Sunday, 28 June 2009

Szathmáry Judit rolls the stone

Resurrects deleted website

A month ago Judit Szathmáry very sudddenly discontinued and deleted her Sourcesense blog.

Then she thought better of it.

Too late. It is a well-known fact about when you delete a blog: once it's gone it's gone.

Sourcesense , come forth

Exercising her own widely expressed personal philosophy to the full, however, Judit refused to accept the conventional reality of what can and cannot be done. A few minutes ago a new Sourcesense came on line, a little less purple but bringing along with it the old Sourcesence back into the light of day.

Welcome back, Judit. Don't do that again!

Notes and references

The 'new' Sourcesense

The 'old' Sourcesense

Sutton, A. (2009) Requiescat Sourcesence: Judit Szathmáry withdraws from CE blogosphere, Conductive World, 30 May

Sutton. A. (2009) Judit walks away. Telling open letter to the ‘conductive community’, Conductive World, 3 June

More on the honours question...

Heather Crate is runner-up for 'Clarins Award'

I don't know whether commercial awards really count as 'honours', or are more in the way of competition prizes.

Maybe this distinction is not important. Maybe it is.

Either way, Last Saturday Conductive World mentioned Heather Crate of the Steps CE Centre in Leicestershire in its partial update of CE honours this century (Sutton, 2009a). She had certainly gained an 'honour' back in 2002, both by name and in substance.

Unbeknowns to Conductive World, however, Heather was just about to be placed among the runners-up for the Clarins Award. This seems more in the second category, a prize rather than a honour, but congratulations anyway, Heather, both for making it to the finals and for the national publicity that you brought both yourself and your centre, and to Conductive Education, in doing so.

Her citation for the Clarins Award (Fairly, 2009) read as follows:

When special-needs teacher Dr Heather Crate’s grandson was born with cerebral palsy, she founded a charity called Steps, to enable children like him to experience the benefits of the highly effective Hungarian conductive education therapeutic approach.

Filling the record

I know of at least four similar awards in the UK over the last four years:
  • Heather Last (PACES)
  • Jo Baker (Megan Baker House)
  • Joanne Mawdsley (Rainbow House) (x2)
I cannot recall the details of these but I know that Gill Maguire (Maguire, 2009) is trying to bridge the gap in the documentation so, if you can fill in any details of the above awards, please contact Gill direct via the CE-Library blog.

And please, if you know of any others, made anywhere in the world, please let her know too, again through the contact points provided on her CE-Library blog.

Back to the more general point...

My reason to bring up 'CE honours' here was not for those personal honours themselves, nor even the rightness or wrongness of honours and awards in general.

Rather it was to illustrate the contradictory attitude of the British state and possibly British society as a whole towards Conductive Education. You might regard this as simply contradictory, you might regard it as outrightly hypocritical and ignorant.

A quick Internet search to check how to spell Joanne's name came up with a wonderful paradigm example of this contradiction (or ignorant hypocracy, if you prefer). This was a report (undated, as far as I could see) by her Member of Parialment, Lindsay Hoyle, describing Joanne's attendance at a Downing St reception (itself a sort of honour, some might say).

Mr Hoyles reported on his blog:

It was a pleasure to join Joanne and Hayley to the reception at Downing Street. I have visited Rainbow House and know that an excellent service is provided to disabled children. The Prime Minister managed to speak to Joanne about the work done at Rainbow House and learn about the needs of the children that Joanne and her colleagues work with.

Perhaps I am over-sensitive but I cannot asking:
  • Never mind 'learning about the children's needs', what about doing something purposive in response to them?
  • Does the Supreme Leader have the slightest grasp of what the services provided by his Government are doing instead in this respect?
  • Why on Earth does he think that Joanne and so many like her are forced to dedicate their lives to create alternative systems, to try and compensate to some degree for the failure of the state to modernise its antedeluvian practices?



Fairley, J. (2009) Clarins award winner: 'My school has changed lives', Mail Online, 22 June,

Hoyle, L. (2009) Rainbow House visit Downing Street, (no specific date identified)

Maguire, G. (2009) More awards for Conductive Education, Conductive Education Library, 23 June

Sutton, A. (2009a) CE honours, 2000-2005, Conductive World, 20 June

Sutton, A. (2009b) State responses to CE in the UK: inconsistant, or what? Conductive World, 13 June

There have been other postings too on this topic on the CE Blogosphere over the last couple of weeks.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

All quiet on the CE front

There's a storm coming...

How very quiet and at ease everything seems on the Conductive Education front, on this hot, humid June weekend in Central England.

In the distance, though, I hear the rumble of thunder, and I think: 'There's a storm coming'.

Then I remember that I have used these words before on Conductive World, last September, in what may have seemed at the time just another Jeremiad... Looking back, that was written in another world.

Sutton, A, (2008) Another straw blowing in the wind (A further Jeremiad. Sorry!), 29 September

These words 'There's a storm coming', now as then, never fail to remind me of the final scene of The Terminator:

It is now nine months since that earlier posting. In nine months' time it will be the end of March, just coming up to the new financial year.

Up here in the Northern Hemisphere, it will be spring. What better time f0r a posting called 'The green shoots of recovery'.

Or perhaps 'Terminator 3'.

Time will tell.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

A conductor in Moscow

A riddle wrapped in mystery inside an enigma

People in the West know so little about what is happening in CE in China, or Russia. Perhaps correspondingly they know very little about us (or perhaps they do).

Here's a quick glimpse of something that has been happening in a day hospital in Moscow, though precisely what the conductor does there is not described (rather like happens in the West, actually).

