Friday, 29 August 2014


Rotherham, Sheffield, Birmingham

I do not like moral panics and witch hunts, and I do not wish to be peevish and vindictive.


The news this morning told me that Sonia Sharpe, one-time Director of Children's Services in Rotherham and now in Victoria in Australia, is presently in the frame both there and here. She is apologising.

Also this morning Norman Perrin has made an admission on his blog. In May 2012 he had written an innocuous posting headed 'A belated farewell to Dr Sonia Sharpe':

His posting two years ago had largely comprised a statement issued by Sheffield city council – plus a link to an article in the Daily Telegraph, also pretty bland:

Please unpublish

In his today's blog posting Norman reports –
The "Belated farewell post ...." drew 2 comments: one from Andrew Sutton commenting on Dr Sharp's approach to conductive education when she earlier worked in Birmingham and the second (posted 11 months later - April 2013) from Jim Graham who, inter alia, had this to say: ".... she then moved on to Rotherham where she has consistently failed to answer allegations that she knew about young girls being groomed for sex by Asian gangs, but she looked the other way."  I had a brief email exchange with Jim Graham, in which he expanded on some of the points he had made but not about the sexual exploitation.
Five months later, early in September 2013, a telephone call was taken at Paces' office from a person acting on behalf of Dr Sharp, asking that Jim Graham's comment be removed. Having at that time no further knowledge of the allegations, I reluctantly but simply out of courtesy,"unpublished" the Comment. And there it rested until this morning...
How should one blogger respond?  How should we all respond? I'd be interested in visitors' views.

The wisdom of hindsight is a wonderful thing but what does one do in Norman's circumstances. Ignore the call? Call back and ask for this in writing? If anything comes, consult a layer? I would like to think that I should have done the first...
And I would have wondered about that old definition of news, that it is what somebody does not want to see printed.
But this is now...
I have written to Norman –
There is no question about it:  
And send a kind and apologetic note to Mr Graham.

Apologies to CE?

Apparently the phone call made on behalf of Ms Sharpe did not require Norman to remove my own Comment made on her departure from these shores –
Before Sheffield she was at Birmingham, as part of the educationally ideological regime of Education Officer Tim Brighouse. I never grasped that ideology. Long ago, in Vygotskii's time, it would have been deemed 'leftist': 'left in form but right in content'. In Birmingham, during the nineteen-nineties, that regime's attitude to Conductive Education was antipathetic, oppositional. Those people were our enemy, mortally so. Possibly we were theirs too. Where are they now?
Well, one at least, you tell me, finds continuing employment in education. Good luck to the Aussies, and to the little ones and their families in Victoria.
I wonder whether the day will ever come when the call goes out for apologies from all those who have so vigorously opposed Conductive Education, for the uncountable waste of human potential and family wellbeing that their actions have brought. Such a waste, so needless too (except to their own benefit and satisfaction).
Altogether a different blight at the individual level than experienced in Rotherham, and comparisons of suffering are meaningless and maybe even upsetting – but unaccountability in public office, ruining lives that the offices are meant to enhance, is a common factor that our welfare system has barely begun to grasp.


Perrin, N. (2014) The power of the internet. An awful news story. How should one respond? Paces (blog), 28 August


A lesson from Taiwan
The purpose of this study is to examine the effectiveness of Conductive Education towards the toileting behavior of pre-school children with cerebral palsy. The suject was a pre-school child with cerebral palsy. This study adopted 'A-B-A' withdrawal design, one of single subject experimental design. The independent variable was the Conductive Education, while the dependent variables were the effect of instantaneity, maintainability and generalization in cognition ability, physical ability (motor ability), and intention of toileting behavior.

The observation data were collected by the researcher during the baseline period, treatment period, maintenance period, and generalization period. These data were then visually analyzed and time-series C statistic. At the end of the training, questionnaires and interviews were used to examine the social validity of this study.

The conclusions of this study were as follows:

1. Conductive Education can improve the cognition ability of toileting behavior of pre-school children with cerebral palsy with instant, maintainable and generalized effects.

