Even before it began it was getting rave reviews:

"a remarkable line-up... an uplifting, much needed conference..."
- Michael Fielding, Emeritus Professor of Education, University College London

2017 poster 640 00 header

"The Future and Progressive Education"

jointly hosted by the Wennington Association and the Planned Environment Therapy Trust

At the PETT Conference Centre, Toddington, Gloucestershire


And it lived up to the reviews.



Gathering together and meals: the heartbeat of the event




01 richard


Ex-Wenningtonian and conference co-organiser Richard Schofield welcomes the conference, with an introduction and overview of the issues leading to the theme "The Future and Progressive Education".

02 albert

 Session 1

Albert Lamb (American former Summerhill pupil and staff member; author; alternative education specialist)

"Historical Paralels with the Present: McCarthyism and Education"

03 den and rod

 Session 2

"Past, Present and Future (I): The American Education Experience"

In conversation: Veteran American therapeutic community-informed educators, Dennie Briggs and Rod Odgers. By live link from California.

Interviewer: Craig Fees (PETT Archivist)

04 dick marc sam

 Session 3

"Past, Present and Future (II): The British Progressive Education Experience"

In conversation: Former Wennington pupil and veteran progressive educator, Dick Jones, with ex-Frensham Heights pupil and innovation adviser, Marc Jaffrey

Interviewer: Sam Doncaster (Former Wennington pupil and veteran educator)

06 Hylda

 Common Roots Evening: Summerhill, the School that Says, 'Yes'!

Interview with, and performance from, Hylda Sims (Former Summerhill Pupil, poet, novelist, skiffle musician, arts organiser and Lifespan community co-founder)

Interviewer: Richard Schofield (ex-Wennington)

Take me to the recording


 DAY 2


02 01 judith

Session 4

"Democracy, Education, and the Political: Tensions and Possibilities"

Speakers: Judith Suissa (Institute of Education, UCL) with Emile Bojesen (Winchester University)

Chair: Sam Doncaster (ex-Wennington)


02 02 mark

Session 5

"Dialogue, Democracy and the Disneyfication of Art and Design Education"

Speaker: Mark Smith (Loughborough School of Arts)

Chair: Jonathan Adamson (ex-Wennington)


 Session 6

Plenary Session: Finding Forward Paths

A final open session with an intention to establish ways forward for alternative education in the present political and educational climate.

Faciitators: Albert Lamb (ex-Summerhill) and Craig Fees (PETT Archivist)






Albert awoke as a little boy in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His parents worked at Harvard and MIT in the McCarthyite 1950s. Albert managed to find his way (first spending a year in John Holt's How Children Fail classroom) to Summerhill School. After home schooling his four kids in the USA, Albert moved to England to marry his Summerhill girlfriend and work at Summerhill. Now he acts as mentor to the Stroud home education project, A Place to Grow.


Craig is a product of the American public school system and three years at a New England prep school. Following his PhD from the Institute of Dialect and Folklife Studies at the University of Leeds in 1988 he was asked by the Planned Environment Therapy Trust to establish a specialist Archive and Study Centre devoted to therapeutic communities and environments, and democratic / alternative / progressive approaches to education. A Registered Member of the Archives and Records Association, he is also a trustee of the Oral History Society, an Honorary Research Fellow in the History of Medicine at the University of Birmingham, and course author and tutor in oral history in the Centre for Archive and Information Studies at the University of Dundee.


Dick was educated from the age of eight at New Sherwood School in Epsom, a small progressive school founded by two ex-Kilquhanity House teachers; and, from age thirteen at Wennington School in West Yorkshire. Teacher trained at Goldsmiths’ College, Dick taught in state schools before moving on to King Alfred, Frensham Heights and St Christopher Schools. At St Chris he teaches drama, having come out of retirement to stand in for the indisposed head of department. Away from the school theatre, Dick is a fitfully jobbing musician; and a poet, with two books currently in print: his selected poems, Ancient Lights – described by poet and children's writer Wes Magee as, 'essential reading' – and the Old Style Press' brilliant new version of Blaise Cendrars' celebrated poem Trans Siberian Prosody, a partnership of Dick's translating with the image making of Natalie d'Arbeloff.


