Sunday, 24 April 2016

POLITICAL RECORD ON LINE


Preparing for Prime Ministerial visit to Hungary
Margaret Thatcher's, in 1984


Shopping for garlic, honey and paprika at the Great Market in Budapest

It is amazing what one finds on line, altogether by chance, while looking for something quite else  this surprising collection, for example, marked 'UK/Hungarian relations  Confidential file':


I do not know who has put this little bundle of paper on line. It comprises photocopies of actual documents that had been fixed together with a string, being copies of papers exchanged by UK civil servants and others in advance of Margaret Thatcher's visit to Hungary in 1984.

(While there, when she was being taken round the Great Market in Budapest, she blew many Magyars' minds by paying for things  – we were told that they were not used to seeing their own politicians paying.)

These old documents may be of interest here because they include something of the early political campaign in the UK to get Conductive Education on to the national political agenda.

From the top down, the eighth to the sixteenth of these documents relate to advocacy of Conductive Education as something in Hungary worth paying attention to, by Brigadier Michael Harbottle of the Centre for International Peacebuilding .

In the event, Michael's initiative did not see immediate outcome. Conductive Education did not fully engage the interest of the UK Foreign Office till the effects of Standing up for Joe (first broadcast in 1986) had created sufficient political impetus. Margaret Thatcher's own big intervention in the field came later still, in the UK Government's lonely response to the International Pető Appeal (of which the 'hotel' in Villányi út remains tangible fruit).

But that is another story...  


Saturday, 23 April 2016

ON INCLUSION

Where is CE now?

From the mid nineteen-sixties I was involved in various matters that might fall under the present rubric of 'special needs', in a variety of contexts and a variety of capacities. 

I am now well out of it. In 2016 I have stopped mentioning special needs on Conductive World, and ditto for inclusion, except for when such matters put a shot across the bow of Conductive Education in ways that seem relevant or interesting to me.

I have no way of knowing what either of these concepts mean nowadays, 'special needs' and 'inclusion', in theory, practice or policy. Whether my ignorance marks me out as different from some of those more closely involved in these sectors I no longer know nor care.

Too good not to pass on

I no longer understand what the word 'inclusion' means (did I ever, did anyone?) but this morning I was sent something that seems to make more sense than much that I have read on this topic over the years. It is too good not to pass on.

This might be radical stuff nowadays or it might be commonplace. Again, I have no means of knowing.

It was written by Nancy Gedge, a practising classroom teacher, in England, a double blogger, and mother of a disabled child.

Here's the gist of what she wrote (NB, SEND is current British officialese for 'special educational needs and disability')

Inclusion is about being included in society as an adult

It is vital that we remember that... inclusion, is not about us, but about setting our children up, no matter what their level of difficulties, with the skills and knowledge that they will need in order to make their way in adult society as independently as possible.

A young person working, making a contribution, having the dignity of a fully adult life (which includes working) [is] what we [are] aiming for... In schools, it’s terribly easy to fixate on the short term, on the exam results and attainment data, and forget what it is that we are really doing – preparing our young people for life...

The first, and to me, the most important, is social development. Many children, my own included, have difficulties socially, and some children need to be taught social skills explicitly.... Recognising progress in this area is absolutely key for many children – and has a direct impact on their ability to learn.

To illustrate... since [my son] started at his special school, he has been to far more birthday parties, and and has far more meaningful friendships than he ever did at mainstream. To be honest, this simple fact is, in itself, worthy of thought.

Next... physical development... self-care... associated health needs...

And finally, attainment. We need to remind ourselves, as a profession [schoolteachers], that SEND is not necessarily about attainment in the classroom. Some children make very significant strides academically – and yet they still have additional needs.  Others, like mine, do not; their progress comes in other ways and needs to be recognised... children are not at school to be patted on the head with the accompanying soft smile of the Poor Dears mentality. They are there to be educated, and that education needs to be useful to them.

Above all, the assessments we make as teachers need to be relevant and meaningful – and that means paying attention to all of these things. ... As a profession, growing a bit of backbone and reasserting what is useful to us as teachers and meaningful to us as parents, would be a change most welcome.

It is always worth remembering that we, both educators and parents, are working towards the moment when our children leave us to pursue lives of their own...

I hope that I have not done violence to her position by summarising it so.

(NB, SEND is current British officialese for 'special educational needs and disability') 

Come on CE, join in

Nancy Gedge's son has Down's syndrome but what she writes seems generalisable to children with other developmental disabilities and to other social contexts. It would be very simple to adapt what she says to the circumstances of children and young people with motor disorders.

