Sudbury Schools

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Sudbury Valley School in Framingham (USA)

Sudbury Schools are Democratic Schools that operate on the Sudbury Model. The model is based on the Sudbury Valley School founded in Framingham ( Massachusetts ) in 1968 . There are currently around 72 Sudbury schools around the world.

Despite the similarities between the Sudbury Schools and other Democratic Schools, democratic self-government through school assembly , the handling of problems by the judiciary committee, and the age mix in each school are different. For the designation as a Sudbury School, no precise guidelines of an association or organization need to be observed.

Individual freedom

A central part of the model is that each student can dispose of their time freely. Each student can decide for himself what, when, how and with whom to learn. There is no one but the student who sets a curriculum . The usefulness of a curriculum is fundamentally questioned because, in the opinion of Sudbury Schools, there are many different ways to become a successful adult. Students are free to determine their development day by day. There is no evaluation of these individual decisions on the part of the employees. The school does not conduct performance reviews, nor does it document student activities.


Classes only play a subordinate role. Most of the time, the children and young people learn alone or from other students by playing, talking, watching or reading, i.e. through informal learning . Classes are only held if students expressly request it. Courses can be run by both students and staff. If students decide to take a class, the lesson agreement may include regular attendance and even homework.

Often there are rooms that are specially set up for an activity. There are function rooms for art, music or a library. Most of the rooms are always freely accessible to all students. For some activities, the pupils have to prove that they have the necessary qualifications to be able to perform them safely (working with a sewing machine, drill or wooden tool). This differs from school to school.

Age mix

At Sudbury Schools, children and teenagers typically study between the ages of 4 and around 19. Students are not separated according to their age. The school assembly can also be led by a younger child. Lessons are organized according to interests and abilities and not according to age groups. Daniel Greenberg, the founder of the Sudbury Valley School, described the abolition of age segregation as the “secret weapon” of the Sudbury Schools. According to this, productivity in many companies lives off the age mix of the employees, only in state schools this principle has been forgotten. Due to the lack of a mix of ages, the children can be taught homogeneously, but cannot help each other because they are equally helpless due to the same age. This creates various frustrating situations. In contrast, the pupils in the Sudbury schools can benefit from each other: the younger from the wealth of experience of the older and the older from the questions of the younger, which stimulate them to think and strengthen their communication skills.

Learning by teaching

Since the student groups are formed without taking age into account, the learning-related interactions take place beyond the age limits. An important effect of this procedure is that a large part of the teaching activities is carried out by students. Here is a comment on the learning by teaching effect in Sudbury schools:

“Children like to learn from other children. Above all, it is often easier for them. The teaching student is closer to the difficulties than an adult because he has encountered the same problems. The explanations are often simpler, better. There is less pressure, less evaluation. And the motivation is high to learn quickly and well in order to keep up with the teaching student.
Children love to teach. It makes them feel like they are valuable and able to realize themselves. More importantly, teaching it will help them master the material better; they must put it in order, tighten it. They deal with the material until it is absolutely clear in their own head, so that it is clear enough to convey it to the others. "

- Daniel Greenberg

Freedom from time pressure

The students have flexible arrival and walking times. In the German Sudbury schools, they usually have to be at school by 10 a.m. and spend at least 5 hours there. Otherwise there is time freedom. Appointments to learn can be made, which are then also binding. Otherwise everything happens spontaneously. The 45-minute intervals in mainstream schools are seen as harmful to child development. Children can only learn how to use their time sensibly if they are free to use their time. According to the concept, this does not mean imparting a lot of knowledge in the shortest possible time, as is the case in regular schools. Activities that are seen as a “ waste of time ” there are always justified in the Sudbury schools.

School meeting

Each Sudbury school holds a weekly school meeting . There is an elected chairman who presides over the meeting.

All aspects of administration are determined by the school assembly. The agenda can e.g. This includes, for example, passing laws (school rules), distributing funds within the budget, hiring or firing employees. The (present) students and employees each have the same vote. In some schools, the chairman's vote only counts in the event of a tie. Most decisions are made by a majority.

Various tasks can be delegated to other people or groups. It can e.g. B. certain responsible persons are elected or working groups for special activities (committees) are formed by the school assembly.

School rules

Most Sudbury schools have a code of law that typically includes rules about safety, personal behavior, how rooms and certain equipment are used, and rules about school administration.

Judicial committee

Most schools based on this model have a judicial committee that deals with complaints about violations of school rules. This committee usually consists of administrators elected by the school assembly and students of different ages, chosen by lot or elected by the school assembly, and a staff member. In smaller schools, the tasks of the judiciary committee can also be taken over by the school assembly.

The judiciary committee works according to the rule of law. This includes in particular the presumption of innocence . Only written complaints related to existing school rules are dealt with. The procedure for handling a complaint consists - based on the procedural rules in criminal proceedings - from several separate steps: Complaint / notification , investigation , indictment , trial , judgment , and possibly appeal .


