Monday, 31 January 2011

How to confront those outside CE

When we cannot resolve internal differences?
  • Cerebral palsy... usually occurs before, during or after birth and is caused by a lack of oxygen.
  • We help children to make them as physically independent as possible.
  • It’s based on the premise that a child’s brain can be retrained.
  • Conductors who lead the program serve as a combination [of] physical therapist, occupational therapist and teacher.
How many of these statements, all from a single soure (a public presentation, sympathetcally reported in a local newspaper) would you stand by?
  • All four? Three? Two? One? None?
How many of the above statements do you regard as misguided, or outright wrong?
  • None? One? Two? Three? All four?
Which do you regard as the most harmful consequence of mis-stating Conductive Education, however sincerely held and well-meaning what is being said?
  • Actively misleading parents, funders, sympathisers
  • Making the whole CE endeavour appear implausible, ridiculous
What should one do about it?
  1. Keep one's head buried firmly in the sand?
  2. Write personally to all those who offend, and carefully and patiently explain the errors of their ways?
  3. Comment publicly, without naming names?
  4. Name and shame?
What is your favoured response?
  • Most people in CE go for option (1). Perhaps they do not wish offend anyone (especially sincere person trying hard to act for the best). Perhaps they are exercising that most dubious of ethical principles, 'acting professionally'. Perhaps they are unsure of themselves, or are just plain wormy. All seemingly strong reasons Same result: nothing done. And nothing changes.
  • Some people may bite the bullet of option (2), and write personally... but, all other factors aside (and there are quite a few!), consider the sheer arithmetic of this hypothetical approach.
  • Conductive World has tended towards option (3). If one wants a generalised effect, then this is more cost-effective than option (2) and, also like option (2), perhaps it avoids wounding personal feelings too much. . But as with option (2), why should anybody take the blindest notice?
  • Well, that brings us to option (4). In the most postitive and friendly way, for the greatest possible good of Conductive Education as a whole, is it not time to start exercising that most important pedagogic principle, tough love, and start imposing a bit of discipline around here?
I will if you will.

And perhaps I will anyway, even if you won't.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Et in Arcadia ego

Troubles in Godzone

Several times over the last couple of years or so reports in Conductive World have suggested that New Zealand has provided a paragon example for developing Conductive Education services, in close collaboration with the state, in an English-speaking liberal democracy.

In 2011, however, nowhere is safe from current ideologies, memes, values and priorities – and the cutbacks that underpin these, even the Land of the Great White Cloud.

In less favoured and humane societies, watch out.


Dave Ching reports –

Ching, D. (2011) Vicky's progress ends as funds cut, The Press, 31 January

Friday, 28 January 2011

Why has it closed?

An allegory

The Wrexham and Shropshire Railway runs its last train this evening.

This railway has had the highest score for passenger-satisfaction of any railway* in the UK. So why is it closing?
  • First, it is an 'open access' carrier, that is, unlike all the other mainline passenger services in the UK, it receives no government subsidy.
  • Secondly, throughout its short time on this Earth, it appears to have met the uncompromising obstruction of those other, bigger and longer-established railway companies with which its services abutted and overlapped. all of which are state-subsidised – and all less satisfactory to their users.
The outcome was that, having started with great plans, it was unable to maintain even its initial range of services. It did, however, create and hold on to a high-quality of service, recreating some of the civility and standards of the past within the constraints forced upon it by finance and the limits put upon what it could do by relatively more powerful competitors.

A contradiction?

One is left with an interesting question.

Of course the lack of state subsidy must have been a factor in the W&S's demise. But was the high level of customer-satisfaction in some way related to the fact that the state was not involved?

What do you think of that, my friend?


Gone before, but not forgotten... but you never know:

An appetite has been created and the struggle continues. 

Meanwhile, good luck to the remaining two open-access survivors, First Hull Trains and the Grand Central Railway Company.

And no, I did not go down to the station to see the last service run. It's below freezing, and I'm no gricer!