2. Conductive Education can improve the physical ability (motor ability) of toileting behavior of pre-school children with cerebral palsy with instant, maintainable and generalized effects.

3. Conductive Education can improve the intention of toileting of pre-school children with cerebral palsy with instant, maintainable and generalized effects.

Lastly, some applications for the instructional activities and the further researches were recommended, according to findings of this study.

There is a very full bibliography appended.

I do not know what precisely is meant by 'Conductive Education' here but of particular interest here is the model of evaluation adopted and reported (A-B-A with an individual case). This has been something remarkably absent from all the talk of 'researching Conductive Education' in the Western world over the years.

I suspect that most people in Conductive Education will struggle with the language and position of Skinnerian operance but this approach does have some important features in common with the conductive approach, not least its dependence upon teaching, pragmatism and future-orientation, more so than met in some  other less compatible approaches that CE has been associated with over the years.

There has only been one published theoretical discussion on these congruities, a brief correspondence some years ago between John Presland and Andrew Sutton in The Conductor magazine by John Presland (to be republished soon on Conductive World).

This way of outcome-evaluation has the enormous practical advantages of requiring no additional cost. being technically valid, permitting continuous programme modification to suit progress, and having a wide potential audience.


Jing Chenrui (2014) 引導式教育對腦性麻痺幼兒如廁行為之研究 [The effectiveness of conductive education towards the toileting behavior of pre-school children with cerebral palsy], Masterate in Education, Taipei National University of Education, Taiwan

Presland, J. L. (1992) Paths to mobility in 'special care': a guide to teaching gross motor skills to children with very severe learning difficulties, 2nd edition, Kidderminster, BIMH Publications

Thursday, 28 August 2014

TILLEMANS TOM (1918-2009)

Dutch-Canadian scholar who spent quality time with Mária Hári


My second visit to Budapest comprised nearly a month's immersion at the Villányi út Institute, in the early winter of 1984.

Many things were very different in those last couple of years before the foreign invasion (that my presence there was an important factor in engendering).

It was the time of Goulash Socialism, and superficially a pleasant, comfortable society for foreigners to settle into. Hungary was 'the happiest camp in the Gulag', i.e. the most free, the most relaxed, the most open country in the Soviet Bloc (a comparative statement, you will appreciate), within which the State Institute for Motor Disorders in Villányi út i was almost altogether cut off from the outside world – not just from the world outside Hungary but from much of the rest of Hungary too.

But not entirely. In 1984 there were four young Japanese men, totally immersed, training to be conductors. There were also two English mothers already living for a while in Budapest, with their children attending the State Institute for Motor Disorders. Both children were pupils at Ingfield Manor School in East Sussex, where Ester Cotton and the then Spastics Society were trying to implement a conductive programme. Its content was based upon what Ester Cotton had gleaned from András Pető and her observations of his work nearly twenty years before, its implementation being dependent upon the endeavours of existing staff and wholly without conductors. These two mothers had been disappointed with the progress that their children were making and come to Budapest, a brave and remarkable endeavour in 1984, to try out the real McCoy.

And there was Professor Thomas Tillemans, whom Maria introduced to me and always referred to affectionately as Tillemans Tom. She clearly respected him and seemed a little proud that he should be there.

Tillemans Tom

On this early visit I was too bemused, befuddled and head-over-heels from this crazy little country to take in much about anything. I understood that In 1984 Tillemans Tom was a recently retired academic, a Dutch-Canadian professor of special education (Acadia University in Nova Scotia), and that he was spending two or three months at the Institute trying to get to the bottom of Conductive Education. His method of enquiry was simple, and a good one given the then state of formal knowledge about Conductive Education.ii He had the freedom of the Institute and could wander around at will (as I too did), and every morning that Mária's business would allow she and he spent time talking and discussing. He would then go into a little room by hers and write up his notes and understandings, which he would feed back for her critical remark the next day (I soon learned for myself just how critical, even harsh, such remark could be – poor man!)

