Quite a few HE kids watching the film, recognised the themselves in it: the familiarity with taking responsibility for their lives, for deciding how to work in groups, with understanding the function of rules and with thinking creatively about how to make rules workable, the wrestling with moral issues etc. In fact, the lives of the children at Summerhill seem very similar to home educators' experience of HE meetings, camps and festivals, bar the presence of parents.
It seems almost inevitable that the Telegraph should be very ambivalent about the series. In this article, they plump firmly for the idea that the whole thing is a propaganda exercise, but in another report, they quote the directer Jon East talking about Golding's "Lord of the Flies":
"That single book did more than anything else to damage people's faith in the essential decency of children," says Jon East, head of drama at CBBC and director of Summerhill. If repressed public schoolboys who are used to being caned are suddenly left unrestricted on a desert island, it's not surprising that these terrible instincts are unleashed. However, I think that if Summerhill pupils crashed on to the same island, they'd soon have a meeting, set up a committee, find wood, make food and be basking in the sun, entirely happy."
Yep, he has it! And the great thing about this is that Jon East is none other than the Head of Drama at CBBC. He says:
"An awful lot of drama is set in schools - and yet each series only reinforces the dominant paradigm," he says. "What we're trying to say in this drama is that there could just be another way of doing things."
There could indeed. More of this please, Mr East!