As a leading method of treatment we apply a method of “conductive education" in a combination with modern rehabilitation technologies... The basic rehabilitation work is carried out by a team of experts which consists of a neurologist, a speech therapist, a psychologist and a “conductor” (an expert on “conductive education”).


Churchill, W. (1939) Radio broadcast, 1 October

Lilin, E., Nosko, A., Sharandak, A. , Rudnitskaya, L. (2008) The organisation of work of the day-time hospital on the basis of the rehabiitataion center, Euromedica Conference, Hanover, July 2008


Bad people, daft science, dreadful writing

Medals of dishonour

Opening today at the British Museum is an exhibition called Medals of Dishonour.

Despite what one hears and sees in so much public relations and politicking, disability in general and Conductive Education in particular are not all smiles, celebration and hip-hip-hooray. And the activities of those one meets in these fields are not universally honourable, or worthy of honour.

Some people are surprised to learn this. I cannot see why. Many others could find candidates aplenty to nominate for Conductive Education's own Medal of Dishonour, both within the field and in sectors that abut on to it.

Audio-slide show (does it give you any ideas?):

Bad science

The field of Conductive Education outcome research richly deserves its own Ig Nobel Awards.

But what a problem to chose a winner from such a jostling field. How do you chose the winner? How do you single out the supremely egregious.

Bad sex

And what about an equivalent to the annual awards for truly awful, bad sex-writing, to be awarded for truly appalling descriptions of Conductive Education?

Conductive World is published in the United Kingdom, and therefore directly subject to the world's most oppressive libel laws. Naming and shaming can be a risky business.

As the above examples show, however, it can be done…


A charity jump with an important difference

A young man, 22 years of age, is doing a sponsored parachute jump. Nothing remarkable there, except that when he was very small I knew him. That was in Budapest when he and his mother were amongst the first major influx of foreign families to hit the Pető Institute following the screening of Standing up for Joe.

He now has a first-class honours degree and is going to jump out of an aeroplane at 13,000 feet.

I know this because a couple of hours ago Google Alerts notified me about a story in the local newsheet from where he lives in a little town in Wiltshire. By extraordinary coincidence, only a few days ago Gill Maguire posted an item in her Conductive Education Classics series on the Conductive Education Library blog, about early BBC broadcasts on Conductive Education, made around the time of that first exodus One of these was a 'studio debate' in the Kilroy programme. I was then trying to remember who had taken part in that event and I was sure that Lesley Rose was there, with her son James sitting on her knee. Then up he popped on the Internet.

Now James is reported as saying:

... the message we want to convey [is] about how some of our ideologies sometimes stop us from achieving. This view is applicable in every aspect of life – from poverty, money, to our daily routine.

I do not know how long James and his family 'stayed in Conductive Education', but it does rather sound like something of Conductive Education has stayed in him.

Note and references

James's website
Well worth a read. Even I, contrary to a lifetime's habit, feel moved to slip him a pensioner's mite. Maybe you will too. He jumps on 11 July.

-- (2009) Courageous James gears up for charity skydive, Melksham News, no 477, 24 June

Maguire, G. (2009) Conductive Education Classics no 6, Conductive Education Library, 21 June

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Conductors wanted

Specifying requirements of Maryland project

A further circular email give a little more information on the project in Prince George's School District in Maryland.

Hello Everyone

I'm glad to let everyone know that our Director of Special Education for Prince George's Co. Public Schools has once again confirmed for me the continuation of our Conductive Education program for next year....simply amazing! Thank you for all of the messages of congratulations for this historic breakthrough in America's public schools!

We have at least one immediate position open and others that will likely be added shortly after the dust settles from the current RIF's being enacted at this time (reduction in forces). The long term plan is to engage as many as 15 Conductive Education Teachers across the Prince George's Co. Public School system's early intervention, regional and ortho sites. There are measures being taking for the creation of a new position FY 2011 which will be a "supervisor" position (Conductive Education Instructional Specialist) which would oversee the development and quality of the Conductive Education program.

Prince George's County Public Schools, Maryland is the 2nd largest school district in the state of Maryland and 18th largest in the United States guiding more than 140,000 students. Pay is competitive and would be commensurate with experience.

A minimum of a 4 year bachelor's degree in Special Education or evaluated equivalent is required and Certification in the State of Maryland is a must in order to be hired as a Conductive Education/Special Education Teacher. In order to be certified, one must take and pass the Praxis I and Praxis II exams:
  • (Praxis I) Reading, Writing and Math571057205730
  • (Praxis II) 00353 - Education of Exceptional Students: Core Content Knowledge and 00352 - Application of Core Principles Across Categories of Disability

For more information on the Praxis test and testing dates, please visit:

There are tests coming up in July which can still be registered for, so please take a look as soon as possible if interested.

If you have a email list of Conductors Teachers, please forward this information to anyone whom you know that may be looking for employment seeking a Supervisor position, or as a Conductive Education Teacher in a public school system.


Robert Kurz (President, Sixten's Foundation)

301 805 9406


A few points
  • The immediate requirement is for two conductors, one to be in charge.
  • It is hoped to expand this number eventually to fifteen, granting curent cut-backs.
  • They will be employed as 'Conductive Education Teachers'.
  • There are issues to do with qualifications and certification.


In both this and the previous notification there are some intesting points of cross-national compatibility of academic and teaching qualifications

  • The main potential source of conductors worldwide has been the Peto Institute in Hungary. For some years its qualification has been issued in combination with a teaching qualification, to produce 'conductor-teachers'. This qualification has not been a degree.
  • Henceforth the system will be different. The qualification from the Peto Institute will be a degree, and henceforth the new conductors will be graduates. It will not, however, be a teaching qualification and they will not be conductor-teachers.
  • Graduates from NICE in Birmingham have always been graduates, but not teachers. They are therefore conductors, not conductor-teachers, unless they subsequenly take teacher qualificaton in order to work as teachers within a school system.
  • Graduates from the course that was run at the University of Keele are 'teacher-conductors'.
  • Before that, the conductors whom the Foundation for Conductive Education had trained at the Peto Institute were already professionally trained and working as teachers even before their training began. The then had four years' conductor-training, so they are both teachers and conductors. Rarae aves!