I understood that he intended to write up the fruits of their discussions as a joint publication.

I did not know how he had seized upon Conductive Education as an object of study in those early days, nor who was funding his venture iii. He was still there when I left, but I never saw him there again. He was true to his word, however, and the joint article was soon published in the first edition of David Scrutton's widely ready collection Management of disorders of children with cerebral palsy.iv

He was a gentle, scholarly man and I think that I recall Mária's telling me that he was rather frail due to a heart condition. I was please to read recently an old obituary in the Toronto Star, from which I learn that he made it to his nineties, dying only in 2009 after a full and adventurous life:

Among other things, he was at the Battle of Arnhem where he lost an eye and served out the war as a prisoner of the Germans.

Over the years since, with the help of Gill Maguire, I have tried to put more of Maria's work into accessible form, and to tell a little about her as a person (in so far as I had personally experienced her). But I have never settled down to present a formulated understanding of her ideas. The only ones to do this have been Katalin Bíro – and Tillemanns Tom.

And today

As far as I know Thomas Tillemans never publicly returned to the matter of Conductive Education – and the interest in Conductive Education in Western Canada over the last couple of decades appears to have passed by without noticing him. His joint paper with Maria Hari can be regarded as one of the classics of the slender conductive literature – written to proper academic standards, drawing directly upon the understandings and knowledge of one of the two acknowledged 'masters' of the field, published by a leading academic publishing house – and in English too!

When time comes again for Conductive Education again to be an object of academic study, do not forget Tillemans Tom, if only for comparative consideration.

The chapter

Copies of the book in which it was prominently published are available on line.

Their chapter can also be accessed less satisfactorily, but for free, in two ways – see the note appended to the final reference below.

This is a joint paper, both authors having their own contributions to make. Sometimes one can guess at who said what, at other times there is no way separate the authorship – while other passages look like hard-fought compromises. One or two passages I have read several times in different ways, and still cannot make sense of them.

Do not presume that the flow of ideas necessarily went all one way. I suspect that Thomas Tillemans, the Canadian Professor of Special Education, made his own contribution and that it may merit further study to try and trace how far some of the things that Mária subsequently said and wrote came out of her her long discussions with Tom.


(2009) Tomas Tillemans (obituary), Toronto Star, 6 June

Bíró, K. (2006) Fundamentals of conductive upbringing: in fond and respectful remembrance of Mária Hári, Recent Advances in Conductive Education, vol. 5, no 1, pp. 4-10

Hári, M., Tillemans, T. (1984) Conductive Education, in D. Scrutton (ed.), The management of the motor disorders of children with cerebral palsy, Oxford, Spastics International Medical Publications, Clinics in Developmental Medicine No. 90. pp. 20-25

There are two ways in which one may access this chapter on line, neither wholly satisfactory.
  1. Google Books gives access to almost the whole chapter. This is of course a clear-to-read image but one cannot cut and paste from it – and two pages are missing, pp. 23, 29, 30:
  2. In 1993, on behalf of the then American Conductive Education Association, Mina Roth-Dornfeld submitted a bundle of documents on Conductive Education to President Bill Clinton. They are now deposited in his Presidential Library and are of course therefore on line, in full:
  3. University in Nova Scotia)044/010%20647140-mina-roth-dornfeld-9-21-93-10-00-am-1.pdf
    Mina's original photocopies were scanned for archiving. Twenty years ago scanner technology was less advanced than it is today, and this shows, with frequent electronic misreadings, but this text is complete with no pages missing. You will find it by scrolling right down through the bundle, almost to the bottom, on sheets nos 100-126. 
i It would be nearly two more years before this was renamed the Pető Institute

ii Given the the continuing dearth of formal knowledge of the field, the rapid processes of change today, and the retirement of long-serving conductors, it might be all to the good if this process could be repeated with other doyennes, before their contribution and understandings are lost for ever.

iii In his subsequently published report Tom acknowledged the help of James Loring and the International Cerebral Palsy Society, and of the SSHRC (the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) 

iv The second edition of this book 'details the advancement [sic] of the subject from 1984 to 2002' Over that time Conductive Education has largely dropped off the academic agenda in the context in which this book operated.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014


New chapter to open for 'Pető'

No doubt considerable thought is being given in Hungary to the sort of person required at the head of the new András Pető College, to the structure to which this role will be integral, and to the specifics if the job description and person specification.. Perhaps a card has even been marked.

