The Complete Guide to Montessori Schools


  1. What is a Montessori school?
  2. How do Montessori schools work?
  3. How much do Montessori schools cost?
  4. Is a Montessori school right for your child?

As any parent will know, choosing a school for your child is a big decision that can sometimes feel a little stressful. When looking into the schooling of children in the UK, it’s worth considering many different options since kids learn in different ways. Montessori schools offer a different method of learning that may be a better fit for some children than the standard, academic model of teaching employed in schools today.

In this article, we’ll give you an overview of what Montessori schools are all about to give you a better idea of whether it might be a good option for your child’s schooling.girl playing with montessori toy

What is a Montessori school?

Montessori schools use a method of teaching that seeks to develop children’s natural interests through freedom, as opposed to the formal teaching methods commonly used today. The Montessori method was first developed by the Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori in 1897 following her visit to an asylum. During this visit, she observed that confined children needed more stimulation to develop their brains and encourage learning. 

Montessori developed her work through observations and experiments with the environment, materials and lesson structures, thus becoming known as scientific pedagogy. She started holding lessons for children in Rome in 1907, in a building known as the Casa dei Bambini (Children's House). Her methodology was published in 1909 and quickly spread throughout the US and across the world. The first school in the US dedicated to Montessori methodology was the Scarborough Day School, which was founded in 1913. 

Not long after this, a critical booklet of Montessori’s work was published. Entitled The Montessori System Examined, the booklet closely criticised her learning structure and limited the spread of her ideas. However, this did not stop Montessori. Currently, the American Montessori Society is the largest Montessori organisation in the world, with 1,300 schools and nearly 100 teacher-education programs. Beyond the US, there are Montessori schools all over the world – in fact, there are about 20,000 schools dedicated to Montessori education across the world. 🌍

In the UK, the demand for Montessori schools for toddlers has been steadily growing over the last few years. There are currently around 700 establishments devoted to Montessori teaching in the UK. Most of these are Montessori nurseries and pre-schools, but a small number of primary schools in the UK are using Montessori methods with their pupils. 

How do Montessori schools work?

The Montessori schooling method builds on how children naturally learn and perceive the world in their early years. It’s based on a model of human development and operates with two key beliefs in mind: that psychological self-construction in children occurs through their interactions with their environment, and that children have an innate path to psychological development. 

Given the freedom and correct environment, Montessori believed that children would act spontaneously in a way that would encourage optimal development for their brains. 🧠

In a Montessori classroom, a trained teacher observes the children and initiates activities. The children themselves choose from a range of activities that are provided for them and work in long, uninterrupted blocks of ideally three hours at a time. 

Using a constructivist model, otherwise known as a discovery model, the children learn concepts from working materials rather than instructions. All materials provided in the classroom are made of natural substances, rather than plastic. In fact, only special Montessori toys made from natural materials are used in these schools. 

Montessori education places a thorough emphasis on independence, utilising the fact that children are naturally eager for knowledge. The Montessori method operates on the basis that given the right circumstances and tools, kids will naturally act in a way that will benefit themselves and their development. With mixed classrooms of different age groups, the Montessori method discourages conventional measures of achievement such as grades and tests, instead encouraging self-development. ✔️

In specifically built environments, Montessori schools generally follow these characteristics:

  • The classroom is laid out in an arrangement that encourages and facilitates free movement and activity.
  • There is harmony, beauty, and cleanliness.
  • The classroom is constructed in proportion to requirements, and there are no excessive or unnecessary items.
  • There are limitations on materials.
  • Despite the emphasis on freedom, there is order.
  • There is an inclusion of nature, both inside and outside of the classroom. 🌿

With Montessori primary schools and nurseries being available all over the world, the method is used both publicly and privately, meaning there is plenty of access if you think this type of schooling may be right for your child. Across the UK, you’ll find a range of Montessori establishments, with many Montessori primary schools located in London. We recommend that you check whether there’s a suitable school near you. 

How much do Montessori schools cost?

Montessori schooling in the UK can be considered expensive; however, this cost covers the special teaching programmes and all the materials that make up this education method. The cost varies depending on the school, and a wide range of options are available, such as only attending for half days or full days, depending on what would work best for your child and your daily life. 

The fees for education at different Montessori education establishments in London can be found here. For preschool children, it costs approximately £4,470 per term for a full day of teaching, with an additional cost of £440 for lunches. This cost is a little higher for primary school children, costing around £4,840 per term for a full day and £440 for lunches. 

Though these costs may be high, there is support available for parents who would like their child to attend a Montessori school but are unable to pay the fees. The government offers some funding, particularly for preschool-age children, and there is financial help to secure your child a spot available if necessary. In addition, there is a discount for siblings. The Montessori system encourages you to place all your children in the same school, with the added incentive of 10% off per sibling. 👩‍👩‍👦

Is a Montessori school right for your child?

Deciding what school is right for your child can be a challenge, and it’s important that you try to find the educational method that will be best suited to your child. Although Montessori schools are designed with all children in mind, they may not be the right school for all children – so it’s best that you consider the characteristics of this type of schooling before making your decision.

There are several things you should think about before deciding what type of school to send your child to. For some parents, Montessori schools seem rather expensive. With specialist training for the teachers and designed schools, the fees could be off-putting to some parents or may be out of your price range. For this reason, Montessori education may not be accessible to everyone. Also, Montessori schools are less widespread than mainstream schools, so it may be hard to find an establishment near you. You should also be aware that many Montessori schools have long waiting lists – so your child may not be able to go to school even if money isn’t an object. 📝

For some parents and children, the Montessori method is not the right option, since some have criticised the curriculum for being too loose. For those who benefit from structure, or wish to adhere to a more academic model, Montessori schooling may not be the best fit. With Montessori education focusing on freedom and independent exploration, there is no rigorous structure or tests of academic ability

Also, you should be aware that this model doesn’t prepare children for further education and competitive lives outside of the Montessori classroom. With no exams or tests, an exploration into further education may be a challenge for Montessori students due to difficulties with transitioning into an environment with more structure and academic testing.

However, despite these potential disadvantages, Montessori schools could be the perfect teaching method for your child. With hands-on, independent learning, children are given the chance to engage in plenty of social interactions and develop a love of learning. Children are encouraged to explore what they like and are curious about, with the teacher guiding their interests in a way that is beneficial to them and their learning development. 

Within Montessori education, kids are given the freedom to explore the world in a supportive way, but this is done without the pressure of academic grading and criticism – which can be very beneficial for children that won’t suit exam-type curriculums. Also, Montessori schools are inclusive of special needs and learning disabilities, accommodating all children. 👩‍🏫

Though Montessori schools may not be the right choice for every child, they can offer a unique and inclusive method of teaching that encourages learning through curiosity and free will. This allows your child to follow their own interests from a young age, and thus promotes further learning as they are interested in what they are being taught. Through guided teaching, your child undergoes mental development in a way that is tailored to their natural way of learning and perceiving the world around them and all its complexities. 

Montessori schools are certainly worth exploring when considering the education of your child, and for many kids, they may be more suitable than the current academic model. Their unique teaching model can provide a perfect start in life for some children and are therefore well worth looking into.

If you’re curious about the Montessori education method and some of the principles it entails, why not test the waters with your child at home? This is actually very aligned with the philosophy behind Montessori schooling, since learning outside of school is considered key to children’s development. If you’d like to go outside with your child, there are many benefits to outdoor learning for children. For those rainy days at home, there are some great Montessori activities for kids of all ages to try out, and plenty of free Montessori learning resources online.