I know that there are many different ways in which conductive practice is adapting to the varying requirements of inclusion around the world but reading, some of them quite radical. Nancy Gedge's brief article reminds me that it is some time since I have seen an articulated, principled statement arguing the case and the potential of Conductive Education in this respect in educational terms, what is gained through adaptation and fusion, and possibly what is lost.

I might of course have missed something hidden under a bushel somewhere. If so do please do let me know.

Reference

Gedge, N. (2016) Honest and useful assessment for children with SEND is not just about attainment, Special Needs Jungle, 22 April

Friday, 22 April 2016

WHAT IT TAKES

Using the democratic process
Lesson from Luxembourg




The story so far

Luxembourg's small, single-chamber Parliament (Chambre des Deputés) has sixty Members. Last week offered a good opportunity to see Luxembourg democracy in action.

At stake is the future of the 20-year-old Conductive Education association Schrëtt fir Schrëtt (Step by Step) and its group of twenty children. This has been to no small extent funded by the state of what appears to have been an informal basis. Attempts to regularise this relationship have been unsuccessful. The association would like a relationship through private-school status, but the law in Luxembourg states that schools for disabled children cannot be established as private schools. Recently the Ministry of National Education has ruled that the present funding arrangement will have to cease by the end of the school year.

Luxembourg law also rules that a public petition can trigger Parliamentary attention if enough people sign it. This is a lengthy process, each stage a nail-biter and a cliff-hanger for the petitioners:
  • appropriate wording has to be derived
  • the resulting petition has to be accepted
  • the Petition is then officially published and is open for signature, in paper form and on line
  • the Petition would then have had attract 4,500 signatures before it would be considered by the Chamber of Deputies
  • in the event Schrëtt fir Schrëtt collected 13,200 signatures, all of which were validated, well in excess of this target (and note that the total population of Luxembourg is only 543,202)
  • last Wednesday was D-Day for this stage of the process, the day appointed for consideration by the Petitions Commission.
Following its private deliberation, the Petition Commission ruled –
The plea for a legal basis forSchrëtt fir Schrëtt, received by politicians during the open debate this morning, should have consequences. The Committee on Education should grasp the first opportunity, at its meeting of 27 April.
http://www.conductive-world.info/2016/04/luxembourg-debate.html

Much of this has been reported in Conductive World, blog and Facebook

The day (13 April)

The petition had been presented in the name of Maggy Wagner-Duchène. Up to five others of those who had signed the petition would be permitted to attend with her. Five did.

The public proceedings were televised live:


This broadcast is currently archived on line, in full. I do not know how long this record will remain available. Even if you  speak no French it is still interesting to look in on this, to see the setting, the dignity of the proceedings, and what Maggy had to do

It is fascinating to watch the public face of another democracy at work, to see what looks to be the same as one is used to back home and what is clearly not. The Commission hearing was held in the room of the small unicameral Parliament, ornate, what the Brits would call 'Victorian', with most of its seats laid out facing each other – so far so familiar to me. But there were also seats at right angles, facing the length of the Chamber, an immediate physical clue of something different from what is familiar to me at the Palace of Westminster.

Maggie Wagner and her five colleagues sat on seats on one side of the Chamber, facing across to 18 elected Members on the other side (given the total of sixty Members in all, this seems rather a good turn-out for a debate on special education, at least by UK standards). The cross seats were occupied by the President of the Petition Committee and the Minister of Public Education, along with a handful of who I guessed would be officials.

Following the President's brief introduction Maggie led off with her prepared exposition of Schrëtt fir Schrëtt's case,. Her presentation included holding up children's pictures. Proceedings were respectful and serious.She had some twenty minutes. The girl done well. The five Petitioners who went with her did not speak. When she was done the Members opposite had opportunity to comment and to question her.The clearly took the matter seriously and treated her with respect. That done, it was the Minister of Public Education's turn.

The President summed up, the people from Schrëtt fir Schreët left the Chamber, and the public part of the debate as now over.

The President's announced the outcome (above) later in the day.

There are still photographs

26 Flikr photos have been shared by the Chambre des Deputés.


What a service it does provide its citizens!

Why bother about Luxembourg?

Luxembourg is of those tiny country of which we know very little. Most people involved with Conductiove Education in any role in the rest of the world have little reason to think of it at, and no immediate reason to care. So why bother with the fate of that small group of children, their parents and those who work for them? Whatever the long-term outcome of their struggle with the Ministry of of Public Education, what possible bearing might any of this have of other people's struggles to create and sustain viable conductive services in other national settings?

