Monday, 13 July 2009

Conductors’ terms and conditions

A conversation with Laszlo

I have been in a little email conversation with Laszlo Szogeczki. With his permission I publish it here in full as, despite the long-standing familiarity of the topic, I do not recall having previously read about it in a public document.

7 July 2009

Hi Andrew,

Sorry, I did not follow anything in the last couple of weeks because we are heading to the end of the school year and thre is so much to do + personal life and study.

I assume many of my collagues are having the similar situation.


8 July 2009

Dear Laci,

I imagine that many of your colleagues are indeed having the similar situation. Not all of them, but a significant proportion of those in the Northern Hemisphere.

One of the problems of the conductor 'profession' is that it still tries to act like school-teachers, virtually closing down for the summer months.

People in heath and social services, those who work for universities, public officials, indeed almost everyone else, has a less acute rhythm to the year.

I anticipate that, like in every year since I came into Conductive Education, there will be few conductors available to discuss things with from now until around the end of August. Meanwhile everybody else will get on with making the decisions that conductors will hear about when they come 'back'.

Funny this, only half an hour ago I commented on my blog about conductors' particular position within Conductive Education, with respect to deciding the movement's future direction.


9 July


I have to argue with your point of view of "try to act like school teacher" rhythm.

We do have the school rhythm in our centre - everything is tuned to it (luckily) and our partners (parents, schools) wish to have those documents that we write at the end-of-year period. Also, we organise the start of the new year with those partners together.

Almost everybody who is in contacted to this centre has the same pattern., So, we must act like a centre which works parallel with schools.

Additionally, I am so busy because the University wants the same, closing for the summer with lots of papers :)


9 July 2009

Yes, it's a terrible dilemma.

When I set up the first UK centre, in 1987. I established the 'school' standard of opening. There were so many good reasons for doing so, such as you mention.

Later, CE started to vary so much, adults, babies, short blocks, holiday sessions, academic work, and other things, that it became very hard to 'compete' on term-time only working.

By the end of the nineties uor government was thinking the same about all schools, and looked at ways of radically breaking up the school year and changing teaches' terms and conditions. We decided to wait, see what the government would do, then go along with that.

But the government in the end did nothing!

I have no doubt that the government will eventually. Meanwhile some conductors in some places follow school years, others do very different things. It makes it hard in all sorts of ways.

Thank goodness that I do not have to fret about such things any more!

Anyway, you all have a good break when it comes.


Readers are more than welcome to add their own views and experiences if they wish, in the comments page at the foot of this posting (the usual offerprevails: if you do not manage to work this system, send your comment direct to

and it will be published here for you.

An historical footnote, a present need?

In the nineteen-nineties there was great concern amongst centres employing conductors in the United Kingdom at the ever-hiking salaries being demanded. This was enhanced when conductors in the UK formed a national association.

In response, the Conductors’ Employers’ Group was formed, an informal coming-together of organisations that had in common only that they employed conductors.

This was initially very useful, to the employers, as they were able to communicate directly amongst themselves what they really paid conductors and the various extras and perks that some had felt obliged to provide on top of this. Terms and conditions (for example, working-hours and holidays, even accommodation, were also topics of concerned discussion, as were (wilful?) misunderstandings of cross-national taxation agreements.

I do not know how effective these meetings were. Excessive extras did seem eventually to disappear. Wage-harmonisation and financial recognition for greater responsibilities proved much more difficult, not least because of the enormous objective differences between these centres on almost any dimension that one might imagine other than that they employed conductors.

Working hours and holiday-entitlement were another unresolved area when the Group began to break up. The break-up happened partly because the centres (and the personalities involved) did indeed find that there was more that divided than united them, partly because the ‘easy’ tasks like pay and perks had proved hard enough to discuss, but the ‘harder’ ones were frankly unfaceable in the presence of some of the personal unpleasantness that emerged within the Group.

Perhaps this Group achieved some results, perhaps the changes that ensued had been going to happen anyway.