Sudbury Valley School has published three major and several minor studies on its graduates over the past nearly forty years. Thereafter, around 80% of previous students go to university or college, 90% of which are accepted into the college of their choice. The overwhelming majority of Sudbury Valley graduates work in their dream job. Around 45% were at least temporarily self-employed.

The Circle School in Harrisburg also published a study of its graduates. 82% of graduates who have been at school for 4 or more years then go to college or university. The likelihood of going to college increases with the wealth of the parental home, including at the Circle School. However, it is significantly above the national average in the United States in all income groups.

Worldwide distribution

In the early days, Sudbury Valley students and staff believed that the school would quickly find hundreds of imitators. But it was not until the 1990s and the founding of the International Democratic Education Conference in 1993 that schools were founded that explicitly refer to the Sudbury Valley School. In some cases, existing alternative schools such as The Circle School have also been converted into Sudbury schools. There are now around 35 Sudbury schools in different countries.

Sudbury Valley School has published numerous books and other materials about its school model and has put together a starter kit for start-up groups.

Since the Næstved Fri Skole was founded in Denmark in 1998 , Sudbury schools have spread throughout Europe. The European Sudbury Schools are usually members of the EUDEC .

The first Sudbury school in Germany was opened in April 2004 in Überlingen , the second in August 2005 in Leipzig ; However, both schools were refused permanent permission. Further founding groups emerged in Berlin , Lüneburg , Hamburg , Munich , Nuremberg , Bonn , Oldenburg , Dresden and Düsseldorf . In Hamburg, the New School Hamburg was opened by the pop singer Nena in the 2007/08 school year .

The Ting School, founded in Berlin-Pankow in 2007, and the Democratic School X (Berlin-Heiligensee) founded in 2010 also refer to the Sudbury school model. In September 2014, the Ammersee Sudbury School opened in Ludenhausen, Bavaria.

While there are around 200 students at the Sudbury Valley School, the other Sudbury schools have significantly fewer students, often only between 15 and 30, sometimes even fewer. For more than 50 students there are the Fairhaven School (USA), the Clearwater School (USA), the Hudson Valley Sudbury School (USA), the Kanaf School (Israel) and the Jerusalem Sudbury School (Israel).


In addition to a general criticism of the learning and upbringing concept, the discussion about Sudbury schools usually focuses on the question of state approval. In 2004, the spokeswoman for the Oberschulamt in Tübingen emphasized that private schools had to offer services comparable to state schools, which was "clearly not the case with Sudbury schools". However, no application for approval has yet been rejected. The New School Hamburg was approved, the Ting School in Berlin, the Sudbury School Ammersee in Bavaria, which was closed again at the end of the school year 16/17 by the Bavarian school authorities after two years of state-funded operation. No such requests were made in Überlingen and Leipzig.

research results

Studies of Sudbury Valley School and The Circle School graduates find that a Democratic school student tends to come from a middle-class, academic family background. Whereby his parents either sent him to the democratic school at the beginning of his school career and are very likely convinced of the school concept or they see the democratic school as a (sometimes the last) place to deal with the (school) problems of the previous school (s) .

Three surveys at the Sudbury Valley School found that former students see a positive correlation between the Democratic School and the development of high self-esteem, the ability to overcome problems and the development of a positive relationship with learning. This relationship is significant.

In their study of Sudbury graduates, Gray and Chanoff come to the conclusion that the graduates see no problem in dealing with authorities and assess themselves better than those around them in this regard.

Looking back, the alumni of a survey from 1985 (85% of all alumni were interviewed) are very happy (81%) or happy (16%) to have gone to Sudbury Valley. No graduate interviewed was dissatisfied.

When asked "Are you satisfied with your life?" Sudbury graduates in the study "Pursuit of Happiness" answered 15% with no, of which the majority expected a change for the better, 25% were satisfied and 60% were very satisfied.

In response to the open-ended question in Pursuit of Happiness “What makes you satisfied in your job?”, 55% said they were able to help others, which was by far the most frequently given answer category. 29% saw a spiritual or ethical purpose in their job. Just as many gave activism as financial reasons (exactly 14% each).

Although the family income within the group of Democratic Circle School graduates correlates positively with the likelihood of the graduate attending college, the likelihood of studying is significantly higher in each income group for graduates of the Circle School than the national average. This was the result of a survey carried out by the Circle School itself. The percentage of graduates who attended or had attended college or university varied from 58% in 1985 in Sudbury Valley to 84% for students who had spent at least 4 years in the Circle School.

All of the Sudbury Valley School students surveyed in 1985 felt they had an advantage over their fellow students in terms of their attitude towards studying. According to their own statement, not a single one of them had problems with the formal structure. 82% of students said Sudbury Valley helped them with higher education. The two most frequently cited reasons for this are "uncomplicated contact with authorities" and the opinion that Sudbury Valley is closer to university than mainstream schools in terms of self-organized learning.