Also eligible are at least some of the conductors trained in Israel/Hungary. And what about the Spaniards and Mexicans trained on the ill-starred Navarre/Budapest scheme?

The organisers in Prince George's should have a varied field to chose from, as long as they get their notification out to all those who might be interested, after which they will have an interesting time sorting through candidates' qualiications.


Certification under Praxis I and Praxis II should then present no problems, as long as the conductors' initial qualification render them eligible to go forward for the tests.

What will they actually do?

There is not much tradition in Conductive Education of reviewing and accounting the previous experience of others, and precious little pratical professional literature. Presumably what was done in Sixten's pilot project will be importamt in determining the wider deployment and practice of the conductors to be employed in Prince George's.

Likely therefore that these two conductors will be adopting their own relevant training and previous working experience to the expectataions and requirements of this new context.

Robert Kurtz sees this project, with reason, as a 'historic breakthrough in America's public schools'. It will meet this vision only if those undertaking this work understand it as part of their role to describe what they are doing, its pluses and its minuses, so that others are not left to reinvent the wheel, again.

It will be interesting to see this reported.

Previous item on this scheme

Sutton, A. (2009) Big news from Maryland, Conductive World, 20 June

The good news...

And the same old dreary mixture as before

The good news...

The good news is that parental recognition and enthusiasm continues to burn around the world. Whatever else happens, as long as such enthusiasm continues to burn so brightly, the flame of Conductive Education will be kept alive.

Latest public manifestation is an article by Katy Buchanan in this morning's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It could have been written anywhere in the world over the last twenty years or so.

This report concerns the long-established Conductive Education of Pittsburgh (est. 1998), which is passing to a new generation of families and changing its name to Steps to Independence.

Never mind the name change. Never mind the perpetuation of myth ('It's based on the idea that the brain can create alternate neural pathways to replace damaged ones'. OUCH!)

Just read Katy Buchanon's article to experience yet again the spirit of a worldwide, spontaneous parents' movement:

And rejoice that a more fundamental message of principle being handed on intact:

It teaches [children] to do things for themselves... So it becomes a lifestyle for them and their families.

What is there not to like?

The Post-Gazette also got a quote from United Cerebral Palsy.

Dori Ortman, program coordinator for UCP Kids, which serves children with all kinds of developmental disabilities, explained that with so many challenges facing parents of these children, it's important to key on what's best for the child, rather than trying to determine whether one therapy or approach might be better than another.

'We've heard some wonderful things about it [CE], but we're not out there recommending therapies for anyone," she said. "You have to make the best decision for your family and your child.

'"What we [at UCP Kids] try to focus on is what we believe: That the best outcomes come from kids' involvement in the community. How can we change the community to accept that child for who they are?"

What on Earth is this dampener meant to mean? Doesn't she get it, this is not a 'therapy'? If she doesn't why not? Why after all these years of 'wonderful things' is UCP still not on the ball? What is it trying to protect?

And what on Earth is the attraction of the pedagogic nihilism (therapeutic nihilism, to use UCP's language)?

...the best outcomes come from kids' involvement in the community. How can we change the community to accept that child for who they are.

A lovely warm fuzzy if ever there was one, but what does it mean in practice, and where does it leave parents who chose to do what all proper families do for their children, disabled or otherwise, teach them to do things for themselves, so it becomes a lifestyle for them and their families.

UCP, like so many similar bodies around the world, has ceased to be part of the solution for disabled children and their families. It is crossing to the other side, to be part of the problem.


Buchanan, K. (20o9) Conductive Education gives kids with disabilities an extra push, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 24

New Zealand: systemic problem?

Long black cloud over Aotearoa

Less than two weeks ago Conductive World reported problems of funding the CE unit at Naenae School in Wellington, described cautiously as 'a wobble' (Sutton, 2009a). What was happening was not entirely clear from the local newspaper story from which this was taken, though a further such story on Naenae subsequently helped clarify things a little.

Now, the CE unit at Addington is under similer threat and things look clearer still.The problem is national and not be just local. The new information comes from The Addington Article, the school blog of Addington School in Christchurch (Sutton 2009b) and is much more specific about the events that it is describing.

Funded as 'therapy'

It begins to look something like this.

From outside it has appeared that CE's remarkable expansion into New Zealand's state education system has depended upon the financial support of the educational service.

Not so, at least that is what it looks like fom the reports from Wellington and Christchurch. In those two schools at least, the conductors have been funded nationally, from the therapy budget, and the national therapy budget is facing an immediate cut-back of NZ$ 2.5m.

A question immediately emerges. Does this situation apply to all school-based CE in New Zealand? If so, Conductive Education in that country may suffer an sudden contraction to what relatively little might be provided from charitable resources, with immediate implications for CE services for children.

And for quite a number conductors' jobs.

Some light shed

These happenings do at least shed some light on a very puzzling aspect of the New Zealand CE. For some time now the New Zealand Foundation for Conductive Education and the New Zealand Conductors Asssociation have been investing time, trouble, money and hope in getting conductors 'recognised' as a profesional group. Unaccountably, they seemed to be aiming for conductors to become a recocognised health profession, rather that an educational one, inexplicable in the light of the essence of CE and their own apparent niche in the state education service.