Anyway, soon after this the National Association of Conductors also faded away.

Now I read that there is an active conductors’ association in the UK but I have yet to hear anything of a corresponding initiative on the part of those who employ conductors.

It takes two hands to clap! The awkward squad now having moved on, perhaps the employers’ side might look again at whether, in these straightened times especially, they have between them more that unites than divides.


  1. What can conductors do?.

    Can’t win it seems.

    Conductors who have long summer hols do not decide that for themselves.

    Those conductors I worked with in Norway or some who work in centres in America don’t decide for themselves whether they have a long summer holiday. It is decided for them that they don’t they take a couple of weeks as do people with a limited number of days a year.

    The question isn’t whether conductors should have long summer hols or not. The question is really about using the centres or providing a service all year round, as Hamar in Norway does or the centre Kasey describes in my blog posting:

    Why don’t all places in the UK do this?

    Following an example set by NICE maybe?

    Take NICE as an example. NICE, as Andrew says, closes down because that is the contract the conductors have. But does it really have to close?

    I never could understand why all those buildings are empty for weeks on end. Even if the NICE conductors do not, cannot, do not wish to, work in them there are many other conductors who could/ would /perhaps love to work in them if given the chance.

    Yes, I know England being England there are probably many legal reasons why not, but where there is a will there is usually a way, isn’t there?

    When I worked in a special school in Basingstoke in 1989 there were discussions under way to shorten the summer break. The teachers wished to have more evenly distributed shorter breaks throughout the year because many of the children found it difficult to maintain the level to which they had developed with little or no input for seven weeks during the summer. I and most of the staff supported these proposals.

    I am not sure what happened to stop this proposal in its tracks. Maybe some schools did begin to follow this model, I don’t know.

    (to be continued)

  2. (concluded)

    Perhaps you have been a little bit harsh when saying:

    “One of the problems of the conductor 'profession' is that it still tries to act like school-teachers, virtually closing down for the summer months”

    not harsh on Laci in particular, but on conductors generally. It was not their doing, many places may even have followed NICE's example in the early days when giving out contracts, setting up centres. I don’t know, although it is quite possible that when conductors left NICE they demanded the same conditions elsewhere.

    This happened here a lot in Germany in the 90s, conductors setting their price. Everyone was desperate to set up their own centre, especially the parent initiatives who wanted Conductive Education now before their children grew up. Most were willing to pay anything with many perks on top.

    You were quite harsh I think especially when continuing with the following two paragraphs:

    “When I set up the first UK centre, in 1987. I established the 'school' standard of opening. There were so many good reasons for doing so, such as you mention.

    Later, CE started to vary so much, adults, babies, short blocks, holiday sessions, academic work, and other things, that it became very hard to 'compete' on term-time only working.”

    I was always under the impression that the aim of the Foundation from day one was to provide at the Institute the whole “package”, And that this vision didn’t vary. It was the vision from the start. Of course the system functioning at the Petö Institute at the time would have had an influence but even when I left in 1993 summer schools were being planned there to fill the empty rooms and corridors.

    To me it still appears odd that at a CE centre not too far from me the conductors and other staff disappear during the summer holidays. Some times summer blocks for adults take place but they are run by conductors coming in from elsewhere. I could have run an adults group there in the school holidays if I had wished and had had the clients, but we would be in the school entirely alone with no one in ears' reach to cry out to if help was needed. I choose not to do this.

    I would rather be in the rooms that I know here in Nürnberg, still working alone but with people I know next door in the workshop or in the sheltered housing who I can call on if I need anything.

    Where I am now, in Germany, our conductors must take a two to three-week holiday in summer because that is the time the Kindergarten and Tagesstätte are shut. They get 30 days holiday in all, I think, which increases over the years, and is added to with bank holidays. The rest of their holidays they take when they like except for the few days they need to save for when the centre is closed at Christmas and Easter.

    I have my adults groups planned for these three weeks this summer and I often, as is the case this year, get conductors visiting me or even students working with me. Those who have a long summer break to fill.