Dennie and Rod have been both friends and collaborators in therapeutic community fields for almost a lifetime. They first met at the experimental therapeutic community set up at the Naval Hospital in Oakland, California (1955-1956) under pioneering psychiatrist, Dr. Harry Wilmer – an experience that fundamentally changed the lives and outlooks of both men – and went on together to found a team to establish an all-new Therapeutic Community Program at the U.S Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan (1956-58). Following this experience, Rod graduated from San Francisco State University and transferred his therapeutic skills to education, teaching elementary school for forty-five years (1963-1978); while Dennie transferred his to Californian Prisons (1960-1965) before, at the invitation of Maxwell Jones – another therapeutic community pioneer – joining him at the open doors mental health project at the Dingleton Hospital in Melrose, Scotland (1968-1969). He then moved on to work at the equally notable Henderson Hospital in London (1969-1970). Drawing on these experiences, Dennie went on to become a teacher, speaker and consultant across both Europe and America. Both Dennie and Rod's lives are strewn with extraordinary rich episode – as an example, Dennie's involvement with the Dutch protagonists of the May '68 events – of which a brief account of their lives can only hint at. (More on Dennie at, denniebriggs.com/wp).


Emile Bojesen is a Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Winchester, where he is programme leader of the MA in Philosophy of Education, and (with Marie Morgan) co-convener of the Centre for Philosophy of Education. He writes on the experiential, relational and political dimensions of educational thought and practice. He has published widely in journals such as Studies in Philosophy and Education, Educational Philosophy and Theory, Ethics and Education and Philosophy Today. He has recently co-edited a book entitled Against Value in the Arts and Education (2016).


Writer and folk musician, Hylda is the love child of market traders, her early education involving a few days at one school and then another as her parents followed the circuits of Britain's markets and fairs. Things looked up when she became a pupil at Summerhill; and later, a student at the University of Hull, and then the LSE. Hylda writes songs, poetry and novels (including Inspecting the Island, 'the Summerhill novel'). With Freer Spreckley – also from Summerhill – she founded the still active Lifespan community in 19 railway workers' cottages on the South Yorkshire moors. Hylda has worked as an 'Elizabethan Minstrel', a teacher, a specialist tutor and a single parent. She also ran the Skiffle Cellar, a night spot in 1950s Soho; and has for the past twenty years hosted a monthly poetry and music event at the Poetry Café in Covent Garden. Hylda sings with the skiffle and blues group City Ramblers Revival, a reformation of the original City Ramblers skiffle group – recorded on Tempo, Storyville and Topic labels – with whom she toured Europe, appearing at the International Youth Festival in Moscow in 1957 (Remarkably, Youtube has footage of this moment). She divides her time between Norwich and London.


Judith is Professor of Philosophy of Education at UCL Institute of Education, London. Her research interests are in political and moral philosophy, with a focus on social justice, the control of education, libertarian and anarchist theory, the role of the state, and the parent-child relationship. Her publications include Anarchism and Education: A Philosophical Perspective (Routledge, 2006) and (with Stefan Ramaekers) The Claims of Parenting: Reasons, Responsibility and Society (Springer, 2012).


Marc is a scion of the well known Jaffrey family. Educated at Frensham Heights, where he was taught by Dick Jones (also a participant at this conference), his children attend St. Christopher's School where Dick now teaches them in turn. Marc has spent twenty-five years as a campaigner and campaign adviser in the business, government, education, human rights, social and arts fields. He says 'I am driven by a belief in the power of people ’s creativity to change the world'. In 2010 he gained the OBE for services to music and education. He is currently writing a book on the role generosity plays in effecting change.


Mark is an art teacher who has just completed a research degree at Loughborough School of Arts. He is a keen advocate of key concepts of the influential Brazilian educational thinker Paulo Freire. He is also an education-focused moving-image artist and graphic designer. In addition to his teaching and design work, since 1985 Mark has been making ethnographic films, videos, and installation art with diverse communities. His most recent output uses the Freirian concepts of ‘conscientisation ‘ and emancipation to present politicised videos made by fellow artists. The result is available at: www.artistsmovingimage.org


At the age of fourteen, when badly failing in a thousand-strong uniformed secondary school in Essex, Richard was sent by his local authority to become one of the hundred-or-so pupils at Wennington school in the West Riding. The rest is history. (Which includes – after a number of years as an agricultural worker – studying architecture and then typography before teaching newspaper design). Other propellants are the sixties, art school, and the History Workshop movement.


After leaving Wennington School, Sam studied for a Teachers Certificate in Secondary Science at Goldsmiths (1963-1966). He then taught in Kent until moving to Devon, where he moved into the Youth Service. At Liverpool University he took a degree in Outdoor Education (1975-1976). Until 1992 he combined a role in Community Education in Bideford with a responsibility for Safety in Outdoor Education for Devon County Council. Made redundant in 1992 – when Devon lost a third of it's Community Education staff – Sam took the money and ran. Since then he has converted a barn, restored a house, built a workshop and helped to build a fast boat which now plies its trade to Lundy Island.