This is a bit clearer now.

Now, of course, a further critical consideration emerges. Even within health services ,' therapy' is not the powerful, established institution, contrary to how things might look to some people in Conductive Education. In fact, therapy worldwide is a very vulnerable enterprise at a time of cut-backs in health spending (ask the 'community therapy' services in Ontario). And presumably, when push comes to shove, the old industrial priniciple will anyway comes into play: 'Last in, first out'.

Adults too

Pletyka has it that adult's CE in Auckland has had to cut back to the bone to maintain its services.

This long-established charitable foundation is NZ's only adult CE facility. Until recently this charity seemed to be on a riser, just as did NZ's school-based services for children.

Sringers wanted

Conductive Education in New Zealand has been a beacon of hope to many around the world who aspire to establish CE within their own education services, a precedent to be quoted and model to be follow.

So what is really happening there, locally and nationally?

There are usually 'dots' from New Zealand on the map at the top of this page.

Can some one tell us what is going on? If you cannot bear to post a public comment at the bottom of this article, even an anonymous one, why not act as a stringer (Sutton, 2009c).


In announcing commencement of the The Addington Article, such a short time ago, Conductive World reported as follows:

These New Zealand school-based CE units are now a regular part of the education scene in New Zealand's South Island. As such they represent an important advance in the development of Conductive Education worldwide, the precedent of which ought to prove important argument for those struggling for acceptance by official education systems elsewhere.

It is pity, therefore, that the rest of the world of Conductive Edication knows, and hears, so little about what happens down there. It is to be very much hoped that the New Zealand Foundation's sometimes very informative newsletter, now availably by email, will soon go on line.

How fast things can move when economics call the tune, perhaps something else that the rest of us might consider from the NZ CE experience.

And we await the next issue of that informative newsletter all the more.


-- (2009) Cuts to funding put Conductive Eucation under threat, The Addington Article, 24 June

Sutton, A. (2009a) Budgetry wobble in New Zealand? Conductive World, 17 June

Sutton, A. (2009b) School blog from New Zealand, Conductive World, 7 June

Sutton, A. (2009c) Become a stringer for Conductive World, Conductive World, 8 June

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Celebrity helps...

If you have a good'un

Effective celebrity patronage can be a bit of a Holy Grail, much sought-after but rarely found.

Celebrity involvement can turn out can turn out a disappointment, an expense, a drain on scarce time, even a bit of a pain.

Unless you have a good one, that is, preferably one living locally and an integral part of your local community. A good one is worth its weight...

Perhaps I should stop there because what has triggered this particular report is an example of positive, active, long-term, celebrity involvement, the long-term relationship between the Steps CE Centre in rural Leicestershire and locally based fitness and health guru, Rosemary Conley.

I have been hearing for quite some time now how much Ms Conley does for Steps. I was reminded of this by her tweet on Twitter yesterday morning, announcng Steps' Conductive Education Awareness Week, the first time (to my knowledge) that any CE event has been publicised through this fast-expanding medium.

She follows up most convincingly on her blog, a strong example of convincing celebrity endorsement (which is after all what most people expect from their patrons) and, just as important, the media/communications savvy to get this message out.


Steps is itself a useful example of a business model that seems to work, even when times are hard:
  • it has modest, focused service-delivery goals
  • it is strongly embedded in its local comunity
  • it represents long-term, total, personal commitment.

It is uusual, though not altogether unique over the years, for being founded and run not by parents but by grandparents, Heather and George Crate.

Public recognition and honours for Conductive Education are curently in the air. Here's another one to add to the list. In July 2004, the founder of Steps, grandmother-activist Heather Crate. was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of the University, by her old university, Loughborough, also part of the community that she and Steps serve.

Note and references

Steps: Leicestershire Conductive Education Centre

Conley, R. (2009) Rosemary Conley diet and fitness blog , 22 June

Cantor, L. (2004) Presentation of Honorary Graduand, University of Loughborough, 13 July

Sutton, A. (2009) Twitter. What are you doing? Conductive World, 23 June

Monday, 22 June 2009


What are you doing?

Two weeks ago Conductive World published its first item about Twitter.

Two weeks is a very long time in politics, and a long time in anything caught up in them too.

The recent events in Iran have seen the apotheosis of Twitter as a serious, world-scale social and political phenomenon.

Start of the CE Twittersphere

What about little world of Conductive Education? (I keep wanting to write this with capital letters, 'The Little World of Conductive Education', but I suspect that there are few readers who will remember Giovannino Guareschi's Don Camillo! It's an amusing analogy, though)

Most of us are not in Iran, and Conductive Education is no longer the revolution that its pioneers outside Hungary once hoped that it would be. Blood and passion are not currently much in evidence here, so we proceed into the Twittersphere at the slower pace of the world at peace.
  • Someone asks where she can find out about Conductive Education, someone else wonders how she can train in England as a conductor.
  • Usual suspects from CE's still tiny Blogosphere announce their blogs
  • Like in the macro-world, celebrity directs attention where it might not otherwise be achieved (not Oprah here, yet, but this morning Rosemary Conlan Tweeted attention to the Steps CE Centre's CE awarenss week)
  • Only an hour ago the PEAL Centre in Pittsburgh PA announced vacancies on its CE summer school next month (an instant and universal exposure that the cluttered Web would never afford it)

A slow start, but if CE follows the example of the wider world, take-up may now be exponential.

So, what else might Twitter do for CE?

Have a look at Conductive World's companion aministrative site for a few modest proposals for simple end-user applications, whether you be service-user or service manager, conducor or outside student/professional. Find this at:

Read more?

