Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Ranting and raving...?

No, payback time

Norman Perrin writes –

By and large I find education officers justify their decisions re school placements on these grounds:

  1  money - whether openly stated or not
  2. so-called inclusion or the child's need/right to be with a peer group
  3..but most often leaning heavily on reports from the medicos
I do not think we have ever entered into a proper debate on the choice of school by reference to pedagogy.

There's a whole different and new dimension that now bedevils dialogue with the local authority and that is that the local education authority no longer exists. Indeed, one might as well say that education as a concern of local authorities no longer exists. Expecting debate over pedagogy is almost wholly therefore a waste of time.

Why do I say this? Because of the impact of the purely political decision to create single Children's Directorates by the forced marriage of education and social services departments: "Education" for better or worse once dealt with all children in a borough; Social Services departments dealt largely with that small population of children in crisis: their training, professional priorities, ways of working, institutional cultures and, most importantly, their views of childhood and upbringing were wholly different. Put simply, as a one-time teacher, I viewed most parents as an ally; social workers viewed most parents as potential if not actual parts of the problem.

The outcome, it seems to me, observationally and reflectively, is that they have to find a meeting point for dialogue, for their endless "partnership boards", "multi-agency partnerships", "joint service teams" and the like. All is compounded when they bring in the local primary care trust to join them. Where is the common language? What can they talk about so that everyone can input their views? Where but "safeguarding" and 'health and safety". These have become the lingua franca of what once were once the separate languages and practices and concerns of Health, Education and Social Care, and of the inspectorates that sit upon them and the targets imposed on them by central government. If there is one thing that makes our School Board or our Headteacher jump to attention in trepidation ,it is not pedagogy or the child's learning, it is "safeguarding".

In such a climate, how can we expect any young Children's Department professional to have any interest whatsoever in whether Conductive Education is or is not a better (or just preferred) pedagogy than what's on offer down the road in the maintained school?

One might say, in such a climate, how can we expect anyone – even conductors, even parents – engaged on a day-to-day basis in the tussle to "safeguard" children to have the mental and emotional energy to reflect on their practice, never mind campaign.

An example: Paces is built around a courtyard, with cloisters (is that the word?) around all four sides. The courtyard and cloisters are a meeting space, a transit space, a children's play space, designed to be a theatre space. Barbecues and parties, for families and friends, have been held there on summer nights, there were art works on display. In short, it represented literally and metaphorically the meeting place of the activities of Paces' own community and the activities of the local community; it represented Paces unique model of inclusive practice. For many years, until we had the lease and could make capital investment in it, the courtyard had slowly decayed.

Now we are digging it up and investing in it. What are we doing? Oftsed, that's what we are doing. Safeguarding, that's what we are doing. The courtyard is becoming a "safe' children's play space and the cloisters on all four sides are being fenced off – so that adults who are not supervising the children cannot mix with them. And it infects us all. Yesterday, as I walked from the cafe upstairs to my office, I passed a group of four-year-olds looking out over the courtyard on to the mini-JCB. I stopped to speak with them, as I would my to grandchildren, a joy that I have only lately learned. But in my head was a voice of concern. "Of safeguarding. Should I be speaking to them? Best hurry on". I didn't, of course, I stopped and talked. The kids thought it was great and wanted to tell me all about what they could see.

If the most important – the only – school subject is safeguarding, how else can we raise pedagogy?

Rant over! Or rather I shall just stop. There's work to be done.

Yes, Norman. There's a time for ranting and raving, and now there is work to be done.

Yesterday, I had a working lunch with Chas McGuigan. A CE-pioneer. An old fellow. An 'old comrade'. An 'old parent'. Angry at what the greedy, cowardly and naive have made of so many aspects of society, including the world of Conductive Education. Cautious, from long experience at their mass strength, but cautiously optimistic too, that things are now so bad that there may be only one way left to go – up. And feeling that it is time now to give things a little help up.

In Australia, Sue O'Reilly is well out of the woodwork. There will be others too. Of course it is so much easier for those of us with less at risk because we do not have have twenty – or forty – more years to run in our careers, whether as service-users or employees. Things will only really roll, though,  when the next generation down joins in, rattles its chains, feels them loosening, then questions what else they have to lose. And more importantly, the generation after that: the young parents and the young professionals (including some conductors).

As for me : 'I stood all I can stands; I can stands no more!' (Popeye). So, I have swallowed my spinach. 'Payback time' (Predator).

Chas and I were discussing our own concrete plans and activities . More anon.

A couple of recent postings

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