No doubt people concerned with Conductive Education around the world will have their own priorities for what attributes this role will require – but they will not be involved in the recruitment and selection process. Whatever other considerations are to be involved, the long- and short-term outcome will, however, be of interest at the highest reaches of the Hungarian government, for reasons of state.

The final choice is unlikely to be made without the acquiescence (or more) of the palace.

Poisoned chalice?

Uneasy successions:
  • In 1967 András Pető himself had died with his boots on, on his 74th birthday, after a hard day's battling with officials when he was too poorly to be at work in the first place.
  • After an interregnum, Mária Hári took over as Director. She formally retired only in 1996, though by then she appears to have lost the authority that she enjoyed before the Institute's privatisation in 1989. She maintained a regular presence at the Institute that had been her life but was increasingly unhappy at how it was changing and walked out in anger a few months before she died.
  • Mária Hári's deputy Ildikó Kozma had succeeded her as Director in 1994. Ildiko Kozma's administration broke up in 2005, with a whiff of scandal and then court proceedings. 
  • Following another interregnum Zita Makói's brief tenure began in 2006 (the job now being redefined as Rector). From the outset her time there was marked by organised staff disruption and non-compliance, spilling out into deliberate public discord in the media and in public demonstrations. The unmanagability of the institution became public knowledge in Hungary.
  • Franz Schaffhauser was appointed as rector in 2007, a serving university academic (pedagogy and psychotherapy) who oversaw the upgrade of the Pető Institute's qualification to first-degree status aand encouraged conductors there to undertake futhter degrees. He was also involved with what from the outside seemed a broadening and humanisation of the course.
Underlying institutional problems, however, appear to have rankled on and the Institute has foundered. Perhaps inevitably, as this has been on his watch, Franz Schaffhauser has carried the blame, his dismissal coming from the office of Viktor Orbán, the Prime Minister, no less.

Good luck to whoever

When András Pető died in 1967, in a world vastly different in some respects from today's, Karóly Ákos made considerable effort to deflect attention away from himself as the next head of the Institute and to promote Maria Hari as the required sacrifice. Perhaps there are already individuals wondering about putting themselves forward to fill the position of Rector of the András Pető College.

A poisoned chalice? Time will tell. Meanwhile there always the old, confusing advice of the late Danny Kaye, misremembered and paraphrased –
The chalice with the malice is the chalice from the palace

Tuesday, 26 August 2014


People seeking conductors

August has been a busy month for job adverts from people looking to employ conductors

Taking CONDUCTIVE WORLD MARKET as an index, most of its adverts this last month have been from people looking for conductors, to fill over a dozen positions, in Australia, Austria, Egypt, England, France, Hungary, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand and the United States:

All of these have been for jobs working with children, in various professional contexts.

Conductors who have missed these opportunities can of course advertise their own availability for work.

Please note that the Facebook page CONDUCTIVE WORLD JOBS is no longer active. Adverts posted there will be reposted on CONDUCTIVE WORLD MARKET:

Monday, 25 August 2014


In medical journals

To while away some of a cold, rainy Sunday I have done a little bibliographic research by looking up “conductive education” in Medline (formerly Index Medicus):

This found me 58 journal references under the rubric of Conductive Education according to Medline's inclusion criteria – in effect, that is articles published in reputable, refereed medical research journals, from around the world but largely in English.