Further information and more references at:


Saturday, 20 June 2009


Sixten's to achieve its breakthrough

Sent out on Thursday to a mainly North American mailing list, and now filtering through to the rest of the world by the process of Chinese Whispers, is the following email, reproduced here in its entirety.

Sent: Thursday, June 18, 2009 1:55 PM

Subject: Conductive Education in Maryland!!!

Hello Everyone,

Just a quick note to send along some good news!!

To make a long story short...WE DID IT!

I had a meeting for more than an hour yesterday with our Director of Special Education from Prince George's County Public Schools and "she gets it"!!!! She totally sees how the children have responded during our one year Conductive Education pilot program and sees the value in continuing it long term! She wants to hire Conductive Education Teachers and place them in classrooms as stand alone Special Education Teachers

Any Conductive Education Teacher who has a Teacher/Conductor degree from Peto, England or Michigan can be certified to teach in Maryland public schools by simply passing the appropriate Praxis I and Praxis II biggy! Conductors would be hired as PGCPS employees and salary would be commensurate with experience. For example, a newly graduated teacher from Peto and alike would have a starting salary of about $43.481 for a 10 month teaching position...and a teacher with 8 years experience would start at $51.766.

Our director stated that the long term goal is to hire as many at 15 Conductive Education Teachers for Prince George's County Maryland Public School's early intervention centers, special regional centers and ortho centers! Pretty amazing!!! For now, the program is starting with a few classrooms and will grow. There are plans for FY 2011 to create a new position in the system which would be a "supervisor" position...something like Conductive Education Instructional Specialist, who would oversee the entire CE program across the various schools...

Fight for this in your local public schools!! Our key was the argument that we have all sorts of specialized Special Education Teachers...those who are trained to assist children with Autism, and those with Emotional Disorders, Behavioral Problems and Hearing Impairments... but we have no such thing in this country as a Special Education Teacher who is trained to assist children with Motor Disabilities... and this is of course exactly what a Conductive Education Teacher is! Our Director explained that Conductive Education is the missing link in our educational system!!!!

Please pass this information on about this historic breakthrough for Conductive Education to anyone you know who might interested. And if any Conductors are interested in more information about possible working opportunities, please have them contact me!

Thanks to all of you who helped make this dream come true!!



Robert Kurz (President, Sixten's Foundation)
301 805 9406

Very interesting indeed, both in its substance and its implications, on both of which doubtless more anon.

The empty plinth

This year’s Founder’s Award

Yesterday, Friday 20 June, the Foundation for Conductive Education held its Annual Awards Ceremony at the National Institute of Conductive Education, in Birmingham England. The ceremony includes award of the Founder’s Medal, conferred annually on people without whom things would have been very different…

Last year’s Award Ceremony was international in tone (Sutton, 2008a), and the Medal was awarded to Ann Paul (Sutton, 2008a; 2008b) whose television documentary, Standing up for Joe, was the single major factor in kick-starting the internationalisation of Conductive Education back in 1986. This year’s ceremony was more domestic, and the medal-award rather different too. Here is my economium.

The empty plinth

While recognising the particular significance of the word ‘plinth’ in Conductive Education, I am using it here in its proper, monumental sense. Think of the ‘Empty Plinth’ in Trafalgar Square, a pedestal awaiting a hero.

In Conductive Education we are not short of heroes, more usually heroines, far from it, but today I have no heroes or heroines to present to you, for reasons that I shall now explain. As in the case of the still vacant plinth in Trafalgar Square, the reasons for this are perhaps of more general import.

I had three candidates in mind this year, all surely people without whose contribution we should not be sitting here today, For different reasons, however, I cannot tell you their names.

I shall call them Miss X, Miss Y and Miss Z.

Miss X

I had met her some years before I heard of Conductive Education, when she was a social work student who did a practice placement at the Parent and Child Centre in Birmingham. Some years later, in 1985, she was working for the major national child-care charity Barnardo’s and heard that I was having difficulty finding funds to set up the first substantial project to establish Conductive Education outside Hungary.

She told her boss about this, he told his boss, and then he told his boss. The upshot was that Barnardo’s pledged us £60,000, a fortune in those days, if we could get started. Subsequently Barnardo’s came wholly on board, and stood firmly by the Foundation during the what in the early nineties seemed a most terrible recession, making more money available and facilitating the Foundation’s transition from cause to corporation.

Miss X had moved on by then, to greater things in health-service management, but her intervention has had indelible effects. Had it not been for her intervention this Foungation might not have found the financial strength to be born. Even if it had, it might not have survived the resulting weedy infancy to live on into the harsher world that followed.

She is not here today to receive personal acknowledgement of this for the simplest and most personally shaming of reasons.

After twenty-five years, I cannot remember her name.

Miss Y

Forward a year from Miss X’s intervention. On 1 April 1986 along came Standing up for Joe and a public and political demand to establish Conductive Education to the United Kingdom, the like of which it is impossible to imagine today. We had other pledges of funds once we could start, enough to take the risk of launching what would be a hideously expensive collaboration with the Institute in Budapest, but along with potential commitment came sectional interests, and there was still no coheren body to receive and spend these funds.

Miss X was the Secretary of an established philanthropy that wanted to contribute. But what to? Along with Janet Read, the Honorary Secretary of RACE, she took an active part in the rapid planning that occurred over that summer, and her charity undertook the considerable legal costs involved in forming the Foundation.

