The philosophy behind PFS really goes all the way back, hundreds of thousands of years, to the time of the hunter-gatherers. For 99% of human history, humans lived in these groups, wherein learning how to find food and evade predators was essential to the success of the species. Yet early humans had nothing like school. Adults did not direct, motivate, or assess the learning of young people. Instead, children learned through observation, play, and exploration, much like students at PFS do.
Our more recent forebearers include Summerhill (“Opened in 1921 and still ahead of its time!”) and the Sudbury Valley School, which opened in 1968 in Massachusetts. There are now dozens of schools operating in a similar manner around the world.
In 2002, a group of parents, activists, and educators assembled to launch a school that would “maximize freedom and responsibility for any Philadelphia child, without regard to his or her ability to pay.” These founders ceded the bulk of their powers and duties in September of 2011, when the school opened its doors. Upon the first Assembly Meeting in early 2012, the founders group was dissolved.
In 2011, PFS opened its doors with 16 students, 3 staff members and a parent volunteer. The school has grown steadily ever since, while maintaining the tremendous diversity of our initial student body in terms of age, gender, race, socio-economics, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and geography. Enrollment for the 2017-2018 school year is capped at 82 students. Although there is no franchise of Sudbury-model schools, there are dozens of other schools that operate in a similar manner around the world.