Inspection Report

KSMC is not inspected by Ofsted, but the UK government licensed the Schools Inspection Service to undertake inspections on certain types of colleges.  Our latest report follows…




Independent professional inspection of schools affiliated to the Focus Learning Trust, those in association with the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship and of colleges with a Steiner, Montessori or Eurythmy basis








Name of college



Kent and Sussex Montessori Centre


Licence number








Marianne Clarkson





Marianne Clarkson


Address of college




Hoath Hall

Chiddingstone Hoath






Telephone number



01892 870740


Email address


Fax number



01892 871219


Fees charged





Date of inspection



22-23 May 2012




Section A:  Introduction and summary

Section B:  Details of findings in each Standard




Name of centre:                        Kent and Sussex Montessori Centre


Address of centre:                    Hoath Hall

Chiddingstone Hoath





Telephone number:                 01892 870740


Fax number:                             01892 871219


Email address:                


Proprietor:                                  Marianne Clarkson


Name of Principal:                   Marianne Clarkson


Licence number:                      N/A


Type of centre:                          Montessori Teacher Training


Age range of student body:    19 – 70


Gender of students:                 Male and female


Total number on roll: (Full-time)                Male:  0                      Female: 1


(Part-time)                Male:  0                      Female: 44


Students below 18:                         Male:  0                      Female:  0


Annual fees:                             Various


Type of inspection:                  Educational oversight


Inspection Team:


Reporting Inspector:      Ted Cohn


Supporting Inspector:    Mike Thirkell


Dates of inspection:                22-23 May 2012











Purpose and scope of the inspection:


Inspection by the SIS is designed to strengthen the quality of education on offer to international students through Tier 4 of the points-based system for student visas. Inspection provides objective and reliable reports on the quality of colleges, and by placing reports in the public domain, makes this information available to students, the UK Border Agency and the wider community. Inspection takes account of the context of each individual college, and of how it evaluates its own performance and demonstrates its success. Reports help colleges, their staff and governors/proprietors to recognise and build on their strengths and to identify and remedy their weaknesses. Reports also address the issues relating to the safeguarding, welfare, health and safety of students including, where applicable, those under eighteen and vulnerable adults.


Characteristics of the centre:


The Kent and Sussex Montessori Centre, at Chiddingstone Hoath, near Tunbridge Wells, is situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty close to the Kent, Surrey and Sussex borders.  The centre has been operating as an independent organisation since 1990 and is staffed by highly qualified and very experienced staff.


The centre aims to provide high quality training for intending Montessori educators and further professional development for teachers, particularly those in Montessori schools and nurseries.  It promotes Montessori philosophy and education, particularly in the south-east of England, and interprets the Montessori Method in the light of recent research, whilst retaining the integrity of Dr Montessori’s ideas.  In pursuance of these aims, the centre offers a wide range of full and part-time courses, at diploma, foundation degree and post-graduate level.  All courses require students to undertake significant amounts of time working in a Montessori setting.  Centre staff also organise the work of the Montessori Teachers Association, the largest local network of Montessori teachers, which provide regular meetings on topics of current interest and offer support and professional development for former students.  In addition, the two tutors sit on the management boards of two major international Montessori organisations.


The centre currently runs a diploma course accredited by the Open University as a Level 4 course, a Foundation degree course accredited by the University of East Anglia through the City College, Norwich as a Level 5 course and a post-graduate course, which is the Centre’s own qualification.  Until the recent past, it has run a Level 6 course, accredited by a local university, but a major re-organisation, linked to funding, meant that the university was no longer able to offer this service.  The centre intends to offer a Level 6 course in the future.  Students come from a wide variety of cultures, backgrounds and age groups.  These range from students taking a gap year before starting a university course to those in their twenties and thirties wishing to embark upon a career change to nursery education and older people, such as grandparents interested in finding out about how the Montessori method can help their grandchildren.  Some students already possess advanced qualifications such as first or higher degrees or are qualified nursery nurses; others have little in the way of formal qualifications, but have much personal experience either through bringing up their own children or from experience in the classroom.


