Alan Thomas

Alan Thomas is a psychologist interested in how children learn.
Most of his research has been undertaken in Holland, Australia and the UK.
His most recent source of information on informal learning has been what he has learned from his 2½-year-old grandson!

Informal learning – becoming educated without knowing it

Andras Hinz

Dr. Andreas Hinz is a professor at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in the Faculty of Education. His main subjects are: inclusive education, inclusive school development with the Index for Inclusion (co-editor of the German version of the Index), democratic education and evaluation of person-centred planning projects.

Talks/Workshops (together with Ines Boban):
Democratic and inclusive education – innovative siblings
Citizen-centred future celebrations with circles of supporters

Axel Backhaus

Axel Backhaus, born 1973, is a primary school teacher and works as a research fellow at the University of Siegen. There, he directs the programme for progressive education of the school network "Blick über den Zaun".

"Peer Reviews" for purposes of evaluation and school development –
experiences from the school network "Blick über den Zaun".

Bertrand Stern

"Freelance Philosopher": At the centre of his work on the critique of culture is the liberation of people from cultural ideologies and institutions. For over forty years he has dedicated himself to questions of educational freedom and the critique of schooling.

What a miracle: the school system was blown away … and people could educate themselves freely!

David Gribble

David Gribble had a traditional education himself and began his teaching career in a traditional school, but found he disapproved of it and moved to Dartington Hall School, a progressive alternative school, where he stayed until it was closed down in 1987.
Then he and a small group of students and teachers set up Sands School, to run on similar principles.
Since retiring in 1992 he has visited democratic schools of many different kinds all round the world and written about what he learnt there.

Hostility to Democratic Education
Authoritarian Schooling – A Catalogue of Damage

Derry Hannam

Derry Hannam practised as much democracy and student control over their own learning as he could get away with in his twenty years as a state secondary school teacher. He ended his school career as vice principal of a large English secondary school which had pioneered the role of the school being a learning resource for the whole community and the whole community being a learning resource for the school.

He then became a school inspector where he tried to support other teachers and schools with similar ideas.

He was part of the successful defence of Summerhill school against the threat of closure by the government in 1999.

Derry Hannam has been an adviser/trainer/rapporteur for the Council of Europe Education for Democratic Citizenship project and a freelance researcher/adviser to the development of citizenship education in the English national curriculum.

At the request of the UK ministry of education he authored the "Hannam Report" based on research which he conducted that demonstrated associations between democratic and participative methods in schools and higher academic results, less anti-social behaviour and better school attendance.

He has co-authored several books on the theme that "…if you want young people to learn about democracy in schools they have to do it and not just listen to teachers talk about it."

Derry Hannam has regularly contributed to IDECs since 1993 and has been described as a "bridge person" who tries to bring about dialogue between the democratic education movement and the state or public school systems.

Democratic Schools. Why we need them and how we can assure ourselves and others that they are working successfully.

Ines Boban

Ines Boban works at the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg in the Faculty of Education; her main subjects are: inclusive education, inclusive school development with the Index for Inclusion (co-editor of the German version of the Index), democratic education, "citizen-centred future celebrations with circles of supporters".

Talks/Workshops (together with Andreas Hinz):
Democratic and inclusive education – innovative siblings
Citizen-centred future celebrations with circles of supporters

Karen Whitescarver

Karen Whitescarver is a staff member at The Highland School (, a boarding and day school located in a beautiful rural part of West Virginia, USA.

Each child is unique – learning in many different ways.

Lynette Gribble

Lynette lives in South Brent and has lived in Devon for over forty years.
She grew up on a farm, experiencing at firsthand the change from raking the hay and throwing wheat-sheaves on to carts to driving combine harvesters or tractors bringing the trailers of grain in to the driers.
She trained as a teacher at the Froebel Educational Institute and later took an Open University course in reading development.
She taught at Dartington Hall School (1963-1967 & 1976-1987), firstly as a primary teacher and then on her return as a special needs teacher and a careers adviser.
While teaching special needs she became the first Chair of the South Devon Dyslexia Association.
She became the Founder Chair of Park School, Dartington, and played an active role in its early development.
She was also Director of The Open School and a pioneer of Teletutoring using distance learning technology to reach children out of school through illness or other circumstances.
She continues her educational interests by advising the Phoenix Education Trust and the International Democratic Education Network.