Previous item on this topic
* To use the proper terminology, the W&S has been a TOC (train operating company) not a railway as such because it does not own the track that it runs on. To dispense with jargon, for most people we are talking about 'railways', the term used here.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

New law in Hungary

Friend of András Pető prosecuted

BUDAPEST, Hungary –  A former Hungarian interior minister seen as one of the main architects of repression after the country's 1956 anti-communist uprising has been charged with publicly downplaying the regime's crimes, prosecutors said Thursday.
Béla Biszkú was charged because of comments he made during an appearance on state television on Aug. 4, 2010 in which he said he had nothing to apologize for, said Gabriella Skoda, the spokeswoman of the Budapest Chief Prosecutor's Office.
Last February, Hungarian lawmakers made it a crime punishable by up to three years in prison to publicly deny, call into question or minimize the Holocaust. In June, the law was amended to refer instead to crimes against humanity committed by the Nazi and communist regimes.

Read more:

Back in 1963

Béla Biszku injured his lower back, playing sport. He was then aged 39 and Vice-President of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Hungarian People's Republic. An old school-friend suggested that he should consult András Pető at his flat in Stollár Béla u., close by Party Headquarters, after which he attended Pető's State Institute seven days a week, for an hour a day, starting at 8 a.m. He was subsequently able to take part in sports again.

They talked a lot, after the 'exercises'. This was a crisis time for Pető and his State Institute. Pető told Biszku about his problems with the Ministry of Health, which was determined to discredit him. Pető explained to Biszku that his treatment was largely a matter of educating his patients but that there was a strong opinion that what he did was mere quackery that could not be scientifically proved. Pető wanted to be independent of the Health Ministry. He found the Ministry of Culture and Education rather more sympathetic and visited Party Headquarters a lot, paying particular attention to Pál Ilku, Minister of Education. The decision to transfer the State Institute from Health to Education was made at the ministerial level and gazetted on 21 December 1963, the then Prime Minister, Gyula Kállai pedantically insisting that the word 'Conductive' be dropped from its title, as insufficiently Hungarian.

Pető and Biszku became friends and, along with Mária Hári and Ilona Szekély, visited Biszku's home and became fond of the family. Biszku recalls something that he would say –

I can still remember exactly what he would say to me if I complained: 'What do you expect, do you only expect the good things in life? You are a happy man. You have a family. You have to be prepared not just for the good things in life, but for the tough times as well. One has to know that there is struggle and suffering in the world as well'.

This might seem somewhat ironical in the light of present circumstances.


Béla Biszku's recollections from the early sixties have been extracted from the transcript of his interview with Judit Forrai:

Biszku, B. (1999) Interview, in J. Forrai, Memoirs of the beginnings of conductive pedagogy and András Pető, Budapest, Új Arányhíd and Birmingham, Foundation for Conductive Education, pp. 125-130


Biszku Béla dokumentumfilm: 1956-ról mesél és tagad a volt belügyminiszter

On the basis of the available evidence...

...there is no rationale for local authorities
to support CE programmes 
either conceptually or financially

The system of providing for 'special educational needs' in England is under Government review. The future of Conductive Education, may be powerfully affected by what emerges from that process.

In the mean time, individual families continue to struggle with their local authorities over state funding for CE services.

Both providers and users of CE services might be interested in what might look like an authoritative judgement on Conductive Education, certainly directed towards the latter process and possibly to be fed into the former too.

If you are not in England, or even in the United Kingdom, do not think that supposedly scientific reviews such as this will not seek you out, whether your involvement is at the personal or the social-policy level.

On the basis of the research data currently available there is no basis for local authorities to recommend or financially support progammes of CE. Nor is there justification for naming CE in a child's statement of SEN. Local authorities are charged with considering principles of best value and cost-effectiveness, in which regard the research available does not provide evidence to support the claims made about CE nor does it provide a rationale for authorities to contribute to sponsoring CE programmes...
There is need for further research into the possibilities of physical and psychological harm...
On the basis of the available evidence there is no rationale for local authorities to support CE programmes either conceptually or financially. There is no evidence base to recommend that such a programme be incorporated into a child's statement of SEN.
Underpinning substance?