Many students, after graduating, teach in local Montessori nurseries or set up successful nursery schools of their own.  Some past students are also teaching in various parts of Europe and as far afield as China, Kuwait and South Africa.


Summary evaluation of the centre:


The centre has established an ethos and practices that are imbued with Montessori philosophy, theory and practice. Teaching is excellent, combining warm relationships with students and high expectations of them.  It has intellectual rigour and achieves a highly effective integration of theory and practice, so that students naturally take on and use what they have learnt as Montessori educators. High-quality resources support the teaching and courses, which are very well planned and organised.  Tutors bring to their teaching a wealth of knowledge, experience and wisdom. Students enjoy the courses, feel very well supported and derive great satisfaction from their intellectual, moral and social development as people and educators.


Management is of a high quality and key administrative functions such as those related to the admission of students and CRB checks are rigorous, very thorough and well-organised. Arrangements for welfare, health and safety are secure and all the necessary safeguarding measures are in place, but supporting documentation is not always well organised. The premises and accommodation provide a delightful environment for learning.


What the centre does well:


  • tutors are very knowledgeable, excellent communicators and very well versed in the theory and practice of Montessori methods;


  •  teaching and learning is of a high quality;


  • the organisation and planning of the curriculum and teaching is extremely thorough and highly effective;


  • resources to support teaching and learning are excellent;


  • the pastoral care and support for students is of a high quality and much appreciated by them; and


  • the centre is well managed.


The centre meets the requirements.




  • Improve the organisation of documentation with regard to welfare, health and safety.







PART 1 – The quality of education provided by the centre


Courses and qualifications


The centre provides three main courses all of which are suitable to meet current students’ needs.  The Montessori Early Years Diploma is accredited by the Open University, the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MACTE), an international organisation based in the United States, and   is approved as an Early Years qualification by the Teaching Agency.  It is available as a full-time course over one year and as a part-time course over two years. Students on this course are adults seeking a career change, home educators, unqualified school staff and those seeking to establish their own schools.  The Foundation degree, franchised by City College Norwich and awarded by the University of East Anglia, is a one year course of one day a week, with full-time teaching employment in a Montessori setting for the rest of the week.  Students are typically already Montessori qualified and have completed the Centre’s Early Years Diploma.   The post-graduate Primary Course of eighteen months duration is accredited by the centre and is for students who are already Montessori qualified, who spend one day a month at the centre whilst in permanent teaching posts.  This course is aimed primarily at teaching children aged from six to nine, with the option of extending the age range of training to cover the nine to twelve age range.  All courses include monitoring by the centre tutors in student’s schools and placements.  The quality of the Early Years Diploma was last monitored by an external evaluator from the Open University in October 2010 and is also monitored regularly by MACTE.


Observation of teaching and learning, and the unanimously positive response of students in discussions and questionnaires, confirm that the courses are pitched at a suitable level for the students taking them and that the learning which takes place is both valued and enjoyed.  All students attending the courses currently are permanent residents in England and often travel some distance to the centre, including one student originally from the European Community.  Details of courses are explained in the centre prospectus, on the centre website and in detail, including with reference to course requirements, in the students’ handbook.  Feedback from students confirms that they understand that the Primary course is accredited by the centre itself.  This is referred to in information provided about centre courses on its website.


Interviews with each prospective student prior to their joining are described by the centre as a key element in ensuring that they are placed on a course that meets their specific needs.  Every student, including any that may wish to join the centre from overseas, are thoroughly evaluated to ensure that they can cope with the intellectual demands of the courses and can communicate effectively in written and spoken English, but no certified level of competence in English is required.  Applications require students to provide a range of information about their personal needs and academic backgrounds.  Interviews and writing tasks are used to assess students’ competence in English.  Thorough evaluations of need enable the centre to provide additional support if they deem it necessary.  Such support is usually for learning difficulties associated with dyslexia.  There are currently no students attending the centre from overseas, but English access courses at local colleges have been used successfully in the past to support students with English as an additional language needs.  Nevertheless, the centre is clear that no student has been admitted until they can read, write and communicate competently in English.