Then the catalyst. Her boss, the Chairman of her Charity invited the interested parties to a meeting at his HQ, chaired by the prestigious Jack (now Lord) Ashley who greeted them with the news that BBC‘s Newsnight would be waiting outside to film them as they left. Newsnight, he informed them, was making a critical report of whether or not the ambitious collaboration with Hungary would actually commence

This report, he further told them, was already shot and compiled for broadcast that night, with alternative endings waiting to be edited in: either these were the people and organisations who would be helping to bring CE to the UK; or these were the people and organisations whose inability to pool their resources and work together for the common good had wrecked an unrepeatable opportunity to transfer Conductive education out of Hungary. Creation of the Foundation was agreed at one of the quickest decision-making meetings that I have ever attended.

Miss X’s charity also came aboard the nascent Foundation, but did not stay. For some reason that we never knew her boss soon took vigorous exception to what we were doing and withdrew from further involvement. Indeed, he forbad our ever contacting his charity again. A few years later an enthusiastic fund-raiser for the Foundation accidentally did so, and received an extraordinary rocket for her pains.

We never heard from Miss Y again. I remember her name but I do not know what happened to her at the time or since as a result of her catalytic brush with what became the Foundation. Tracing her and inviting her to receive this award might open wounds best left undisturbed. Had it not been for her intervention, however, it seems highly unlikely that we could have started as we did…

Miss Z

Start we did, training British conductors in Budapest and establishing conductive practice in the UK. We would soon need our own premises, our own national institute to serve as base for the development and advancement of Conductive Education that we were mandated to achieved, and for the in-house services for children and adults, the indigenous conductor-training, and the other activities and facilities, that we intended to establishas means towards this end.

Unfortunately, by the end of the nineteen-eighties, the Budapest collaboration was proving even more expensive that expected, the first, unsullied flush of public enthusiasm for Conductive Education could only last so long, and money was getting shorter and shorter. Would we ever get ‘a building’?

Miss Z had been a post-graduate student of mine some years previously (Vygotskii, not CE). She heard that we were struggling to create a capital fund, and she told her boyfriend, who told his boss .His boss had just had a major financial windfall that had permitted him and his wife to established their own charitable trust. The Foundation was offered one million ponds to fund the first phase of its then ambitious plans for a National Institute.

There was just one condition: that the source of this grant should remain for ever anonymous.

Revealing Miss Z’s identity could put this at risk so, though without her intervention, it seems likely that the recession of the early nineties would have put an end to any hope for a National Institute. Simply, all other considerations aside, we should not be sitting here today.

And the moral to these stories…

If you think that there is one, draw your own.

For me, I feel comforted in my long-held belief that ‘a cause’ sells itself, and indeed it is infectious Not only did Miss X, Miss Y and Miss Z rally to the cause, their enthusiasm infected others, who went on to infect other still, sufficient to act significantly on our behalf.

Publicly but anonymously acknowledging these three ladies' contributions reminds me that really big changes in events are often the product of interventions that go unsung, and perhaps we rarely know the real story behind what happened.

These three heroines, who are not here to receive this year’s award for their decisive roles in determining the fate of the Foundation, stand therefore as types for all the unknown, unsung warriors who have fought for Conductive Education, not just here but around the world, who invisibly people this movement’s empty plinth, our cenotaph.

I had five minutes to speak, so I delivered only the gist of this. Above is the complete text of what I was prepared to say.


Sutton, A. (2008a), Standing up for Joe: Ann Paul's pivotal contribution to Conductive Education, Conductive World, 20 June

Sutton, A. (2008b), Annie’s reply, Conductive World, 1 July

CE honours, 2000-2005

Before and after which...?

In a second blog-posting Norman Perrin has been wondering further about public honours for Conductive Education.

A friend of CE asked me today whether anyone else in the world of CE, other than Helen Somerset How, had ever received an Honour of any sort…

The award to Helen was perhaps the first to include conductive education in the citation. My colleague, Karen Hague, the co-founder of Paces, and a parent, like myself and Helen, whose daughter is now 27, received an MBE in 2004, I think, but the citation did not specifically mention CE.

The question set me wondering about honours or awards or indeed any form of public recognition, to people working in CE settings (or indeed to CE centres). Perhaps Gill might help us compile a list.

A partial archive

At one time the Conductive Chronicle, part of the then Conductive Education Online, attempted to record some part of what was happening in the world of Conductive Education. This included news of individuals or organisations honoured by their local communities, or by their countries, for advancing the cause of Conductive Education.

That record was unlikely to have been complete as recipients rarely took effort to notify their peers of their good fortune A pity, as others might have used the information to help argue their own cause.

June 2004
Karen Hague, appointed MBE
December 2003
Susan Dean, one of Cleveland Magazine's 'Most Interesting People of 2004'
4 October 2003
Transamerica Life Canada, appointed Member of the Jonas Salk Circle
September 2003
Sue Cornell, elected Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Essex
May 2001
Patti Herbst, a Chicagoan of the Year
May 2001
Kinga Cségenyi, awarded special plaque from Women's Federation for World Peace (Unification Church)
October 2000
Emma McDowell, appointed Member of Civic Forum of Northern Ireland Assembly
June 2000
Ann Murray, appointed ONZM

This is as far back as I have time/facilities to search back.

Grande Bretagne, quatre points

In answer to Norman’s specific question, as far a ‘British’ honours go, Anne Murray’s ONZM is equivalent to the MBEs awarded Helen Somerset How and Karen Hague, so the score so far in that department, counting Mária Hári’s Honorary OBE, presently stands at four.


The question is not, however, a simple one, particularly in respect to what precisely can be regarded as an ‘honour’. The list above was posted informally on Conductive Chronicle, as and when news was spotted, with no particular criteria in mind.

Maybe now one might have done it differently, but that was then.

In Hungary

Mária Hári was awarded the State Prize, back in the seventies, for developing professional training for conductors. That was under Socialism. I believe that she received other official awards later but I have no specific information on this immediately to hand.

