The Montessori method

Starting at an early age, Montessori nurtures creative thinking, concentration and independence.
Teresa Hamilton-Heward, director and founder of The Little Learners speaks to Briony Richter about the Montessori Apprentice Academy

Montessori education recognises that children learn in different ways, and those training to be Montessori educators accommodate all learning styles.

How does the Montessori philosophy align with your beliefs about early childhood education?

My personal beliefs for early childhood education includes giving children the opportunity to take an active role in their learning. This aligns with the Montessori philosophy, which incorporates a child-centred approach, allowing each child to choose their activities and work at their own pace.

I believe that education, especially childhood education, needs to be fun and engaging for the learner. This is apparent within the Montessori philosophy due to its variety of stimulating activities. For example, take the resource ‘sandpaper letters’, this activity is designed to engage children’s senses and provide hands on, tactile learning.

The action of tracing their finger over the letter covered in sand, then sounding this out allows the brain to better encode the information into the child’s memory.

One of the biggest factors playing a critical role in early childhood education is the educator. Montessori educators keenly observe each child’s interests and track his or her development. The real key to high-quality education is having strong guides who understand the children within their care and who are able to implement activities appropriate to their learning style and stages of development.

What was the inspiration behind starting the academy?

My inspiration behind starting the Montessori Apprentice Academy originally began by wanting to provide high-quality training for our staff internally. There was a real skill shortage and I became determined to change that.

After seeing the fantastic results from our staff implementing what they had learnt within the settings, it sparked a real desire to expand my reach by providing high-quality training across the UK.

Having a deep routed passion for the Montessori philosophy, it was only right to fill this gap within the market and become the only training provider within the UK to offer our Montessori diploma, alongside the level 3 early years educator apprenticeship.

Throughout my experience working within the early years sector, it is apparent that there is a real demand for a high-quality training provider which not only understands the industry, but also offers ongoing support to their learners.

This is even more apparent in today’s climate where there’s a real shortage of qualified staff.

Can you detail the process of your training academy including the qualifications available?

We offer Montessori courses to upskill specifically in Montessori, such as our online course for Montessori assistants and our Montessori diploma – only for those with level 3 early years educator – to become qualified Montessori teachers, understanding how to present all the Montessori specialist apparatus.

We also offer apprenticeships in level 2 early years practitioner, level 3 early years educator and level 5 in early years. We are the only provider to offer the level 3 early years educator combined with our Montessori diploma. This gives learners the licence to practice at level 3 in Ofsted ratios, as well as the practical skills and knowledge to work as a Montessori teacher.

We have had exceptional demand and response from nurseries all over the UK for our apprenticeships, especially Montessori nurseries trying to fill the gap of qualified Montessori staff required to run a Montessori nursery.

The parents of the children at our nursery have also expressed their delight.

One of the parents, Sandra Ebeledike said: “Little Learners is an absolutely brilliant nursery. My son just graduated from there last month and it was such a fantastic experience for my family. I was always kept informed about his progress via regular catch-ups and lots of photos. The staff genuinely cared about him and were always happy to go above and beyond. The nursery manager,

Miss Kirsty, is incredible. She’s very knowledgeable, experienced and caring. We’ll miss the little learners.”

How valuable are apprenticeships for the early years sector and why should other nurseries consider your approach?

Apprenticeships are not only valuable but essential for the early years sector. The industry is suffering due to a lack of highly skilled, qualified practitioners. This skill gap puts a strain on the learning environment as staff are not being supported by qualified experienced mentors.

Apprenticeships can help address these challenges by providing a structured pathway for new talent to enter the industry and excel within the workforce.

Apprentices who feel supported and receive this high-quality training are more motivated and committed to implement the knowledge they’ve developed and stay on at their settings.

What do you hope to gain from this apprenticeship programme, in terms of business growth and professional development?

Here at The Montessori Apprentice Academy, we strive to become recognised within the industry as providing high quality, early years and Montessori training. This can be achieved through winning nationally recognised awards. We also hope to expand our accreditation scheme to quality assure Montessori nurseries, giving them the stamp of approval by MAA, adhering to the Montessori philosophy.

In Montessori education, fostering a love of learning is a key goal. How do you inspire and nurture curiosity and a lifelong passion for learning in your children?

We aim to educate as many people as possible in Montessori philosophy to share the same values and ethos of Montessori education and fostering a love of learning. This will have a trickle down approach to all children in the UK to have a natural curiosity and lifelong passion for learning, benefiting children in nurseries everywhere.

How do you plan to build positive relationships with children, parents and colleagues in a Montessori nursery environment?

This starts with education. By providing knowledge, inspiration and practical support to educators, they become confident in creating positive relationships with children and relaying information to parents, as well as supporting and mentoring colleagues.

Our graduates then can conduct parent workshops to support, inspire and educate parents. We become one big community and a knowledge hub to support everyone involved in the child’s life.

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