These judgements follow upon a review of certain published empirical studies. This is not a nes-w study of Conductive Education, but relies upon previous studies. It sumarises and reprocess what it finds in these according to a particular world view. Characteristically, the authors of this review demonstrate no grasp of the field itself, historically, socially, pedagogically or in terms of upbringing.

There is so much that could be said in detail about such intellectally shallow and morally repugnant processes presented in the name of research.. Why bother, though, it has already been said enough. There are none as deaf...

Research evidence before SEN Tribunals

My knowledge of the relevant law is old and rusty. It used to be the case that one should never discuss such stuff at a Tribunal. Competent legal representation for the parents should point that it is not within the Panel's role or competence to adjudicate on the virtues or otherwise of academic research. The panel is there to decide upon whether the requirements of the law are met, and nothing else. If a Tribunal were to step outside this, then the case invites immediate appeal.

Perhaps this no longer applies. NEVER go to Tribunal without proper advice on such matters.

That of course is a matter of the letter of the law. What is understood, communicated and decided within the SEN system, outside that formal, regulated context, is another matter.


Tuersley-Dixon, L., Frederickson, N. (2010) Conductive education: appraising the evidence, Educational Psychology in Practice, vol. 26, no 4, pp. 353-373 

Previous postings on this topic

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Saying goodbye

Last rites 

What do you tell the clients and the public when you close a service?

Today, Wednesday, it was announced that the Wrexham and Shropshire Railway will be closing – this Friday evening coming.

This is a terrible shame. This was an imaginative little company that provided a service that was just not otherwise available, and in doing so ran as the most effectice, customer-satisfying railway company in the UK. That is was very nice, but the relevant fact has been that it just could not attract the income to balance its books. Result: closure.

I have been aware of the W&S's structural problems for some time – as has everyone else with an interest in railways in the UK – and wondering whether it would get through. Now when the news has come, it is no surprise.

Presumable those in charge at W&S made their final decision a few days ago. The first people to hear this would have probaby been financial interests. Next would come the staff, who possibly heard only yesterday – or maybe just this morning. Last of all, because that is how things go, would be the customers, the travellers, the punters.

Along the way (just before 0900 hrs this morning), the information was released to the media and to everyone on the company's mailing list.

What has this to do with Conductive Education?

Independent CE services have been closing for almost as long as they have been opening. How have they done this? Well or badly? Who knows? Like almost everything else done in Conductive Education this goes unreported – so nobody else benefits from past experience, plus or minus. When your turn comes, you have to make it up for yourself.

This coming year may well see further such closures. There is no way in which such a process is going to be pleasant, but it can be handled better – or worse.

For what use this might be as a starting point, here is the statement that W&S issued this morning. I leave it to you to substitute different names and words –

 Wrexham & Shropshire railway to cease operations on Friday 28th January 2011
It is with great regret that we announce that Wrexham & Shropshire will stop operating trains on Friday 28th January.
This very difficult decision has been taken following a full review of all possible alternatives, in which it was concluded that the business, which operates with no public subsidy, would not provide a return on investment.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your loyal and continued support. Without your assistance, our award winning service would not have been possible. We are very sorry that we have not been able to sustain it.
Until Friday 28th January trains will operate normally. The last train will be the 1830 from London Marylebone.
From Saturday 29th January, all Wrexham & Shropshire tickets already purchased will be valid on alternative routes into London Euston operated by Arriva Trains Wales, London Midland and Virgin Trains, and London Marylebone by Chiltern Railways.
If you have already purchased a Wrexham & Shropshire ticket for travel after 28th January, please click here for alternative travel arrangements.
If you have not yet booked a ticket for forthcoming travel, please be aware that you will need to book to travel with alternative train operators. You can book tickets for travel with other train companies via our sister company Chiltern Railways – please click here.
Our customer service centre will remain open to provide customer support. To contact them, email or telephone 0845 260 5200.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank you, our customers, for your loyal support.

