A History of Montessori New Zealand

The Montessori approach made its first appearance in New Zealand in 1912 when the Montessori materials were used in Mother Aubert’s Wellington Foundling home. There is an account of the introduction of the Montessori Method into New Zealand schools in 1916, and a kindergarten was attached to the Kelburn (Wellington) Demonstration School that ran using the Montessori approach and materials – operating from 1915 onwards. The Catholic school system also began adopting aspects of the Montessori Method at this time. Some of the Catholic convents retained the Method for their infant classes up until the 1940s and 1950s, particularly in the South Island.

The second wave of Montessori began in the mid 1970s. New Plymouth began the move towards Montessori pre school education when an American Montessori teacher spoke to a parent group in 1974. In the late 1970s two Montessori trainers were invited to New Zealand from England. Workshops were run in Christchurch and Auckland in 1977 and 1978. By the mid-1980s there were 13 Montessori pre-schools in New Zealand. These schools opened in direct response to the desire of parents to have Montessori education for their children. The need for quality Montessori teaching staff has long been appreciated in New Zealand. Over the past 10 years many New Zealand Montessori schools have recruited their teachers from overseas in a bid to attract and retain quality Montessori teaching staff. Many have advertised in AMI colleges around the world, and New Zealand is now home to Montessori Directresses from as far afield as Ireland, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Italy and the United States. This was due to the recognition of authentic Montessori training and the on-going stability this afforded their school’s community.

Whanganui Central Infants School, 1921

Photographer: F J Denton

Whanganui Regional Museum Collection Ref: 1984.9.1

Montessori Today

Changes in legislation regarding the qualifications of preschool teachers brought to the fore the long-term unsustainability of solely recruiting Montessori staff from overseas, highlighting the need for quality, face-to-face training of Montessori Directresses/Directors here in New Zealand. The Montessori Aotearoa New Zealand (MANZ) worked with the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) to introduce a three year B.Tch (ECE) degree with Montessori papers offered. The last B.Tch (Montessori ECE & Primary) degrees were offered in 2017.

The AMI training courses ensure that comprehensive face-to-face Montessori training is available in New Zealand, assuring the provision of quality Montessori professionals for the future.

Montessori preschool education presently caters for the needs of more than 4,000 children, or about 9% of early childhood services.

For more information about Montessori in New Zealand visit: montessori.org.nz