Interview with Montessori Nursery Principal - Trish Thornton

Trish Thornton - Principal

The Montessori Nursery School, Murrayfield

Did you start your career as a Montessori Nursery Teacher?

I started as a chartered surveyor but discovered Montessori education while living in Bali. I was so inspired that I changed career and retrained as a Montessori educator, writing my course essays from our Malaysian jungle hut!

When did you own your first Nursery?

In December 2017, when I proudly became owner of this wonderful little nursery. I realised how special it was during my teaching practice in 2012, and when the owner wanted to retire, I stepped up into management, then ownership, to keep these amazing experiences and opportunities alive for children and families.

So, what is Montessori?

I believe it to be the very best form of education there is! It is an internationally recognized

child-centred education system designed in 1906 by an Italian medical doctor, psychologist and

educator, Dr Maria Montessori, which continues to be one of the most successful methods in the world.

The main features include:

  • Carefully designed educational materials

  • Montessori teachers acting as guides, supporting each child’s individual learning style and progress at a pace that’s right for them

  • Children of mixed ages working alongside each other, actively driving their learning while fostering independence

  • A peaceful environment nurturing self-esteem, respect and trust in themselves, each other and the community.

How are the principles of Montessori education incorporated in your nursery?

Dr Montessori believed that children are naturally eager to learn, developing to their full potential when directing their own learning and engaging more fully. We provide a beautiful Montessori environment with free flow to the outdoors. Montessori educators guide and support individual learning through inspiration and presentations, emphasising the importance of the learning

process, not solely the result. By really getting to know each child during their 2–3 years, we support them in developing a deep-seated sense of inner confidence, wellbeing and life skills of problem solving, lateral thinking, organisation, communication, conflict resolution and collaboration—all crucial for 21st century living.

What do you think makes the biggest difference to a child’s nursery life?

Being part of a welcoming environment and culture of respect and kindness with the opportunity to follow their inner drive to succeed without interruption. This stems from a trusting and open partnership between the nursery and parent community where good communication and integrity build foundations for success.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Working with the children and sharing in their achievements alongside my team of dedicated and talented Montessori teachers, and having the privilege of experiencing the wonders of the Montessori environment in action.

What is on the horizon for The Montessori Nursery School ?

For some time, our families have asked us to extend our outstanding Montessori education beyond the early years. I am excited that we are now able to make this happen. We have brought together a brilliant team of educators and are ready to open a Montessori Elementary class for children aged 6–12 which will incorporate Forest School, Spanish, Art and Drama, alongside the Montessori curriculum of language, maths and cultural subjects.

In traditional education, children are under the active instruction and control of adults, leaving them less trusting of their own inner abilities as the emphasis is on ensuring they meet defined results. Researchers have witnessed that many students in traditional systems sadly become disillusioned with learning. In comparison, Montessori schools encourage children to pursue interests which actively engage them, honing their natural curiosity and love of learning for life.

Trish Thornton, Principal, The Montessori Nursery School, Church of the Good Shepherd, Murrayfield Avenue, Edinburgh, EH12 6AU Tel: 0131 346 8921 Mobile: 07799 523 719