Hopeful Candidate

Notes from the Podcast 15:3

In this Design a School project we are co-principals and will be hiring two extra staff members. This is a difficult process. We have experience hiring staff for democratic free schools but have been fooled from time to time. We are going to be hiring Junior teachers, which Jason says is the same as old Middle School age range in the UK. Basically 9+ to 13 ish. 

Unlike the students, staff are employees with specific job descriptions and they do not have free choice of action in democratic community. Although we want an enlightened work environment staff at our school will be there to create a democratic free school curriculum. It is not a workers democracy or commune.

We are sorting out who we want to hire in order to be able to:

  • Write a school description
  • Write a Job description
  • Write an application questionnaire
  • Create an Interview outline
  • Make an advert that will attract the right kind of people
  • Mentor the successful employees properly over a two year period

A simple list is difficult for a democratic free school. If you make the criteria too highly specific you might attract people with a lot of experience, a lot of qualifications … but they might not be the right people emotionally/ conceptually for the job

We will be looking for people with ‘non-school’ experiences, expertise and interests. … not just to share … but to enjoy doing things on their own as well.

Do they need experience of democratic education?

 NO but

  • a look at our Applicant Web Page at www.summerhilldemocratics.net will be required
  • if an applicant has visited a democratic free school or two that would show initiative (if you have worked at McDonald’s and you want to apply to a Chinese Restaurant it’s good to see the difference.) and
  • it would be strange if they haven’t visited a few websites or read some alternative education texts 
  • specifically, a general reader’s knowledge of Summerhill will be requested even though we are not going to be Summerhill
  • we could request that short listed candidates visit a school we would recommend

Cut out Curriculum to Create Time

Would we insist upon formal teacher qualifications and experience ?


  • We wouldn’t want someone not to have the craft of teaching down properly and try to learn that on the job while starting out in the new experience of working in a democratic free school.
  • We also want someone who is familiar with the regular national curriculum. All of our staff must understand it enough to know where the padding, the bloating, the waste of time, the bollocks can be found so they can chop it out … are able to confidently reduce, re-craft curriculum
  • Senior teachers ( we will hire them eventually) need to be familiar with Key Stage 3 and have taught at the GCSE level so that they know what’s essential and not essential for exam success.

Democratic Free Schools are based on the creating, the releasing of TIME for the children; this means that if a child goes to all lessons available to her that the Reduced Curriculum must still offer plenty of TIME for many other personal developmental choices.

To summarise:

  • Formal Teaching qualifications
  • Teaching Experience with a state school curriculum
  • Other personal skills, hobbies and interests transferable to the daily life of the school community

Since we will be hiring Junior teachers to begin with we will make available descriptions, blogs and podcasts about the Clubhouse/Veteran Child Age as well as the make-up of the Clubhouse classroom area on our website www.summerhilldemoctaics.net

Junior teachers will not always be doing formal lessons. Sometimes hardly at all. They will often just be around and about in the Clubhouse space. We want them to invisibly oversee an efficient, properly designed space that fits the nature and development stage of 9 to13 year olds for doing, project work, quiet time, teacher lessons

Here’s our list:

  • leave the students alone
  • if around, keep clear of the children’s independent actions and projects
  • be the last person the children think of going to
  • unless there’s an emergency, don’t intervene because YOU think a child needs adult help; they know you are there
  • it’s ok to offer short lessons to showcase certain skills or resources
  • it must feel like a space without a teacher to allow an enveloping sense of independence of self and group


You are not at the school to be a significant factor in the children’s lives, but to maintain a Democratic Free School curriculum that allows Free Choice of Action in Democratic Community.

However, the Teacher is a full member of the Democratic School Community and can speak up as an equal member in meetings and regarding enforcing the laws of the community. 

Not This !

  • No Charisma No Cheerleading No Edutainment
  • We do not constantly observe and evaluate
  • We do not prompt the children to review and self-reflect on everything they do or prompt, “What’s next? How can you improve on this?” etc.
  • Most of the time teachers should be paying no attention at all to what the students are doing
    except with occasional normal, honest interest.
  • There’s no law against naturally complimenting at certain times/ offering some positive feedback.

We are not talking about some emotionally barren landscape but, rather, a deeply respectful
one; respectful of independence and each student’s chosen personal developmental narrative.



Finally, what about applicants with experience in another democratic free school ?

Someone who has taught in another democratic school that deeply believes in the particular free school ideology from that school
or has been reading and then has a personal interpretation, generally, of what a democratic free school should be like, should start their own school. This type of person can be very troublesome as a teacher in a start-up if the new, inexperienced founders are trying to follow their own vision.

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