MAEL was established in the spring of 1999 in response to a perceived need to provide independent verification of the standards of Montessori qualifications. This need arose with particular reference to the qualifications offered by the Kent & Sussex Montessori Centre (KSMC), which was then accredited by the University of Brighton, who had awarded their Montessori Early Childhood Teaching Diploma 120 general CATS points at level 4 (the first time any Montessori course in the UK had been recognised in this way). The University moderator strongly encouraged the establishment of a formally independent body to oversee the establishment and maintenance of externally verified standards. This was carried out. In 2001 the accreditation role (still for 120 CATS points) was taken over by the Open University.
In 2004 the government began to take steps to regulate the proliferation of early years qualifications. The Dept. for Education & Science (DfES) employed LMG Associates to co-ordinate a mapping exercise. They mapped existing qualifications onto the National Occupational Standards and produced a list for the DfES website indicating which qualifications met the criteria – for the main benefit of Ofsted and employers – so they could easily determine which qualifications were appropriate for a ‘suitable person’ under the Children Act 2000. KSMC’s early years qualifications were entered onto the list at level 4. In addition to the early years qualification, the list initially included the Montessori Primary Diploma, as the list then included qualifications up to the age of 8.
The function of regulating Foundation Level qualifications later passed to the Children’s Workforce and Development Council (CWDC) and KSMC qualifications remained on the list at level 4 following a further review. In 2010 CWDC attempted to make all Early Years training follow a common qualification. Following some complaints by the sector, these plans were shelved and in April 2012 all of CWDC’s functions with respect to qualifications passed to the Dept. for Education (DfE) and its branch, the Teaching Agency, later re-structured as the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) but now subsumed into the DfE.
Following the Nutbrown Report into Early Years qualifications, the NCTL visited qualifications requirements and issued new criteria. MAEL is currently working with the DfE to ensure that their qualifications retain their validity. However, existing graduates of qualifications on the old qualifications list (the ‘historic list’) will retain their status, including those embarking on a course prior to September 2015†2.
Initially MAEL qualifications were only used by KSMC. Later, other centres enrolled, both in the UK and abroad. However, MAEL is also gradually extending its range of services, in accordance with its mission statement and the articles of association, which state, inter alia, that the company’s objects are to provide any services which may be required for the purposes of [the] business. In 1997 MAEL began publishing a series of books of practical instruction in the Montessori Method for the early years. This was extended to the primary curriculum (related to the UK National Curriculum) commencing in 2006. In 2009 a new series, of readings on various topics, such as the Montessori Environment, Language Development, etc., was commenced. Further publications are currently in press.
MAEL also operates a school/nursery accreditation system which was developed in 2020. Candidates develop a guided portfolio and are then assessed externally in accordance with the published criteria.
MAEL’s mission statement is that its aims are to:
1. promote the Montessori philosophy of education, in that this should always be based on the inner needs of the child and not constrained by external considerations (other than the demands of living graciously in a civil community), particularly in the fields of teacher training and assessment;
2. organise, and/or co-operate with, procedures and structures which will support and verify the highest standards in Montessori teaching;
3. encourage training of a high academic standard for intending Montessori educators, particularly mature students, by providing qualifications and assessments of a both nationally and internationally accepted and accredited standard;
4. provide and encourage continuing professional development for teachers, particularly those in Montessori schools/nurseries;
5. produce educational materials and/or publications for both training and teaching organisations;
6. facilitate the interpretation and development of the Montessori Method in the light of recent research, without losing the essence of the method.
And its vision statement is:
“The Highest Standard in Montessori Training”
DfE (2012a). Review of early education and childcare qualifications – Interim report. Nottingham: Dept. for Education (DfE)
DfE (2012b). Foundations for Quality: The independent review of early education and childcare qualifications: Final Report Nottingham: Dept. for Education
NCTL (2013). Early Years Educator (Level 3): Qualifications Criteria. Nottingham: Dept. for Education
page updated 12.4.2021