Tuesday, 22 April 2008

More for Ireland

Conductive Education in Ireland

Supplementary Memorandum


On 23 February Conductive Education World published a report on the debate on Conductive Education held by the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly four days previously. This report summed up the debate in the following congratulatory terms as

about the most eloquent, vivid, to-the-point and heartfelt display of enthusiastic support for Conductive Education by elected representatives that I have read from anywhere in the world.

Further, it added:

This Debate makes a most valuable contribution to the discussion of Conductive Education services, not just in the United Kingdom.

As a contribution to maintaining the political momentum in Northern Ireland, on 15 April a personal memorandum, called Conductive Education in Ireland, was sent to the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, with a request that copies be distributed to the Education Committee and to all Members of the Legislative Assembly. On 15 April it was confirmed that the memorandum had indeed been circulated to MLAs, and on 18 April the memorandum was republished in the Internet, on Conductive Education World.

The present Supplementary Report responds to practical issues and questions raised from the first memorandum. In the text below, these questions (presented in small print) are addressed in Part I and some further matters worthy of attention are briefly introduced in Part II..

The two reports on Conductive Education World mentioned above may be found at:


Part I

1. Norway

Norway seems to be the ‘in’ country for good education. I know that the Health Board there pays but I am hoping to ask the Health Board to pay for the Early Intervention i.e. from 3 months to 5 years. If you have any contacts or influences it would help.

There is no Conductive Education in Norway either in or associated with the state education service and its schools. Further, as far as I know, no Norwegian educationalist has shown any interest or awareness of Conductive Education. No one in Norway is urging or has yet urged that Conductive Education should be provided through the schools system.

It is not simply that the health system pays. The Norwegian approach to services for disabled children and their families (and to responding to what choice of service-provision) is altogether different from our own. Children attend their local schools for education. Children, families and schools are additionally eligible for ‘habilitation’ services to provide specialist input. Conductive Education in Norway is successfully establishing itself as a parent-run service, state-funded, within the habilitation structure. The system is still evolving: it has been going for some eleven years now and the Norsk Forum is currently working upon a national development strategy to take it up to 2015. It has yet to impact the school system.

The services provided by the Norsk Forum have no parallel in this country and would not fit into UK structures, below or above the age of five.

The responsible parent-led organisation in Norway is the Norsk Forum for Konduktiv Pedagogikk. It can be found on the Internet at http://www.peto-senteret.n/o. The person to write to is its Chairman (a government appointee), Mr Tor Inge Martinsen:


2. New Zealand

New Zealand has an excellent record in relation to cerebral palsy and Conductive Education

New Zealand’s educational services for disabled children operate on a model immediately recognisable to the rest of the English-speaking world. Conductive Education arrived in that country due to parents’ spontaneous establishment of small, local services run by local CE associations and has achieved its goal of being integrated into the state’s educational provision by way of specialist units (staffed jointly by conductors and special teachers) attached to primary schools. The system is still evolving and what is intended as the first unit attached to a secondary school has now opened.

The local associations remain independent but unite under the rubric of the New Zealand Foundation for Conductive Education. The New Zealand Foundation’s website is at http://www.conductive-education.org.nz/.. (local associations have their own websites). For further information, contact conductiveeducation@paradise.net.nz. Conductors (trained Conductive Education practitioners) in New Zealand have their own professional association.

Certainly from afar, New Zealand appears to present a model of rational public-voluntary evolution that is satisfactory to all sides. The existence of both employers’ and employees’ bodies eases relationships with central government (in this case the Ministry of Education), in a way that has not proved possible in the United Kingdom.

3. Value-added within existing systems

Ministers would require proof that CE gives added value to education of cerebrally palsied children in a mainstream school, special unit with help, and or special school with help (usually a classroom assistant).

There has been no formal investigation of Conductive Education in terms of ‘value-added’, and there is certainly no ‘proof’ one way or the other in this respect.

At the same time there have been no evaluations of existing service-models/policy memes for disabled children and their schools in value-added terms. There is therefore no base line against which to judge Conductive Education, for example the added value to be gained from educational inclusion of various kinds, or from providing sparse therapy sessions within the school system.

