in French schools to the French New Ideals Conference, as well as the British.

Homer Lane’s Little Commonwealth.

Homer Lane’s Little Commonwealth

Children running the shop in Homer Lane’s Little Commonwealth 1915. The shop was built by Lord Selfridge, who also had the coins minted. The children earned the money working in the community, on the farm, or building etc, they could spent it at the children run shop or if saved convert it to cash when the children left the farm.

Article in Auckland Star 2 May 1936 promoting Homer Lane’s work and young people running their own shops.

Coin minted for Little Commonwealth by Mr Selfridge.

To launch Fairtrade Fortnight in Tower Hamlets, George Green’s School students are running a miniconference of workshops for primary school children on how to create and run co-operatives to change their communities. They will also be learning of the importance of co-ops in Fairtrade, role-playing Ugandan farmers, an activity created in partnership with the Uganda Co-op Alliance and featured in the Fairtrade Foundation Schools DVD. The United Nations sees Co-ops as helping to improve the lives of half the people on the planet, especially women and young people. The UN sees them also as ‘schools of democracy’.

Download the flyer for the event click here.

Michael Newman