Margaret Alice Elizabeth (Mug) Lyttle (20 November 1912 to 4 January 2014), the first of four children to Edgar James Lyttle, a state school teacher working in rural Victoria, and Alice Annie Frances née Mawson. When Margaret was 11 years old, she and her 3 younger siblings were placed under the care of their Aunt Greta, an educationist, who had experimented at the forefront of progressive education for over a decade.
In August 1931, Greta began teaching five pupils in her living room under the motto ‘Courage’; soon there were boarders and the nucleus of a school known as Preshil. Following this pathway, Margaret completed her secondary schooling at St Michaels Church of England Grammar School, where she then trained under Dorothy Ross gaining her sub-primary certificate from the Victorian Education Department in December 1933. Margaret taught at Carey Grammar for three years, prior to joining her aunt at Preshil on the cusp of the Second World War. In 1944 following Greta’s death, Margaret took up the position of Preshil headmistress at 32 years of age and she continued to act in that capacity until 1994.
Over the years, Margaret steered Preshil through many transitions including Greta’s death, the school’s restructure under the Memorandum of Association in 1946, its unprecedented growth in the 1960s, the establishment of Preshil’s secondary school at Yallambee in 1973 and its further expansion to Blackhall in 1978. In meeting each of these challenges, Margaret deepened and strengthened Preshil’s unique model of progressive education which respects play as ‘children’s work’, cooperative endeavor, spontaneous interest and individual paths of learning as central to the acquisition of meaningful knowledge (intellectual, social, physical and emotional).
Margaret was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1989 for her services to education. True to character, she was apparently quite annoyed by the attention and had to be cajoled into attending Government House to receive the honour.
Margaret is a celebrated pioneer of the Australian progressive education movement. Along the way her career has captured the attention of progressive educationists at the local, national and international levels: (for instance Alexander Neill, Dorothy Howard, Jean Stirrat, Oscar Oesor, June Factor, Dorothy Ross, Henry Schoenheimer and Elizabeth Hanby), contributed tangibly to the educational sector (the Victorian section of the New Education Fellowship, the Free Kindergarten Union, Era Council) and informed, by example, the practices of mainstream schooling.
The Preshil Arlington campus remains as a distillation of Margaret’s life, philosophy and educational purpose and is a continuing legacy of her unique model of education in a living institution and architectural ensemble. Margaret continued to live at Arlington until 2009. She then moved to Victorian Gardens aged care facility, where she was often visited by Preshil students (who performed for her), Margaret sadly passed away in January 2014 at the age of 101.