Living with Democratic Education for 50 Years

Meital Hershkovich

Meital Hershkovich, an educater, a teacher and a personal adviser in a new Democratic school in Israel – taking part in establishing that school called "makom ligdol" ("a place to grow" ), there she worked for the past 3 years.
Meital was a student at the Institute of Democratic Education (IDE) in the kibbutzim college of education, the biggest college of teacher training in Israel. Meital attended the IDECs and EUDECs every year in the past 5 years.

Talk/Workshop (together with Ramit Avidan):
The Democratic Education phenomenon in Israel

Meta Sell

Meta Sell was born on 1 May 1954.
In her "first life", she earned a PhD in socialist agriculture with a dissertation on "Short straw mutants of spring barley".
In her "second life" (starting in 1986): critical reflections on the social coexistence of children and adults, e.g. with the group "Spielwagen" with activities on East Berlin’s streets and squares.
1990: co-founder of the association "Netzwerk Spiel/Kultur Prenzlauer Berg e.V." whose members now include adventure playgrounds, a "youth farm", nurseries, day-care centres and a democratic comprehensive school.
1992-2000: training as pre-school teacher and university studies in the field of educational science.
1990-2008: educational staff member at the adventure playground
"Abenteuerlicher Bauspielplatz Kolle 37"
Since 2008: co-founder and staff member at "Netzwerk-Schule".
Mother of two adult children.

Safe havens for children – prevention of sexual abuse in institutions

Niklas Gidion

Niklas Gidion’s strong interest in educational theory and school criticism dates back to his university degree. After graduating, as a teacher at elementary, special-needs and comprehensive schools in Hamburg, he attempted to put his ideas on progressive education into practice. In 2004 he moved to Freiburg to work at the Kapriole and have the chance to finally experience school in a way that made sense to him. He considers the exchange of experience and ideas on good practice to be indispensible for a school and has therefore been working for several years on public relations work and networking for the Kapriole. In 2008 he was one of the co-founders of the European Democratic Education Community (EUDEC) and was elected to the EUDEC council, on which he still serves.

Self-managed learning at a democratic and inclusive school: the Kapriole

Rachel Roberts

Rachel Roberts was a student at Sands School, a democratic school in southern England.  She studied Sociology and Education at the University of York.  She has been a teacher at the Freie Schule Leipzig, a democratic school in Germany.  She is also a member of the EUDEC Council.  Rachel now lives in England and works as the Assistant Director for the Phoenix Education Trust in London where she oversees the democratic development of StudentVoice.

StudentVoice – Supporting students to have their say

Ramit Avidan

Ramit Avidan (born 1975, Israel). My first degree in Education was in the primary education and Kindergarden. In the last 5 years I worked at the democratic school "Kehila" in Tel-Aviv. Besides that I study in a new masters programme at the University of Tel-Aviv: "Democratic Education", in order to foster the academic discourse and research in this area.

Talk/Workshop (together with Meital Hershkovich):
The Democratic Education phenomenon in Israel

Robert Hamm

Originally from Germany, Robert has worked in alternative pre-school education (Kinderladen) for 15 years. He left Germany in the year 2000 and settled in Ireland. There it was possible for him to avoid sending his son to school but rather have him home educated. Robert has been active in promoting alternative education in several organisations. In a study on lining-up of children in schools he analysed disciplinary techniques and their application in educational institutions. (,Tanz-nicht-aus-der-Reihe-Die-Zweierreihe-in-den-Blick-genommen-mit-Hilfe-der-Werkzeugkiste-des-Michel-Foucault.html)
At present he is working on a research project on reflection processes on rituals in schools. The project is located at the Institute of Technology, Sligo, Ireland. (

Mainstream school, Free school, Democratic school – An examination of practice using ritual analysis

Ute Siess

Teacher of languages at state schools for 30 years, always with the aim of free, self-
motivated learning. Working in democratic education since 2005 in the Kapriole Free Democratic
School, Freiburg, Germany. Since 2008 responsible for the partnership project of
helping found a democratic school in a remote area of the Andes in Perú with the help of the
Kapriole school.
A member of the European Education Community from the start.

Creating a Common Bond between Democratic and State Education. How can that be put into Practice?