The world of Conductive Education has had little recent experience of national-level politicking for Conductive Education. Watching the Luxembourg story unfold suggests that Schrëtt fir Schrëtt has been making a good job of playing its hand. It has therefore seemed potentially beneficial to others to publish what is happening in Luxemburg for what might be learned from it. Different constitutions interpret and express citizens rights in different ways, and Conductive Education in the liberal democracies may yet require all the help and example that it can find should similar circumstances arise elsewhere.

One important feature in the case of Luxembourg is that it is with the Ministry of Public Education that Schrëtt fir Schrëtt is in conflict – not some other Ministry, like Health, nor social and health insurance companies. It should be instructive to see what arguments might be advanced at some further stage of this continuing saga if ministry officials and their professional advisors are involved.

Next episode

The meeting of the Committee on Education recommended to discuss this matter further (above) is scheduled for next Wednesday, 27 April

Thursday, 21 April 2016

GOOD PICTURE...



Poor science
http://www.karenpapemd.com/neuroplasticity-in-cerebral-palsy/

The text that accompanies this picture wholly ignores the role of culture, history and speech in the phylogenetic and ontogenenic development of human mental processes, don't you think?

I do of course know that still photographs represent but a moment in time and are objectively a meaningless way to illustrate and understand the temporal movement that they represent, and I do also know that visual images are inevitably interpreted subjectively.

That said, look at what is happening in this attractive image. Look at their eyes. Is it really necessary to spell out the difference?
  • The young human is going somewhere, and interacting with the onlooker (presumably an adult). 
  • The young ape is going somewhere.
Further research may or may not be needed...

NEW HONORARY CONDUCTORS CONFIRMED

Ninth year of issue

The list of nominees for the honorary conductorships for award this year by the IPA and the PAF appears to have gone through, with everyone confirmed:
  • Vecsernyés, Jolán (Hungary)
  • Benyovszky, György (Hungary, US)
  • Herbst, Patricia (US)
  • McDowell, Emma (GB)
  • Viterbo, Alessandro (Israel)
  • Moos-Hlavacek, Anita (Germany)
  • Mullback, Lars (Sweden)
  • Vogt, Wolfgang (Germany)

Formal recognition will be formally confirmed at WC9 this December – by which time Emma McDowell (from Belfast) will have surely been relocated from GB to the UK!

What's this?
Honorary Conductors Award
Awarded by the International Pető Association in the World Congress on Conductive Education, the designation of Honorary Conductors Award is to appreciate the work of non-conductors in the field who deserve a wider and more formal recognition.
Contribution to the development of Conductive Education is considered by the IPA Nominating Committee as one of the criteria while the final decision is decided by the authorized Senate of Andras Pető Institute of Conductive Education and College for Conductor Training.

http://www.peto.hu/wcce2016/en/who-we-are/honorary-conductors
These awards commenced in 1990. The present crop of eight brings the total number of honorary conductorships awarded to 57.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

INCLUSIVE CE SCHOOL IN GERMANY

Oberaudorf-Inntal private schools
Strong public statement
The first two years since establishment of the Oberaudorf-Inntal private schools has been captured in moving pictures in a documentary by Karin Dürr. The premiere of her film, Inklusion macht stark ('Inclusion makes you strong') showing the outcome of shooting, has now been held at the Oberaudorf Kursaal...
The film shows impressively that 'diversity is an opportunity and not a hindrance'... Great acclaim for Karin Dürr, who has been therefore symbolically awarded an 'Oscar for her moving film documentary about this impressive school with its successful concept of inclusion and Conductive Education.
Read more (in German) →



Recent items on this film and these schools

(English)
(German)

Reference

(2016) Ein „Oscar“ für einen starken Film, OVB Online, 20 April

Monday, 18 April 2016

THE BIGGEST ANNIVERSARY OF ALL?

CE's 71st birthday (so it says here)

Currently being reposted on the Russian-language medical Internet is a short item by Mikhail Shifrin –
'Conductologues versus c.p. It began on 15 April 1945'
http://medportal.ru/enc/neurology/reading/34/

('Conductologue' is a grand-sounding and misleading Russian word used occasionally to refer to conductors)

Most of these repostings have omitted the author's name. This is given in one of these as Mikhail Shifrin, quite a common name, though other repostings omit it.

Others have added some photos, not all directly relevant, A couple of the relevant ones are unfamiliar to me.