The same goes for the specific placement-types mentioned above (placements in a mainstream school, special unit with help and or special school, and the help of classroom assistants). There have been a variety of experiences around the world, more common in recent years, of conductors’ working in diverse ways in mainstream and special schools and units. As far as I know, none has been formally evaluated in ways that Ministers might regard as proof of value-added (though again, I wonder about what ‘proof’ there exists for analogous existing, arrangements such as ‘outreach’). As ever in education, decisions have to be made upon other bases, such as judgement and values.

That said, England has seen a number of spontaneous initiatives to include individual conductors within primary schools. These have been parent-led, focussed upon single children in their classrooms, of limited life-span and usually joint-funded by the children’s parents (privately) and the schools involved (contributing money that would be otherwise spent on a classroom assistant). None of these experiences has been formally described, never mind evaluated, nor have formal accounts come from analogous arrangements in other countries.

More substantively, there is the well established experience of the Dynamite Project, a Conductive Education unit in a local primary school in Slough, Bucks. For further information see http://www.dynamitekids.org.uk/ and/or contact Sue Berryman at berryman.priory@sloughlea.net. In Birmingham the ACE Project, with a conductor fully included in all aspects of school life, is now in its third year. A first informal report of this work has been published and fuller evaluation and promulgation will follow in due course. It does look as if this model can meet many of the requirements of parents and children for a school-based inclusive Conductive Education. In the meantime, contact Wendy Baker at: wendy@conductive-education.org.uk and see:

Wendy Baker, Andrew Sutton, István Szücs (2007) Introducing conductive pedagogy into a mainstream primary school: an interim communication. Recent Advances in Conductive Education, vol. 6, no 1, pp. 28-32.

Dynamite and ACE are funded and managed in somewhat different ways, but both are successful public-voluntary partnerships.

There are examples of conductors’ working as ‘teacher-conductors’ in special schools in England, Wales and Australia, but little published documentation of this. What there is appears most concerned with the conductor-teachers’ success at fulfilling the role of teachers rather than how Conductive Education fares in the process.

The incorporation of conductors into exiting systems (including health-based systems) has excited attention in recent years around the world and there are likely to be continuing initiatives of this type. Such initiatives are rarely described and there has been no formal survey of review of this activity. Informal accounts suggest such arrangements to be generally well received, though the potential impact of Conductive Education might be lessened by necessary adaptations.

4. Statementing for Conductive Education

If we are to breach the argument that children with cerebral palsy are adequately catered for in special schools then we need to be able to offer evidence that this is not the case and to draw attention that on UK mainland provision is made for conductive education.

The law on providing for children’s ‘special educational needs’ in England and Wales, is that it suffices for the local authority to demonstrate that the recommended provision (special school, whatever) will meet a child’s needs as defined in the statement. After that, job done. Presumably the law Northern Ireland is substantively the same. For those seeking a Statement of Special Educational Need ‘naming’ a Conductive Education school, the proper order of engagement is first to ensure a full statement of a child’s learning difficulties and the needs that arise from these, then ask how a given school intends specifically to meet these. That is all that can be done under the present law.

The mainland position is that whether or not a child then receives a statement specifying Conductive Education will be a matter of how well the child’s statement is constructed and argued by parents or by their legal and professional advisors. Then it is up to the Tribunal.

There is no real Conductive Education in Scotland so the matter does not arise.

A further factor to note is that the adaptation of Conductive Education to existing systems in the United Kingdom means that there is no single ‘Conductive Education’ to which a single blanket answer is applicable. This diversity of Conductive Education services is only just arriving in Northern Ireland. Thus, a statement requesting transfer to a state school with on-site conductor-consultancy may be more favourably received than one requiring full-time out-of-district CE school placement.

5. Conductor-training in the UK

Teacher-training of conductors. Details as to the conductor-training course – a brochure would do that. Established when? How many places per year? Cost? Details as to number of schools and places offered in UK – and any other country

Brochure and other materials on the conductor-training course at the National Institute of Conductive Education, where the course is based, can be obtained from Lesley Barker at training@conductive-education.org.uk. The course is validated by the University of Wolverhampton. Further information at http://www.wlv.ac.uk/default.aspx?page=11260

The course awards Qualified Conductor Status and a BA Hons (Conductive Education). It is not ‘teacher-training’. If students wish to become teachers in that sense then they may go on to take a postgraduate qualification as can any other graduate (as one of this year’s graduates will be doing).