Over the years

This electronic record stretches back across 45 years, the first appearance of Conductive Education in this context being recorded for 1970 and the most recent appearing earlier this year. Over this time the highest number of items on Conductive Education indexed in the the medical research journals in a single year was five:

2014       1
2013       0
2012       2
2011        1
2010       1
2009      2
2008      3
2007      3
2006       2
2005       5
2004       2
2003       3
2002       2
2001       2
2000      0
1999       0
1998        1
1997       0
1996        1
1995        2
1994        0
1993        2
1992        0
1991        3
1990        4
1989        5
1988        4
1987        1
1986        1
1985        1
1984        0
1983        1
1982       0
1981        0
1980       0
1979        0
1978        0
1977        0
1976        0
1975        0
1974        1
1973        1
1972        0
1971         0
1970        1

Combining these into quinquennia makes the tendency a little clearer:

2100-2014      5
2005-2009    15
2000-2004     9
1995-1999      4
1990-1994      9
1985-1989    12
1980-1984      1
1975-1979       0
1970-1974       3

András Pető's work was barely known outside Hungary during his lifetime. In the sixties (not reflected above) and the seventies there were traces in the medical journals but by the late seventies earlier academic interest in Conductive Education had largely dissipated, as remarked elsewhere. It was then rekindled, especially by the explosion of first popular then academic interest following Standing up for Joe. Since then Conductive Education has continued on the fringe of the international medical agenda, largely but not exclusively in the English-speaking world.

How precisely you regard how Conductive Education is faring there depends on how you read this literature.

Range of items

These 58 references comprise general introductions and overviews, empirical outcome evaluations, review articles (some systematic) and refereed correspondence, but do not include obituaries or book reviews.

The overwhelming bulk concern Conductive Education for children with motor disorders (primarily cerebral palsies). Outcome research is almost wholly quantitative.

I see that I myself wrote or co-wrote three items. Very little is written from within Conductive Education. There are two articles plus two letters from Hungary.

Everything found indexed by Medline is also included in the Conduction's Virtual Library of Conductive Education. The Virtual Library includes more on Conductive Education than just medical articles, and far more than just refereed articles of any kind.

Fundamental problem

Despite its strict inclusion criteria Medline leaves the question of what does or does not count as Conductive Education to self-definition. If an article uses the term, then it is included. Medline sets a generally high bar for including references. With respect to Conductive Education, however, in this respect it is prey to a fundamental problem. One cannot get far in science without careful and accurate definition.

An item questioning the relevance of a medical framework for research into Conductive Education appeared earlier this year.

Note that whatever an item article regards as comprising Conductive Education, it may still raise important theoretical and methodological points.

Free or to pay to view?

Most of these journal articles are accessible on line only for a fee. Some fee-charging journals release older items to free access. You can read the following old items from medical journals on line without having to pay:

Hill (1990)

Shields (1989)

[Letters] (1989)

Robinson et al., (1989)

Beach (1988)

Sutton (1988)

These are not necessarily the best items, nor even representative. More will doubtless appear on line with the passage of time.

Who reads Medline, anyway?

Medical researchers do. So do doctors and other health personnel (such as therapists). If they have an institutional affiliation (e.g. they work somewhere) that subscribes to relevant journal companies, then it costs them nothing to click on an article and download it in full. If they are busy (and who isn't​?) they are unlikely to look far down the list that Medline brings up – and anyway, who wants to read old research?

They may be unlikely to look elsewhere (such as in education or social science indexes).

So, if you ask medical or health staff about Conductive Education, it may be what is knowable through Medline that defines their potential horizon.

Access to Medline is free and open to all. Try searching it for “conductive education”, or any other topic that might find its way into medical journals, by using the search box at top of the following page (don't forget to use the inverted commas):

Sunday, 24 August 2014


In a loveless 'system'
And what Mária Hári might have said

On behalf of Special Needs Jungle, Tanya Tirraoro has prepared a serious of four flow charts (and commentary) to help parents steer themselves through the tangled web of procedures to come into force for children and young people with special educational needs and their families in England on 1 September:

Preparing this was voluntary work. The Department for Education, not having done something similar itself, 'collaborated' with her – but did not pay a penny (unlike to all those 'consultants' over the years). All praise to Tanya Tirraoro for what she has done for fellow parents, and what else she and others are doing and will have to keep on doing to mitigate the management-system, people-processing approach.