  3. Our Centre started to deliverer CE for adults not long ago. This fact of course could raise the issue if it is necessary to have a school year pattern to them. Well, this can be a dilemma. Contrast of that, I know centres which are not having school year pattern, so their not having holidays, however, they not deliver services on regular daily or weekly basis for their clients, de facto, the different is that they not give that long holiday to their employees.
    Well, CE manifested so, but so many different ways all over the world that to find a good advisable service pattern is just not possible. We are sort of very similar to schools and the labour force, such as in schools, are well used during the contact periods. They give their best over those periods and holidays just ensure that they won’t burn out or leave the profession after five years of work. It is taken for granted (actually psychologically supported many years ago) that teachers, pupils, students need holidays in order to achieve their best. Now, the picture is completely different if the CE is not delivered like that. As a self employed person before I run one-to-one services. I did not need that much holiday. I also used to work without school holidays in school kind of pattern CE setting. I left after two and half years later – I felt I could not work much longer that way…

  4. I would like to share with you Tsad Kadima's experience regarding this topic.

    When we first started our activities (in the late 80s) we did not have a center yet. Activity groups of parents and professionals were operating three times a week, prolonging the school day which ended at that time at 13:00. During summer time we held three-week summer camps for parents and children, conducted by Israeli CE students, health professionals (like myself), volunteers, and Hungarian conductors.

    So basically, Tsad Kadima, was a pioneer in prolonging the school day and the school year, which met parents' and children's needs. For a family, summer vacation is a very difficult period as parents continue working while the school system is closed, having difficulty finding solutions for their kids.

    It was in 1988 when the Israeli Special Education Law was accepted and progressively implemented partially. That has meant that since the early 1990s the school day continued until 14:30 and the school year until mid August. The summer curriculum is different, but the children are in school and participate in different leisure and enrichment activities.

    When that was implemented, the parents of Tsad Kadima asked to prolong the school day until 16:00... so Tsad Kadima developed complementary programs to meet these needs.

    As the children grew up, Tsad Kadima at parents' demand developed a training apartment, so that young adults will practise active daily routine in the authentic environment of an apartment, acquiring the skills needed in the community (+ an overnight program once or twice a week).

    It is the parents' responsibility to help raise the funds for such extra-curricular activity. This summer, the parents in our biggest center in Rishon LeZion, asked us to operate during the summer vacation until 16:00 every day. They arranged a 'happening' in the community, with activity for our kids as well as the kids in the inclusive school. Parents and children were active in different activities, and the some of the money needed for operation was collected.

    Under the law, we can't oblige teachers/conductors to work during summer time. Yet, those who work are paid more (funded by the Ministry of Education).

    So... although we work on an annual basis (from September 1st till June 30th), we do operate all year long with a two-week vacation between August 15 and 30. Our staff have to meet all the educational demands as were described in Lacy's text,+ building and operating a complementary program to meet the real needs of the families and the children.

    You all well know that a break of two months for a child with CP may lead to a dramatic regression of achievements. Ways should be created to bring fruitful solutions to that need.

    I must admit that we demand from our conductors a great deal of effort and skill. Conductor are like Marathon runners, who should learn how to regulate their energy, and working around the clock may show its prices in the long run.


  5. Rony,
    I have to, I must argue with your last sentence. Conductors are like anybody else, most importantly humans. I truly believe that they have not got "more energy" than other people. Probably, it is very human what they do and they also very patinent people but still, they are people, emloyees, etc. they have their own independent life. Why should they learn to regulate their energy better than teachers, painters, plamers, fireman, doctors? I just do not get it.
    What do you mean by that?

    Refering to an other issue you mentioning in your comment, that long break can cause regression, I would like to share a "strange" thing. We did not have a scientific research on the effect of breaks to our children - but I experienced in Chicago at the Center for Independence that very often the one month break actually did not cause regression and children seemed to be "neurologically rested" after the month break and they learnt new things easier afterwards. Of course this needs to be more investigated.