The course began in 1997. It is a three-year university first-degree course like any other such. This summer there will be twelve students graduating, bringing the total number of graduates to sixty-three. Graduate employment is very high and former students work around the world. Tuition fees are standard university fees, the costs on top of which are up to the students. Usual grants are payable. Application is open to anyone, from anywhere and a relatively high proportion of students come from overseas. There is a scholarship scheme from Canada (on average, about one new student per year), and the Norsk Forum encourages young Norwegians to apply (average of one or two a year). All other students attend at their own initiative. There are no formal arrangements with any organisation in the UK.

There is still time to apply to begin the conductor-training in September this year and applications are also open to start in September 2009.

6. Conductive Education and the ‘cerebral palsy-spectrum’

Details as to at what point on the ‘cerebral palsy spectrum’ you believe that children need Conductive Education to optimise their life chances

I cannot answer that question, not least because, given the nature of the cerebral palsies, I am not altogether happy about the idea of a ‘cerebral palsy spectrum’. The cerebral palsies, though often seeming to epitomise the applicability of Conductive Education, do not exhaust the conditions where this approach has potential benefit. Given that Conductive Education is of its very nature ‘educational’, its use cannot adequately be defined by medical diagnosis (an obvious analogy is with the education of the deaf). Better therefore to use a developmental term and speak ‘motor disorder’.

That aside, there is a very wide range of ways in which conductive pedagogy might be applied in the family, and in a variety of settings, ideally in accordance with the wishes of the families and young people involved. The simple answer to the question as posed is that all children with motor disorders might potentially benefit from Conductive Education’s being accessible in some way and at some point(s) of their life (including in adulthood), as could their families, their schools and other bodies that work with them.

Increasingly common in England and overseas, is to develop Conductive Education services for children with ‘dyspraxia’.

7. Without Conductive Education

Are there any particular deficits that will be inevitable if the child has what we might term ‘mainstream spec education’ as opposed to Conductive Education?

My personal hypothesis is that one such deficit common to many such children might be learned dependency/helplessness.

8. Long-term cost-benefit

Have any costings been done about the long-term savings to the public purse from the enhanced independence resulting from Conductive Education?

There have been no such studies, anywhere. Then there has been only one example in the western world of a service’s being able to develop a service that provides a range of programs to sustain long-term Conductive Education for children and their families – in Israel. This has been possible in the United Kingdom only when managed and in part provided by a child’s family. George McDowell of Belfast is the only adult whom I know on the island of Ireland to have received such a conductive upbringing.

There have been no formal reports yet on the human outcomes at the beginning of adulthood of such childhood-long conductive upbringing, other than individual vignettes, though a larger collection of such stories is on the way in Israel. The numbers involved worldwide are certainly too small for population-based projections on cost-benefits.

9. Academic research

Any sources of evidence (academic) relating to the benefits of Conductive Education?

Accompanying this Supplementary Memorandum is a copy of a research review written for the Norsk Forum around a year ago (paid for by the Norwegian health system and made freely available for others to read).

It will be seen that most academic research into Conductive Education is concerned less with benefits than achievements of (largely in-child) outcomes following relatively brief intervention. Achievement in the school curriculum has not been a particular concern.

Basic hypothesis-raising research into the nature and purpose of Conductive Education has not been done, research methods have been severely criticised and for all the academic investigation summarised in the accompanying review, remarkably little has been learned. Possible future funders of ‘research’ into Conductive Education need to pay considerable attention to such questions if they are not to mount yet further inconclusive studies.

Part II

The above queries were framed, having in mind the apparent interests of decision-makers in the field of the education. Here very briefly are some rather wider issues.

1. ‘Joined-up working’

This is a cornerstone of policy around disabled children, their families and schools. Conductive Education provides a highly developed example of a ‘joined up’ professional practice (the Latin origin of the word ‘conductive’ denoting ‘bringing together’, ‘joining up’) and the ‘conductor’, that is the Conductive Education practitioner is a joined-up professional. This approach incorporates and integrates emotional/behavioural benefits with the academic/intellectual. Contrary to widespread belief, the goals and outcomes of Conductive Education are not primarily motoric: conductive pedagogy is a psycho-social intervention directed primarily towards psycho-social ends.