Famous Graduates

Sudbury Valley School


  • Daniel Greenberg: Free at last! Living and Learning at Sudbury Valley School. Arbor-Verlag, Freiburg 2004, ISBN 3-936855-14-5
  • Daniel Greenberg: A clear view. tologo verlag, Leipzig 2006, ISBN 3-9810444-1-X
  • Sudbury Valley School Press: The Sudbury Valley School. A new way of looking at learning. tologo Verlag, Leipzig 2005, ISBN 3-9810444-0-1

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Daniel Greenberg: Age Mixing, Free at Last - The Sudbury Valley School , 1995, ISBN 1-888947-00-4
  2. Geller, Karl: History of the Democratic School . tologo Verlag, Leipzig 2020, p. 83 .
  3. The Sudbury Valley School: A New Look at Learning. The Sudbury Valley School Press, Leipzig 2005, p. 114 ff., ISBN 3981044401
  4. ^ Stefan Dornbach: Time management in vocational education. Wiesbaden 2014, p. 43ff., ISBN 9783658061821
  5. Greenberg, Daniel; Wilke Martin: The Sudbury Valley School: A New View on Learning . Sudbury Valley School Press, Framingham, S. 182 .
  6. ^ Graner, Henning: School assemblies in democratic schools. In: Untouched Magazine (4), 26–29.
  7. ^ A b Geller, Karl: History of the Democratic School . tologo Verlag, Leipzig 2020, p. 84 f .
  8. Daniel Greenberg, Mimsy Sadofsky, Jason Lempka: The Pursuit of Happiness. The Lives of Sudbury Valley Alumni, Sudbury Valley School Press, Framingham (MA) 2005, p. 109, ISBN 9781888947250
  9. ^ The Circle School (ed.): Circle School Graduates in 2015 College Attendance, Academic Degrees, and Occupations . Harrisburg 2015 ( [PDF]).
  10. Geller, Karl: History of the Democratic School . tologo Verlag, Leipzig 2020, p. 139.168 .
  11. ^ Some Sudbury Schools are named Sudbury Schools in Germany. In: Retrieved November 17, 2019 .
  12. ^ Sudbury School Ammersee
  13. Marcus Schmidt: German Summerhill: Uninterruptedly Happy Der Spiegel from August 4, 2004
  14. Julia Bernewasser: Sudbury School: We're still learning! In: The time . March 30, 2017, ISSN  0044-2070 ( [accessed February 18, 2018]).
  15. ^ Geller, Karl: Alumni of Democratic Schools . Tologo Verlag, Leipzig 2020, p. 47-50 .
  16. ^ Geller, Karl: Alumni of Democratic Schools . Tologo Verlag, Leipzig 2020.
  17. a b Gray, Peter; Chanoff, David: Democratic schooling: What happens to young people who have charge of their own education? A follow-up study of the graduates of the Sudbury Valley School, a democratically administered primary and secondary school that supports Self-Directed Education. In: American Journal of Education . No. 94 , 1986, pp. 207 ( [PDF]).
  18. ^ Bernstein, Emmanuel: Summerhill: A Follow-Up Study of Its Students . In: Journal of Humanistic Psychology . 1968, p. 131 ( ).
  19. Greenberg, Daniel; Sadofsky, Mimsy; Lempka, Jason: Pursuit of Happiness. The lives of Sudbury Valley alumni. Sudbury Valley School Press, Framingham 2005, pp. 342 .
  20. Greenberg, Daniel; Sadofsky, Mimsy; Lempka, Jason: The pursuit of happiness. The lives of Sudbury Valley alumni. Sudbury Valley School Press, Framingham 2005, pp. 81 .
  21. ^ Circle School Harrisburg (Ed.): Circle School Graduates in 2015. College Attendance, Academic Degrees, and Occupations . Circle School, Harrisburg 2015, p. 7 ( [PDF]).
  22. Gray, Peter; Chanoff, David: Democratic schooling: What happens to young people who have charge of their own education? A follow-up study of the graduates of the Sudbury Valley School, a democratically administered primary and secondary school that supports Self-Directed Education . In: American Journal of Education . No. 94 , 1986 ( [PDF]).
  23. ^ Circle School Harrisburg (Ed.): Circle School Graduates in 2015. College Attendance, Academic Degrees, and Occupations. 2015, p. 8 ( content / uploads / 2018/12 / Circle-School-Grads-in-2015-July-30-2015.pdf).
  24. Gray, Peter; Chanoff, David: Democratic schooling: What happens to young people who have charge of their own education? A follow-up study of the graduates of the Sudbury Valley School, a democratically administered primary and secondary school that supports Self-Directed Education . In: American Journal of Education . No. 94 , p. 199 ( [PDF]).