Working for love.

Tim Kyng (
Sun, 29 Mar 1998 22:53:09 -0800

Liz Wertheim has replied to my question about whether the staff are being
offered Union rates as follows:

<Of course not. Traditionally, the first year staff at a Sudbury school work
for love and, hopefully, pay themselves back over the next few years.
Still interested?
Help us raise money!> Liz

I'm interested in this as a moral question. Is it right, from anybody's
point of view, to ask staff to work below the Union rate?

There are arguments against. 1. Will it be possible to attract sufficiently
professional people to work for love? 2. Even if it is, will they give
proper professional service? 3. Is it fair to the kids to run a school
where the staff are not being paid professional rates - is there not a danger
that the results will be below standard? 4. Would it not be better first
to raise the necessary funds and only then to employ staff, in sufficient
numbers, at the correct Union rate? 5. Is it not undercutting the
professional salaries of other staff to employ people at less than the Union
rate - and is this a moral thing to do?

I raise these questions because of my experience at Summerhill from
1939-1945. There was always a problem with sub-standard staff, and this was
because Neill would not, or could not, pay them the Union rate. I must say,
though, that I loved Summerhill and it did me a world of good. However, the
staff problem certainly did affect not only me but many others. Many
Summerhillians left without a proper standard in literacy, mathematics, and
other subjects. This was not because they did not attend lessons, but
because of poor staff. It is said that this did not matter because, never
having been compelled to attend lessons, they were able to catch up very
well. This is a good theory, whcih is unquestioningly accepted by true
believers, but it is just not true. Some did catch up, many didn't. Also
many subjects simply were not available. Some of the staff were quite wierd
at times, and some came because they had emotional problems. Recently,
Summerhill was almost closed down by the Government Inspectors because of
alleged problems with literacy. Whether the Inspectors were right, I do not
know, but I do know that there was a problem when I was at the school, and it
was caused by not paying the staff the correct rate.