Systems are not enough

What a system. Labyrinthine, Byzantine, what can one say? Perhaps Corinthian. To paraphrase Mária Hári –
A system is not enough here. It must be to be a loving system.

Over the years all sorts of considerations have been poured into the mix that has gone into the legislated framework to into force in a week's time. Where thought though has gone into accounting for the warmth, the humanity, the love, without which all this will be as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal?


Tirroro, T. (2014) All our new SEND system Flow Charts together, Special Needs Jungle, 24 August

Thursday, 21 August 2014


A public statement

The Pető Institute's newspage has republished the report published by the Hungarian news service Hirado on 15 August, a representation of the official government statement, subsequently restated in substance across the Hungarian press:

Monday, 18 August 2014


A message from the Prime Minister

Viktor Orbán's announcement this lunchtime on the PAI's website

2014 augusztus 18. (hétfő) 12:50    Dr. Schaffhauser Franz

Dr. Schaffhauser Franz az MPANNI rektoraként szíves tájékoztatásul adom közre a Miniszterelnök Úr alábbi közleményét, mely a Mozgássérültek Pető András Nevelőképző és Nevelőintézete (MPANNI) 2014. augusztus 31-i hatályú állami átvételének és egyidejűleg a Pető András Főiskola (PAF) megalakulásának törvényileg szabályozott folyamatainak egyik szükségszerű elemét közli.

A miniszterelnök 103/2014. (VIII. 15.) ME határozata főiskolai rektor felmentéséről
A nemzeti felsőoktatásról szóló 2011. évi CCIV. törvény 37. § (8) bekezdésében foglalt jogkörömben eljárva, az emberi erőforrások miniszterének előterjesztésére – a Mozgássérültek Pető András Nevelőképző és Nevelőintézete 2014. augusztus 31-ei hatállyal történő megszűnésére tekintettel –

a Mozgássérültek Pető András Nevelőképző és Nevelőintézetében
dr. Schaffhauser Franz főiskolai tanárt a rektori megbízatása alól
– 2014. augusztus 31-ei hatállyal –
Orbán Viktor s. k.

From 1 September we shall have to stop writing 'PAI', and write 'PAF' instead.

Saturday, 16 August 2014


They think it's all over?
I wonder what people do think

A day has passed since announcement that Franz Schaffhauser has been relieved of his post as Rector of the Pető Institute:

Since then over twenty Hungarian media outlets have slavishly repeated the media release form the Prime Minister's office. On cue this afternoon, however, independent Member of Parliament Timea Szabó had raised the next obvious question, about the degree of further reorganisation that tends inevitably to be necessary in such situations, whatever the nature of the organisation, wherever in the world:

Recall Franz's very public pledge that no conductors will be made redundant. If this can be honoured then any squeeze deemed necessary on the present level of staffing, to help create a healthier cash balance, will have to be made from other sectors of the workforce.

Any comment?

As is usual, yesterday's story on Conductive World occasioned no public Comment.

The Facebook page of the Pető Intézet (Community) has carried no mention of this matter. 

I have neither time nor skill to hunt around in Facebook or Twitter etc to see whether this matter is trending anywhere on line.

There have been very few responses on Conductive World's Facebook notification of this and what there has been is brevity itself: three people clicked Like.

Oh yes, and conductor Linda Fodor has added a written Comment:


I have absolutely no idea what she means.


In fact I have long been puzzled by what people mean when they click Like on Facebook. I really do wish that they would look out for possible ambiguities and make themselves clearer. In this particular instance there seem at least three possibilities for what Like could mean:
  • I like the fact that you have informed me of this
  • I like how you report this
  • I like what has happened.
So what do people mean by it here?

More importantly, what does the world of Conductive Education, wherever and whoever this might comprise, think in general about what is going on?