New facts or heroic old creation myths?

This article begins –
In war-torn Budapest on 15 April 1945 a Hungarian physician András Pető organized the Department for Experimental Treatment of Disabled Children...

It is a fascinating and confusing tale told here. Maybe I shall get round to translating it into English if I get time but in the meantime you can catch the flavour through entering the URL or the text into for example Google Translate.

This is not a scholarly article. It is story-telling, even hagiography, rather than a serious attempt at historiography. There is no reference to where these anecdotes and quotations have been drawn from. Some are contrary to what is knowable, some look a little suspect – while others perhaps offer possible further lines of fruitful enquiry.

As it stands, however, there is no way of telling which is which, so this account has to be considered myth rather than history.

One should not of course assume how people in the past might have thought about what we much later think and say about them. That said, I do wonder whether the prospect of an account such as this might have prompted a wry smile in someone who in life so liked to pull the wool over everybody's eyes...

Russian stuff

It is probably no more than coincidence that two 'Russian' items (actually, one relating to the Ukraine) have appeared on Conductive World within a couple of days of each other.

Friday's posting here raised the rather optimistic thought that future awareness of Conductive Education in the former Soviet Union might move a little more into the hands of parents and conductors. Well, maybe – time alone will tell. Today's offering, however, suggests that whatever happens in those countries will include the long task of cutting through some of the mist that still obscures the early history of Conductive Education..

Reference

Shifrin, M. (2016) Кондуктологи против ДЦП: начало 15 апреля 1945 года, Meditsinskii portal', April 15
http://medportal.ru/enc/neurology/reading/34/

Friday, 15 April 2016

«Кондуктивная педагогика в реабилитации ДЦП»

Conductive pedagogy in the rehabilitation of cerebral palsy

Ida Igra's lecture in Kiev

This Saturday sees Ida Igra's free public lecture in Kiev. Here is some written background material to her talk, published in advance in the online magazine IT-Mama –

Conductive Education in the rehabilitation of cerebral palsy
On Saturday 16 April there be a free practical lecture by Israeli Candidate of Pedagogical Sciences, conductor Ida Igra. The lecture will address to some of the most important issues related to rehabilitating children with cerebral palsy:
  • how to help children with cerebral palsy to adapt
  • what kind of table children need so that they might eat for themselves
  • how to teach children to sit better
  • how to help them socialise
  • how they work with similar problems work in Europe and Israel.
What is conductive pedagogy? Conductive pedagogy is a system for educating children, young people and adults with impaired functions of the central nervous system, the purpose being to restore motor, speech and mental functions. A comprehensive rehabilitation programme based on the principles of conductive pedagogy reflects the form and the rhythm of the life of a healthy child, including physical, mental and social requirements.
Contemporary conductive pedagogy is one of the most effective methods of habilitation and rehabilitation of children with cerebral palsy and other lesions of the central nervous system.
In the process of this work (both with groups and with individuals), there is simultaneous development of motor skills, prevention and correction of contractures, formation of the motivational base, personality development, improved cognitive abilities, and use of (reinforcement)) of already acquired skills. Great importance is granted to self-help skills, dressing and undressing, eating, toileting, etc. The aim of the work is to develop the subconscious construction of motor stereotypes in all kinds of activity and to secure the skills that subsequently lead to making movements automatic.
How does this practice go? The motor activity of children with central nervous system disorders is often lessened, therefore to motivate children to move all classes take place in the form of play (the play always corresponding to the intellectual level of the child's development), and proceeds in a warm social atmosphere.
What do you need to know about the development of the program for the child? In drawing up the programme account is taken of each child's pathology (motor, communication and intellectual abilities), all the exercises are based upon physiological movements. When performing exercises the conductor gradually minimises the help given, permitting the children to take part in the movement independently. The basic exercise is divided into smaller goals, small constituent parts, so that their execution becomes more intuitive and manageable. For example, the algorithm of the movement 'I stand up' is broken down into simpler elements, such as sliding to the edge of the chair, bearing on the legs, lifting the pelvis above the chair and a further extending the body. For children as for adults, completing these small tasks to achieve their desired goal with less erffot, feeling that they have done it on their own, brings them joy. In consequence, knowing the algorithm for performing this movement will help consolidate this skill. The conductor tries to bring this to the independent implementation of all exercises, and then to the daily use of the acquired skills. Consequently, knowing the algorithm to complete this movement helps consolidate this skill. The conductor tries to ensure the independent completion of all exercises, and then the daily use of the acquired skills.
The process of teaching improves the quality of life, a social adaptation occurs. It is impossible fully to adjust the surrounding situation of those with damage to the central nervous system, you have to teach them how to operate, how to use it use it. For example, step over the threshold, to open or close a tap, use the stairs, use public transport, etc.
http://it-mama.com.ua/2016/04/11/conductive-education/
How very, very nice...
  • to see a fresh, culturally relevant account of conductive pedagogy
  • to see this being a wholly psychosocial account, without the tired echoes of Esther Cotton's understandings, or fruitless recourse to cod neuroscience, both of which bedevil so much of the CE discourse in the West
  • to see conductive pedagogy being taken to the families of a country of the former Soviet Union, rather than being presented to them as something that they have to leave home for.
Congratulations to all those who have made this venture possible. Where to after Saturday...?

