Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Conductive Education – like the Nazis

Bitter anti-CE campaign

One of the factors impeding development of Conductive Education in the United Kingdom in the nineteen-nineties and beyond was vigorous opposition from a vocal and, it proved, influential wing of the disability movement. This has immeasurable negative effects upon the understandings and attitudes of many disabled people toward Conductive Education, and upon many people working in education and local authorities. One suspects that it also had a hand in the distance that Scope (formerly the Spastic Society) put between itself and Conductive Education, a position that it has maintained.

The number-one guru of this movement was Mike Oliver, then Professor of Disability Studies at the University of Greenwich. An article that he wrote in the journal Disability, Handicap and Society has been particularly influential in advancing this opposition to Conductive Education. It is of course available online, on the journal website, but on a pay-only basis:

I have just stumbled across an open-access copy in the proceedings of a seminar held in the West Country in 1996, in what was then the artificial County of Avon, in which document Mike Oliver's article is republished as additional reading or reference material:

This seminar may be of general interest because (a) it was laid on jointly by a disability-advocacy group and a quasi-official body, (b) the dark, angry mood of the contents as a whole and (c) the number and level of the local participants being exposed to the ideology involved (see below). Repeated across the country, this cannot but have had substantial effecs,t not just upon those attending the seminars themselves but cascaded down into that middle-level of local policy-making and implementation that parents and Conductive Education centres have had to deal with in their everyday affairs.

You might be interested in the sort of people involved at the first level of this cascade. For reference purposes and as historical raw data the list of participants at this Avon seminar is reproduced below, as an appendix to this item. Where are they now, I wonder, what do they do and what do they believe?

Unfortunately for quick reference, these proceedings are not paginated. Scroll down and you will find Mike Oliver's article about three-quarters of the way to the bottom.

The journal Disability, Handicap and Society was a strongly ideological publication. Even so, it drew back from publishing Mike Oliver's article in its original form and the text that finally appeared (and which your can read in the seminar report linked to here) is somewhat milder in tone than the original. Copies of the original manuscript did, however, circulate in photocopy form quite widely at the time. This included much more direct comparison between on the one hand Mária Hári and András Pető and on the other the Nazis and the Holocaust, a singularly crass comparison given their personal experiences in Austria and Hungary before and during the War. This CE/Holocaust theme continued to be exercised for educational and ideological purposes (perhaps most shockingly in the 'Red Nose video', circulated free to every school in England, one copy for the staff and another for the school governors – but that again is another story).

The County of Avon has been dismantled. Mike Oliver has retired. A too-quick search of the website of the Universisty of Geenwich finds no disability studies. I wonder, however, whether echoes of this powerful anti-CE campaign still resound around relevant bodies in the United Kingdom.


Avon Disability Equality Forum and Avon Equal Opportunities Unit (1966) Inclusive Education Seminar, 2 March

Oliver, M. (1989) Conductive education: if it wasn’t so sad it would be funny. Disability, Handicap and Society, vol. 4, no 2, pp. 197-200

Inclusive Education Seminar Participants

Novvy Allan Community Education Coordinator, South Gloucestershire
Simone Aspis (Speaker) "People First
John Ashton Councillor. Chair Education Committee Bristol
Joan Avery Primary Teacher/SENCO
Carol Bannister (Speaker) Teacher Coordinator - Barnardo's/Somerset Inclusion Project
Daphne Branchflower Disability Advisor, Bristol City Council
Pam Brown Primary TeacherBarbara Burke (Speaker) Assistant Director Education, Newham
Anne Bush Education Psychologist, Avon County Council
Geoff Butterfield Parent
Dennis Casling Disability Equality Consultant
Mike Coulson ADEF; South Gloucestershire
Ruth Davis Councillor, South Gloucestershire
Pat Duffield Parent
Jo Forrest Councillor North Somerset
Yvonne Friel West of England Coalition of Disabled People
Penny Germon (Chair) West of England Coalition of Disabled People. Co-Chair ADEF
Phil Gregory Councillor, Bristol City Council. Bristol School Governer
Fazilet Hadi Policy and Equalities Officer, Lewisham Council
Neil Halsall Councillor, South Gloucestershire
Vanessa Harvey-Samuel Assistant Director Education, Bristol
Elke Hein Parent
Lee Hennessy Parent
GovernerMildrette Hill (Speaker) Disability Equality Trainer and Consultant
Pat Hogg Councillor, Bath and North East Somerset
Tony Hurley West of England Coalition of Disabled People. Disability Adviser, Bristol City Council
Anne Johnnson Supportive Parents for Special Children
Anne Jones Avon Disability Equality Forum
Linda Jordan (Speaker) Former Chair, Education Committee, London Borough of Newham
John Kenworthy Psychologist and North West Action
Victoria Kilroy Councillor, Bath and North East Somerset
Claire King Disability Equality Officer,
Avon County Council Dot Lee Teacher
Robina Mallett Supportive Parents for Special Children
Preethi Manuel (Speaker) Parent, Teacher and Writer
Ray Martin Councillor, North Somerset
Micheline Mason (Speaker) Alliance for Inclusive Education (formerly Integration Alliance)
Geralyn Meehan (Panel Member)Bath and North East Somerset (Avon Equal Opportunities Unit)
Mary Montgomery West of England Coalition of Disabled People
Saadia Neilson (Speaker) Disability Equality Trainer and Consultant, Way Ahead North
Anne O'Bryan Parent Governer
Hazel Peasley Southampton Centre for Independent Living
G T Perry Avon Disability Equality Forum
Ruth Pickersgill (Panel Member) West of England Centre for Integrated Living
Krysia Piotrowska Governer Training Officer, Avon County Council
Ian Popperwell (Speaker) Disability Equality Officer, Avon Social Services

1 comment:

  1. History? It's all in the past, isn't it?

    Interesting list. The only name I recognise is that of Robina Mallett.

    I too wonder where they are and what they now believe. We are still to some extent dealing with what "cascaded down into the middle-level of local policy-making and implementation". Though much less so.

    But we are also dealing with new people, new voices and new policies, locally and nationally. That is the way forward.

    Maybe the late 1980s,unfortunately, was just the wrong moment to introduce CE into the UK? As I, for instance, a parent and school governor, first learned of CE via RACE, I also was being inducted into "inclusion", engaged in identifying a mainstream site for our LEA special school to be relocated to and merged with.

    A stray thought that might be interesting is that such a conference would simply not be held today, would it?