András Peto does not appear to have attracted gongs (or stars, as least, as far as anybody knows).

Maybe lesser Hungarian CE luminaries have also been honoured in Hungary, but if they have I do not know.


I have no information of awards for working in CE in countries other than New Zealand, Hungary, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Some practical archival problems

Norman asks whether Gill might oblige. I leave her to answer this for herself.

1. One can archive only the information that one has. Maybe all sorts of public recognition is being made but archivists cannot record this unless they hear of it.

2. That presumes an archive in the first place. There is no continuous archive anywhere of the internationalisation of Conductive Education.

3. Its seems highly unlikely that there are many concious plans to maintain, preserve or bequeath the large numbers of personal and institutional records that presently exist across the world. Large amounts will have already been intentionally destroyed or just ‘lost’, and plenty more will presumably follow it into oblivion.

All this, of course, concerns records of many other matters far, far more important than mere ‘honours’

Be that as it may, Conductive Chronicle closed in 2005. There have been a number of awards since then. I have no time to seek them out.


Perrin, N. (2009) Honours and CE? Paces, 18 June

Friday, 19 June 2009

Honours: exculpa me...

MBE already for Karen too

Last week, announcing Helen Somerset How's MBE, I carelessly wrote:

This is the first time that the British honours system has recognised Conductive Education since Mária Hári was awarded an Honorary OBE

I'd quite forgotten the Birthday Honours MBE awarded to Karen Hague of PACES in 2004, for 'services to families'.

Apologies to Karen for this lapse, and thanks to Norman for pointing it out.

But doesn't this MBE of Karen's serve further to illustrate the inconsistency of the state's towards CE in the United Kingdom?


Perrin, N. (2009) Honours and CE? Paces, 18 June

Sutton, A. (2009) State responses to CE in the UK: inconsistant, or what? Conductive World, 13 June

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Kedves mindenki

Gyászolja Szarvas Ritát és
Buslig Szarvas Andrást

Kedves Rokonok és Ismerősők !

Elment az én Andris fiam, aki az életem értelmét jelentette és elhagyta e földi világot Rita is, aki elhozta megfáradt életembe a boldogságot. Én, aki már oly sokakat eltemettem, Édesanyámat, Édesapámat és feledhetetlen Öcsémet, Lászlót, döbbenten hallottam a tragikus híradást: eltűnt az óceán felett az a gép, amellyel hazafelé jöttek. Számolgattam a perceket, az órákat és a napokat, nemcsak ekkor, hanem mindig, amikor a szeretteim tőlem távol voltak. Márpedig ebben a bolond világban, ahol mindig csak futunk, rohanunk, törvényszerűen bekövetkezik a katasztrófa! Csak azt hisszük, hogy velünk nem fordulhat elő, minket nem érhet ilyen bánat.

Márpedig megtörtént és ezen nem lehet változtatni, de emléküket, mosolyukat, vonásaikat, szépségüket, jóságukat nem feledhetem. Kérlek Benneteket, akik ismerték Őket Ti is őrizzetek róluk valamit a lelketekben, és akkor halhatalanok lesznek.

Bár én hiszek abban, hogy Ők onnan, fentről vigyáznak ránk!


Szarvas Ritát és Buslig Szarvas Andrást

a Szarvas család, András, Ljudmila és Katalina

Buslig család, György, Zsófi, Eszter, György-László és Gábor

Mourn Rita Szarvas and András Buslig Szarvas

György Szarvas, Rita's former husband and father of András, has asked for the above letter to be circulated to everyone who knew them.

The attachment is an open invitation to a special service in the Regnum Marianum church in Zoborhegy tér, Budapest XIV, where András was christened, to be held at 1100 on Sunday 21 June.

Budgetry wobble in New Zealand

Future uncertain for Naenae unit

National budget cuts affecting special education in New Zealand put funding for one of the country's school-based CE units at risk.

At least that is the impression from a local newspaper story which, if a little unclear, is probably no less so than the reality that it describes.

Note and reference

Watkins, T. (2009) Cash pledge on disabled unit, Nelson Mail, 18 June


'...specialist training, which is available only in Hungary or Scotland.'

The Conductive Education Unit
Naenae Primary School, Wellington

Whoops again!

'We have a lovely, friendly and trained teacher. She is the best to meet and ask a lot of questions. We have a special therapist who works on the physical side and does a lot of physical activities with the children throughout the day. We are permanently doing therapy every day and every week during the year.'

Now which one is the conductor?

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Big news, no news

The fate of Conductive Education is such a minor matter...

A few straws blowing in this morning's economic wind, in probably decreasing order of importance...

  • In Ekaterinburg in Russia, close to where Europe meets Asia, a meeting is being held, the first summit of leaders of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China), the likely dominant world economic powers of the mid-twentieth-first century. China has announced a mega credit deal for countries in Central Asia. Russia wants the other three to join it in replacing the US dollar as the international reserve currency. Political clout may follow economic clout... watch the story unfold over your lifetime.

  • In the world of mere business, the boss of British Airways has asked all 40,000 of its staff to consider working up to a month without pay, as part of its ' fight for survival'. It is also looking to make ten-percent redundancies. The unions are sympathetic to saving the company but of course opposed to permanent job cuts.

  • In the United Kingdom, 350,000 public-sector jobs are now forecast to be lost over the next five years, sparking major strikes affecting public services. As a start, 30,000 local-authority jobs will be cut next year alone. Hardest hit part of the country socially may be Northern Ireland, where nearly one-third of the workforce is employed by the public sector.

  • In England the boss of the Charity Commission has issued a checklist of 15 urgent questions for all charity trustees to ask themselves. He advises that charities' very survival now will depend upon coming up with the right answers to these questions, and acting upon them.