Good luck. It might not be happening to you. Just in case it does, though. it could be easier amd more responsible to get something ready in advance for clients and for public release, rather that have to take time and give proper attention at the time, during the stress and rush of events.

Please keep Cyberspace tidy

One final duty. Please close down your website. Cyberspace is littered with the website sites of long- departed CE ventures. The do nobody any service.

If you wish to leave your own centre a fitting cyber-memorial, then amend the text accordingly, and indicate clearly that it is no longer in operation. And one final service, direct your visitors elsewhere.
Also on Facebook

And so Farewell...

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Trivial pursuit

What else is in the name?

I used to collect 'Petos'. Once I even wrote an article about them (it appeared in The Conductor magazine). Most of the names that I trawled were of course the English 'Peto', not the Hungarian 'Pető'. This was before the Internet age, so it was slow work and I did not come up with all that many (just the famous ones, and of course the world-famous le Petomane and the town in Mexico).

Now through the Internet I can see just how many people there are who bear this name. Many of these are Americans of Hungarian descent, who spell their name in the English way.

By chance yesterday I came across an unusual one, a quite well-known wartime submarine, the USS Peto, named after the peto, a sharp-nosed fish of the mackerel family, and very well documented for posterity.

Here's a lot about the sub:

And here are lots of pictures of it:

I leave it to others to follow up the fish for themselves, if interested, though I could not help but notice the following description of in one source:

...the cosmopolitan and more solitary wahoo, or peto.

You never know, such information might be useful to people giving talks, or writing dissertations.

Monday, 17 January 2011

What will happen to the Pető Institute now?

Caught up in major political forces

It serves me right for looking. Late last night I stumbled upon a recently published posting from a German-language blog:

On it I read, for the first time, of the Hungarian Government's radical shake-up under way for 35 'foundations' established by previous Hungarian governments over the years. One of these – indeed the oldest of them all, if what I was told at the time was true – is the Internationale András Pető-Stiftung, the International Pető Foundation, that owns and runs the Pető Institute, the 'World Famous'.

This is the first that I had known of what has been going on. None of this is in the least surprising but I have been easing back from CE from 1 January, happy enough taking my eye off the ball. As ever, I therefore assumed that I was the last to hear. – but I would check (in CE, always check, assume nothing!).

What was on the Internet in English about all this? As far as I could see, nothing. What about in Hungarian? At first sight, lots, but on further examination much of this has comprised the same article, repeated verbatim over and over through different media outlets. 'Tis ever thus!

I posted quick mention on Facebook, on Twitter and here on Conductive World, to register my interest, and went to sleep. I did not hold my breath in anticipation of a response. This is, after all, Conductive Education.

What has been happening?

I am now rather surprised (or am I?) to find that people in Conductive Education, Hungarians and non-Hungarians alike, seem unaware of the developments currently surrounding the Pető Institute and its future.

This is the story as I think I currently understand it. I do not hope to understand Hungarian politics and society and it would be truly remarkable if I were to be getting this right! So please, please, please, correct me if you know better.

The new Hungarian Government took power in April, with a landslide majority. The governing party, Fidesz, is usually termed 'centre-right'. This is of course a comparative statement, and the comparison is Hungarian. I hope that neither that government nor its supporters would mind its being described as 'right-wing' by some other countries' standards.

In July, the Hungarian Government announced that it was going to be taking a hard look at alapítványok, 'foundations'. that had been created by its predecessors. Foundations are not exactly charities, not quangos, not not-for-profits, not philanthropies, as generally understood in the English-speaking world. They are semi-independent bodies, established, backed and owned by government, in receipt of government funding, governed by boards of government-appointed trustees but free (nay, encouraged) to receive money from other sources, to sell their services, to trade, and to a considerable degree to govern their own affairs. The Nemzetközi Pető Alapítvány (International Pető Foundation) that owns and runs the Peto Institute is such a body.

