“It comes down to the deep question of education,” explains Andre Shearer, Chairman of Newberry House Montessori School in South Africa. “Education is about preparing tomorrow’s children, today.”

Newberry House Montessori School is a multicultural school situated outside Cape Town. It serves children from 18 months to 18 years and follows the Montessori educational model, one that “follows” children in their development, giving them more choice in how they choose to study and facilitates self-directed learning.

Shearer’s interest in this educational model came after he and his wife moved their son to a local Montessori school. “My own education was technically successful, but it had never been self-directed,” he says. “Institutionalised education needs to be loving. Montessori is an early-childhood model which validates the child and follows them authentically
in their development.”


setting standards

“There are often misconceptions around Montessori schools,” says Shearer. “These ideas are often justified if Montessori education is not implemented according to the proper standards.” To address this problem, and the shortage of quality Montessori training in Africa, Shearer established the Indaba Montessori Institute under the guise of Association Montessori Internationale, generally regarded as facilitators of the highest standards of Montessori pedagogy worldwide.

“Although we are passionate about every child attaining the best possible results, it’s about teaching them how to think, not what to think,” says Shearer. “That’s a critical distinction at the heart of what we do.”

This radical, refreshing approach to education is reflected in the structure of the school. “Classes consist of three-year vertical-age groups, which allows students of different ages to mix together and learn to collaborate,” says Shearer. “We also use three-hour work periods so students can become engrossed in what they are doing. It gives them time to go into deeper learning of a concept.”

Teachers are called “directors” because their main role is to guide the learning after short presentations. “Students are encouraged to think independently, self-direct their study, and question their learning on a deeper level,” says school Head, Alistair Green. “There is a wonderful synergy between Cambridge and Montessori in this regard, and the reason why Cambridge is our curriculum of choice is because we strive to prepare our students for a world-class outcome.” The school also seeks to extend this approach to other contexts, particularly sport. Newberry House is currently one of six global schools piloting a Montessori Sports programme that empowers children to take more ownership of their physical development.


outdoor learning

The school, being located in a magnificent outdoor environment, lends itself well to place-based education, where children supplement their learning through practical outdoor work. They also have the opportunity to engage in “lifestyle” activities such as mountain biking and trail running.

“One of Newberry House’s main aims is to become a beacon for what is possible in education when one allows children to lead their learning,” says Shearer. “Our methods may be unconventional, our outcomes go beyond being purely academic. Students are very happy here, and when children are happy and energised, learning follows naturally.”