Reference

(2016) Лекция: «Kондуктивная педагогика в реабилитации ДЦП» IT-Mama, 11 April
http://it-mama.com.ua/2016/04/11/conductive-education/

IMPORTANT NEWS FROM HUNGARY

Investigation for financial impropriety
Decentralisation of conductive services
And more...

In an interview with the newspaper Magyar Hírlap, the Chancellor of the András Pető College, Mihály Máté, has revealed important news about the College's future, some of which will have implications of the wider world of Conductive Education outside that institution and its particular interests, and outside Hungary too.

Apparent content

To my limited reading the following broad points seem to surface:
  • proceedings have been initiated to investigate possible misappropriation of funds under previous management (no further comment on possible embezzlement while this is under investigation
  • the number of unique projects is being rationalised
  • existing contracts are being reviewed and streamlined
  • demand in Hungary is more than the PAF operating centrally can provide for, so decentralisation is to be the cornerstone of a new, unified, multi-project development plan, with conductors operating across the country
  • there would be (quasi-) regional centres that would have have relationships with local government and with 'health tourism'
  • a 'Peto-premium' service
The essence of the plan – for Hungarians – is to reduce Budapest-centredness so that the Peto method should be available close to people's homes.

For foreigners:
  • it is noted that tourism to Hungary is on the increase
  • the forthcoming World Conference is anticipated to 'strengthen international awareness' of the College'
As far as I can find there is as yet no announcement on the PAF's website.

Help!

I could be wrong in my laborious reading of the above.

These are very important matters and the exact meaning of what Mihály Máté is saying is vital. The language and social context of this statement are beyond my ability to do it justice.

If anyone out there could oblige with a reasonable translation into English (or German, or whatever) this would be most gratefully received (identity to remain confidential if preferred).

Reference

Kacsoh, D (2016) Fejlesztések a konszolidáció után [Developments after consolidation] Magyar Hírlap, 15 April

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

LUXEMBOURG DEBATE: RESULT

Official summary

Debate on the education of handicapped children
The Law of 2003 on the relationship between state and private education excludes disability, and disabled children often have a structure that could accommodate them, i.e. EDIFF [service for differentiated education]. This is one of the reasons that had motivated the association Schrëtt fir Schrëtt to introduce a petition to the Chamber of Deputies. The public debate on the petition, that has attracted over 13,000 signatures, was held this morning, 13 April. The petitioners presented the Pető method which is the foundation of the of the Scrëtt fir Schrëtt's association's work. This involves a very special educational and rehabilitative system designed to maximize learning opportunities according to each child's potentials, with the aim of making the child as independent as possible. But Schrëtt fir Schrëtt has no legal basis and is dependent for the bulk of its funding from the state, based on an agreement. During the exchange with members of the relevant committees, the questions focused on the future of Schrëtt fir Schrëtt about possible integration into the IMC Institute [a multidisciplinary state special school] and on the Pető method itself, as well as training for staff.
Integration into the IMC Institute would appear difficult, this way of working being entirely different – besides, efforts in this direction have failed. The Education Minister Claude Meisch raised the issue, of the problem of making two systems that are very different, even antagonistic, work in the same Institute. Private-school status would certainly not solve the funding problem, on the contrary. If now the Association has to find about 20% of the funds by itself, this share could risk going up to 60%.

After the members had deliberated in private, the Appeals Commission President Marco Schank concluded –

'The plea for a legal basis forSchrëtt fir Schrëtt, received by politicians this morning during the open debate this morning, should have consequences'.

The Committee on Education should grasp the first opportunity, at its meeting of 27 April.

{My translation)


Previous posting here on this topic