Teaching, learning and assessment


The teaching is excellent.   Tutors are well qualified, with first and higher degrees, Montessori qualifications and several other professional qualifications.  They are very experienced and bring to the teaching a deep knowledge of Montessori’s philosophy and the Montessori Method, together with a very secure knowledge of Early Years Education more generally and developing issues related to it.  In sessions observed, for instance, the Ark School’s Mathematics Mastery project and recent changes in Ofsted inspections were discussed.  Medium-term planning and the planning of sessions are very thorough.  Sessions are intellectually challenging and blend academic learning with the practical application of this learning to the teaching and learning of young children very well, using the Montessori Method.


Students greatly appreciate the pedagogical style of their tutors and are intently engaged in teaching sessions.  Tutors make ideas accessible, whilst ensuring that key principles are clearly delineated, such as those related to the concept of Number, and are very successful in engaging students in debate, so that they can relate these principles to their own diverse experience of Montessori education and their own educational experience.  Similarly, a tutor was able to draw on their own action research on the effects of different strategies on children’s engagement with Montessori’s materials, to discuss coping with a variety of different teaching situations, including the importance of responding flexibly to changing needs and of repetition.  Tutors also make excellent use of questions to challenge students and consolidate their learning, whilst relating it to students’ own teaching experiences, helping them to develop reflective thinking skills that improve their own practice.


Support and guidance for students on teaching practice is well organised, appropriate and greatly valued.  Tutors know teaching practice settings well and have close relationships with the staff who work in them.  Students receive good support and guidance from mentors in their settings and extensive work for the teaching practice portfolio extends and consolidates students’ knowledge, understanding and pedagogical skills very well.  Tasks range from collecting valuable information about childhood diseases, MMR immunisation and the identification of dangerous plants to carrying out and evaluating a large number of examples of the use of Montessori materials by students in furthering the learning of their pupils across the full range of Montessori learning areas, planning and reviewing teaching and a longitudinal individual child study.  As a whole the tasks that students carry out provide clear evidence of the progress that they are making and an excellent learning resource for their own future use.


All courses are well supported by a wide variety of teaching resources, including a range of published books and other material, as well as some excellent handbooks and books of readings produced by tutors.  Excellent use is made of the extensive range of Montessori apparatus, in order to explain and model good practice in its use, so that students learn how to use it and understand the under-pinning principles that govern how it should be used.


The quality of assessment is good and is particularly strong in the area of formative assessment.  The assessment of assignments is rigorous and constructive, identifying clearly and commending strengths and identifying areas for future development.  The assessment of teaching practice portfolios is particularly strong, with constructive feedback by tutors and perceptive comments from school mentors.  Students commented very favourably on the quality of guidance, support and informal feedback from tutors and mentors in relation to teaching practice portfolios and assignments and considered that they made a valuable contribution to their progress and achievement.


Does the meet the UKBA expectation (Standard 8)?




PART 2 – Cultural and moral development


The students’ moral and cultural development is excellent. Tutors create a stimulating and empathetic ethos where students gain in confidence and self-esteem as their understanding of Montessori philosophy and their pedagogical skills develop.  Students commented on an increasing capacity to maintain an inner stillness and think through actions in working with children, which made them more successful educators.


The discussion of ethical issues is an integral part of the course and an essential feature, which students endorsed strongly, was taking responsibility for one’s own actions and thinking through the consequences.  Similarly, at the heart of Montessori philosophy and teaching is the development of learners who are independent, thinking human beings, living in order and harmony with the world and students felt that this spiritual philosophy was being absorbed into their own thinking.