So what?

That's some of just today's economic news, up till lunchtime today. Only the bigger stuff of course. What to make of it? Not much perhaps. It is like reading (i.e. interpreting) an EEG: surface noises representing common pattens emerge out of multitudinous activity beneath, but only from one kind of the activities going on down there. There are things that this 'news' will never pick up, because they are presently too tiny or so unfamiliar, yet with the historians' wisdom of hindsight these may prove the important, world-shaping events of mid-June 2009.

Even so, the EEG is a useful clinical instrument, and the 'news' may be the best way that most of us have to understand what is going on to shape our lives.

And CE?

Most of what happens in and to Conductive Education depends upon either the individual choices and actions of very small numbers of individuals, or the destinies of tiny organisations too insignificant to feature on any economic indices. But all these choices and actions will be unavoidably affestcd by shifts in global financial power, the fate of international conglomerates, soaring unemployment, shrinkage of public services and, in many cases, the very survivability of non-profits/charities.

Individuals and organisations will make their own decisions, wise or unwise, informed or otherwise, according to their own lights, bending the best they can to ride out the economic wind. Summer is upon the Northern Hemisphere where most CE is situated, the academic year is closing and the new school year will soon follow. Parents have to decide what they will be able to afford in the new year, and so do programs, funders and public agencies. Conductors have to think of their employability and their own financial security. Everyone will be wanting to squeeze the maximum value out of what money might be available.

And very likely, as has been suggested before in Conductive World, amounst the multitude of service-users (not just parents) and service-providers (not just conductors), situated somewhere or other that is not necessarily the 'usual places'), pioneers are beginning to forge new practice-models and new business-models potentially widely generalisable for the economic order that will follow.

Meanwhile the priority to the forefront of most people's minds is simply finding ways of bringing their CE through the immediate future.

The 15 questions

These have been composed for the trustees of charities in England. They are, however, of a fundamental nature that transcends local institutional forms, and might prove useful for consideration by the boards of non-profits/charities running Conductive Education anywhere in the world (indeed for any sort of business, corporate of non-corporate, providing CE services).

Monday, 15 June 2009

Ireland: a fresh try

New force joins fray

Ireland (north and south of the border) has been a graveyard of dreams for Conductive Education for years now. Ambitious and hopeful starts have fizzled away to almost nothing, or have been totally erased:
  • in Northern Ireland, the last attempt to start something new seems to have come to nothing and the long-running saga of the Buddy Bear School is... well, long-running;
  • in the Republic, the only survivor of parents' struggles to establish centres is the amazing, Cork Peto Centre for Conductive Education, going since 1987, all others having succumbed to opposition.

Now a new force has entered the fray, the Special Needs Active Parents (SNAP) of Ireland, arising out of Dundalk in the Republic, a parents' body with concerns wider than Conductive Education, set up in 2004 and already with branches in counties Louth, Monaghan and Cavan.

SNAP held an open information evening on Conductive Education in Drogheda in May. Tonight it holds another such evening, in Dundalk.

It has been a long and hard road to Conductive Education in Ireland. Good luck and best wishes to SNAP.


Special Needs Active Parents

--- (2009) SNAP group host information night, Dundalk Advertiser, 10 June

Cork Peto Centre for Conductive Education

And only last week in Northern Ireland...

Sutton, A. (2009) State responses to CE in the UK, Conductive World, 13 June

Saturday, 13 June 2009

State responses to CE in the UK

Inconsistant, or what?

Two small news items in this morning's papers in the United Kingdom demonstrate again what some might see as contradictory responses to CE from different arms of the state.

On the South Coast, honour

Announcement of the Queen's Birthday Honours List today includes an MBE (Member of the British Empire) to Helen Somerset How, parent and fundraiser, 'for services to the Rainbow Centre for Conductive Education'.

Her local paper reports:

In the 19 years since she co-founded the centre, it has helped more than 400 children through conductive education – a technique that helps coordinate movements and promote greater independence.

Without any government funding, it's been a constant effort to raise more than £500,000 every year to keep the centre open.
But Helen has been instrumental in that fundraising effort, including a move to a new £1.2m centre in Palmerston Drive in 2006.

This is the first time that the British honours system has recognised Conductive Education since Maria Hari was awarded and Honorary OBE (Order of the British Empire, the next grade up).

(Maria Hari's award had to be honorary since she was not a British subject.)

In Northern Ireland, the brush-off

In Northern Ireland the saga of Buddy Bear has beeen running for around the same long period. Two years ago there appeared to be a breakthrough, with the pledge of funding from the Northern Ireland Assembly. Since then, however, the Executive has persistently refused to deliver the funds.

This morning the Education News of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers reports on the continuing stand-off. Brendan McConville of the Buddy Bear Trust asks: democracy a myth in Northern Ireland?

If the Assembly agree on something, how can one minister deny it? Bureaucratic red tape is holding special needs pupils back across Northern Ireland.

He was speaking in response to recent comments from Minister for Education Catriona Ruane MLA that the money promised to the school is no longer available.

Common ground

Governments and their bureaucracies are never monoliths. Only the most determined conspiracy-theorist could believe otherwise. There are of course all sorts of confounding variables in the two situations reported above, both in the programs involved and in the arms of the state that are dealing with them here.

The more cynical, however, might identify one dimension on which, albeit at different ends, the two circumstances can clearly be placed, the flow of funds:

  • the Buddy Bear School wants state funding (go away!)

  • the Rainbow Centre will let the state off the financial hook (all hail!)


--- (2009) School demands Government investment, Education News, 12 June

Donovan, S., Kula, A. (2009) Honour for founder of Rainbow Centre, Portsmouth News, 13 June