Friday, 23 October 2009


Why is CE where it is today?
You tell me

A free lunch

Yesterday I was treated to a publisher’s lunch.

In all truth this was not as grand as it might sound: fish and chips and mushy peas, plus a pint of Guinness, all in for £7.50, in the Connaught Bar in Dertend High Street in Digbeth, but the food was sound if simple and Irish community centres are welcoming places, even on a wet Thursday afternoon in Birmingham. Anyway, it is a rare occasion to be asked to go somewhere to talk about Conductive Education, and very nice indeed to be treated for it!

The publisher was Howard Sharron who some twenty-five years ago, as a youngish campaigning journalist was closely involved in the nascent conductive movement in the United Kingdom. Indeed, Howard‘s role was pivotal. In 1985 an article that he published in the Guardian newspaper was read by a TV producer Anne Paul, and by a parent, Mike Horseley, The outcome was Standing up for Joe, without which nobody now might know of Conduive Edcation.

Twenty-five years ago, however, the world that we now know all lay in an unforeseeable future, and the future of Conductive Education was no more than a matter of hope amongst a few intensely motivated individuals. Over the next couple of years Howard got to know many of these individuals, and their hopes.

Ways part, lives move on. Howard publishes magazines and in the field of education and child welfare, now under the imprimatur of ‘Imaginative Minds’. On 2 November I shall see a couple of thousand words of mine published in one of his magzines, e-Learning Today. This concerns some important underlying themes apparent in Conductive Education without actually mentioning CE at all, as interesting exercise that others might consider for the future.

Howard’s latest venture is called Every Child (issue no. 1 has just been published).

Pay back

There is no such thing as a free lunch. I was there to be persuaded to write three-thousand words on Conductive Education, to be published in Every Child in the New Year. This time, though, I would not be getting away with no explicit mention of Conductive Education. Remembering the hopes, the dreams, the goals of those first Conductive Education pioneers in the United Kingdom, Howard was asking me to write about why Conductive Education has now taken off in the United Kingdom in the way that we had wanted.

Who cares?

Now this is a big topic, enough to consume several PhD studies. Luckily for me, the readership of Every Child, like the overwhelming majority of the people in the United Kingdom, have no interest whatsoever in Conductive Education, the rights and wrongs and the vagaries of its history in the United Kingdom. Nor in 2009 do most people particularly care what it is.

What Howard wants from me is that I should write about CE as a type, and epitome, a paradigm example of what happens to stifle, divert or appropriate progressive practices and ideas in education and other sectors of child welfare. Correspondingly, this also raises the question of what society might usefully learn from the twenty-five-year experience of Conductive Education's attempts to get established in the United Kingdom.

Readers in the United Kingdom willjave immediate spotted the sting in the magazine’s title: Every Child. ‘Every child matters’ is one of those soon-hackneyed phrases that Government likes to attach to social policies, or ‘agendas’, in this country (probably in others too), after which its myrmidons in the bureaucracy and academe immediately raise it to the status of a philosophy swaddled in high moral tone: a Holy Cow of unquestionable status till the next divertissement comes to town.

The ‘every child agenda’ anticipates innovation in practice. Maybe the experience of the most innovative, radical force for change to hit British educational and social welfare in most people's living memorory might prove of interest to the thousands of people who will be expected to achieve their own miracles of change under this latest agenda.


As far as I know, the last time that a journalist asked about the recent history of Conductive Education in the United Kingdom was five years ago, when BBC 4’s You and Yours asked ‘Did Conductive Education ever achieve what it claimed?’ Answering to this ran aground on the BBC’s hopeless desire to be ‘balanced’.

I doubt that I shall achieve ‘balance’ in what I write for Every Child, but I shall try to be broad and comprehensive.
I therefore ask readers of Conductive World to help me in preparing this article. Parents, young adults, conductors, anyone:
  • why do you think Conductive Education is where it is today?
  • what are the factors that have helped shape its ends?
  • is what it has become today a bad thing (and what are its good points)?
  • where is it going now?
  • where should it go in future?
If you do wish to respond to my plea then you can do so in a variety of ways:
Not just the UK

This article will be UK-focussed, but its import ought to be more general. As I currently see the piece (this might evolve over the next few weeks), similarities and contrasts from elsewhere in the world might shed interesting light. Comments, experiences, analysed from other parts of the world will therefore also be most welcome.

Reference and notes
Robinson, W. (2004) Did Conductive Education ever achieve what it claimed’? You and Yours, 12 March


  1. Blimey! Was the piece on the BBC Radio 4 broadcast 5 years ago! Shows how long I've been hanging around following CE. At least I've been able to make a positive difference myself in the intervening years. Things aren't where I'd hoped they'd be, they may even be going backwards. I'm still recovering from efforts to respond to your post about Web 3.0 and CE, and I'm struggling at the moment to think of positive things to add here. I really need a chance discuss things with you in person.

  2. I'm definitely interested in helping Andrew - although having only a few years of CE under my belt only gives me a short insight into CE - that said my family has been involved in CE for longer so might have some insight from that angle. I feel CE has changed even since i've been involved so would happily share my thoughts. Let me know. Jules

  3. Andrew.
    I've taken the liberty of giving everyone another option that some might like.

    I've created a wiki at
    Wikis are a great way for people to get together to share ideas and easy to use.

    This wiki comes with a simple set of easy instructions.

    No-one's written anything at the moment, but take a look anyway.

    This wiki is a public space and so anyone can edit the pages. We'll have to see how that goes.

  4. I see that Susie Mallett has written a characteristicallly trenchant piece in response to this item, on the Conductor blog:

    Well worth reading, a veritable testiment on behalf of an increasingly forgotten, traditional and REALLY responsible kind of 'professionalism'...