PART 3 – Welfare, health and safety


All matters relating to the welfare, health and safety of the students are secure.  The centre has a suitable range of policies and procedures relating to all aspects of their welfare, health and safety, although some documentation is not well organised.  The centre is small and both tutors take responsibility for the development and oversight of policies and procedures, but one named individual is responsible for all matters relating to fire protection and is named in the centre’s fire policy.   Policies and procedures are supported by information in the student handbook, including details of the centre’s policy for Equal Opportunities.  Teaching materials and guidance provide further evidence of the centre’s practical attention to welfare, health and safety, including with respect to children when students are on teaching practice.  Fire drills are undertaken each term and are recorded and evaluated in considerable detail, highlighting areas for improvement.  Notices relating to fire and evacuation of the building are suitably positioned and new fire extinguishers have recently been purchased.


Thorough risk assessments have been completed for each part of the centre and for trips out of the centre.  Attention to students’ personal and academic development is excellent and relates closely to the centre aim of providing support tailored to the individual needs of each student.  An admissions register is maintained both in simplified paper form, which includes details of the destinations of students when they have completed their courses, and a computer spreadsheet which contains full student information, including academic results.  There are no students who are below the age of eighteen.  Attendance is closely monitored and records show excellent levels of attendance, reflecting the students’ enjoyment of and satisfaction with their courses.


Does the college meet the UKBA expectation (Standard 22)?




PART 4 – Proprietors and staff


The tutor team, which includes the proprietor, are well-qualified as teachers and as Montessori teachers. They are steeped in the Montessori tradition, have a very extensive experience of Montessori schools in action and excellent pedagogical skills. They embody in their practice the ethos and aims of the centre and work very well as a team in reviewing performance, ensuring sufficiency of resources and further developing centre provision.


Advanced CRB checks are carried out regularly and both tutors have had checks in the last three years. All the appropriate records and checks are in order and tutors ensure that students undertake CRB checks before they go into their teaching practice placements and provide evidence of their experience and qualifications through a well constructed curriculum vitae.


All the appropriate policies and procedures are in place, but the documentation to support them is not always organised systematically. Managers are hard pressed in carrying out all the administrative functions as well as the management role, which they recognise and have plans to address.



PART 5 – Premises and accommodation


The centre’s buildings are situated in a delightful woodland setting. They provide attractive accommodation which is fit for purpose, meets the required standard and creates an informal learning setting that is well suited to the student body, most of whom are returning to or have not experienced a higher education environment previously.  The single large teaching space provides a good environment for learning supported by a wide range of Montessori learning resources and comfortable furnishings for the students.  The buildings are well maintained and, at the time of the inspection, were undergoing extensive enlargement.


Extensions to the accommodation being undertaken currently will increase the available learning space considerably.  Provision for access and disability, which is currently satisfactory, is being further improved and the increased space provides opportunities for extending existing courses.  The centre is currently without a library during the building work, but alternative arrangements have ensured that students still have good access to books and other resources.



PART 6 – Provision of Information and manner in which complaints are handled


Prospective students are provided with a comprehensive and helpful range of information from the centre website and it is available on paper as well if requested. They can also speak to tutors directly, which all students interviewed did, and students spoke very warmly about the care and attention paid to their needs and capabilities as part of the admissions process. As one student commented, ‘we felt that tutors already knew us well when we arrived’.


Communication between staff and students is excellent and students feel very well briefed about how well they are doing and what they need to do to improve further, and commented very positively on the excellent support and guidance they receive regarding any issues or concerns.


The appropriate complaints procedure is laid out clearly in the student handbook and students were aware of it, but stated that any concerns and issues were dealt with quickly and fully informally. The last formal complaint, which was about not being allowed prior sight of questions in an unseen examination paper, was in 2002.
































This report has been prepared by the School Inspection Service (SIS), which provides independent professional inspection of all colleges who offer education on offer to international students through Tier 4 of the points-based system for student visas.  Further copies of the report are available from the centre and on the SIS website:         

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