Ensuring self-worth, motivation, determination etc., is a vital part of the development of children and adults with motor disorders. Recognising this is essential to understanding questions raised above, such as value-added, training, cost-benefits and research. Change in the child is linked inevitably with changes in the family, also integral to considering these issues. Tying all this together is the process of ‘conduction’.

For further information, contact as@nice.ac.uk.

2. Public-voluntary partnership

This is a constant feature of successful Conductive Education provision in different parts of the world as outlined above.

3. Israel

Norway and New Zealand have been mentioned as examples of how Conductive Education has been incorporated into two very different existing systems. A different model for this again is offered by Tsad Kadima in Israel, a model of a public-private partnership with strong community- and family-involvement that is in a field of its own. For surther information, see http://www.tsadkadima.org.il/english.asp. To obtain further information on Tsad Kadima, write to Rony Schenker at ronyschenker@yahoo.com

4. Eligibility for Conductive Education

Who might benefit from Conductive Education input? This includes not just children with motor disorders but children with other motor problems too, their families, and schools, centres and other services that work with their families.

It also includes adults and their families/cares and services. ‘Adults’ here refers not solely to people who have had motor disorders throughout their lives (such as adults who have cerebral palsy) but also people who have later-onsetting conditions such as, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s, and the effects of stroke.

5. Types of provision

Contrary to some popular and professional imagination there was never a single way to provide Conductive Education (that is as a full-time school). Around the world Conductive Education is now provided in ways that include:

through schools, units attached to schools, at least one college of further education, clinics, parent-and-child groups, individual sessions, at least one rehabilitation hospital;

full-time, part-time and sessionally;

as consultancies, in courses and staff-training for existing institutions;

for children and adults with motor disorders, from soon after birth to the frailty of old age;

with families and carers,

in the public sector, through voluntary bodies (local and national), in the private sector, and by personal arrangement in people’s homes.

Conductive Education ‘joins up’ many aspects of the human condition. It may therefore fall under the rubrics of education sector, health sector or social affairs.

6. Where is it?

There are currently approaching two-hundred known Conductive Education projects in most of the countries of Western Europe, North and Central America, in Russia, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand., of a vast range of sizes and in various stages of development. Starts have been made in South America and Sub-Saharan Africa.

To date international diversification has been mainly in the developed economies. Two of the four BRIC nations, Brazil and Russia, are demonstrating the first concrete progress (working Conductive Education centres), and the other two, India and China, are showing interest.

But for twenty or so years, with noble exceptions, Conductive Education in Ireland has been a black hole.

7. Ireland, North and South

Putting aside the historical reasons for Ireland’s laggardliness in this area, it is now the twenty-first century and things in future could be very different. There is a range of possible ways of applying Conductive Education, and conductors show a new flexibility and readiness to adapt to new social and cultural contexts – and there would be little problem to build up the beginnings of an indigenous work force of Irish conductors.

The question of an All-Ireland service has been frequently broached over the years. There is much to commend this approach for two small, immediately adjacent populations, but two notes of caution have to be addressed from the outset;

people do not simply want Conductive Education services, they want Conductive Education services that are local and accessible;.

Conductive Education in ‘new’ countries has to adapt not only to social and cultural factors but administrative and funding structures too, which in some respects at least may be very different on different sides of the Border.

Given these two considerations, there seems good reason for informal cross-border collaboration at the present stage of development of the Conductive Education movement in Ireland.

8. Time and patience

Development of Conductive Education services takes time, at least the span of time that it takes for parents to bring up their child – and then, should the new adult wish it, into autonomous life beyond.

Hardly anything new here either for those establishing and evaluating a new educational philosophy!

In other words, Conductive Education became known around the world only since the mid-nineteen-eighties and in the grand scheme of things, it is still early days. Over the last twenty-or-so years Conductive Education has expanded remarkably, both quantitatively and qualitatively. To look for clear answers at this point may at times be to seek what is not there but this should be no reason necessarily to suspend human judgement or defer decisions.

Andrew Sutton.
22 April 2008

Email: as@nice.ac.uk
Website: http://www.andrew-sutton.blogsot.com/
Mobile: 0798 097 9106

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