As far as I can work out, an official advisory board is being established to determine the futures of particular foundations. This has to happen by the end of April 2011. It is intended that non-profit and central organisations (ministries) will take over foundations' responsibilities. I have to admit that this, the most important issue of all, is the part that I understand less. Do please plough through it yourselves, and offer any contrary interpretations:

The Hungarian economy is in no great shape (is anyone's, you might ask!). In this context, Fidesz is expected to look at radical reform of the whole economy – indeed that is what it was elected to do.Will all these 35 foundations even survive at all and, if so, under what form of 'management' and with what goals and what results?

No wonder that the PAI people were looking down in the dumps in Hong Kong.

Where are we now?

An article was published in the Hungarian press on 29 December – a good day to bury bad news. Here is the headline:

Harmincöt alapítványt és közalapítványt szüntet meg a kormány

This means: 'The Government is getting rid of thirty-five foundations'. If you put the whole title in a Google search you will see in how many places this appeared. There is nothing on the PAI website. I have not checked the websites of other affected foundations. This seems the major public source of information on these developments.

In the real world, the PAI should be making a public announcement. That would be the proper way to behave. Maybe it still will do the decent thing – maybe it will just be like Br'er Rabbit in the Briar Patch.

This is a funny, nadir time of year. The mid-winter break is over, and reality is back upon us. Among other things this means that already foregone conclusions and decisions can begin erupting into the public domain. The PAI is not the only part of CE's salient topography currently strongly rumoured to be rather more than at risk.

It will not be long before change ceases to be a matter of intention and anxiety, but one of factual report.

Oh dear

Maybe all this is no more that the Hungarian equivalent to David Cameron's very British 'Bonfire of the Quangos'. I do not know the objective problems of these Hungarian foundations – nor, apart from the fate of the PAI, need any of this be of any interest to me. And just maybe 'the Institute', whatever it comes to be called, just might be enhanced in some way by whatever becomes of it. We shall see. Another 'State Institute'?, What might that imply?

But oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Maybe is am paranoid, prejudiced, panicky but, looking through the much republished official statement (for which I gave just one newspaper URL), what are the concerns of the 35 foundations in question? They include the following categories, with more than one foundation per category:
  • Jews
  • Gypsies
  • the handicapped
  • history
  • books
  • art
  • human rights
Oh dear. As I said, I do not understand Hungarian politics. It is just unsettling to see these categories being dealt with together again. Many societies in the West have benefitted enormously in previous times from  waves of Hungarian emigrants. In a way, CE already is, let us hope for Hungary's sake that it does not become more general..

By the way, I also sincerely hope that other bloggers, Facebookers etc will now take this matter off my hands. They certainly would, outside in the real world!

The Hungarian election

Previous postings on Conductive World:

Thank you, Tünde, for your invaluable advice in my trying to read and understand.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

On Facebook – news

Former daily readers especially, please note
There may be things happening!
Check the news...

Andrew Sutton is on Facebook.

Postings there are not regular and daily (though there have at times been two or more a day, today for example). You just have to look out.

Much of what is posted there is the sort of thing that might at one time have been developed into full blog postings here on Conductive World. I have no time for that now, but you might still like to consider the possible relevance of some of the matters referred to there for yourselves.

And there is also chance for brief comment or discussion, should you wish.

Earlier today on Facebook, for example, I shared with a wider audience a most interesting article on research, from the New Yorker magazine, sent to me by Rony Schencker. Mind-tickling.

You may find the world of scientific debate rather too gentle for your taste, preferring something more practical, more 'real'.If so, then see what you can make of the harsh politics now breaking around certain 'foundations' in Hungary.

What is happening to the Pető Institute?

Find out what prompts this question at:

Even better, if you know anything about what is happening to foundations over there, especially the one that runs the Pető Institute, do please share a little knowledge about what is now going on over there, in a a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom most people in Conductive Education around the world know nothing.

This could all amount to nothing. If so, then everything will just continue as it has since the International Pető Foundation was brought into being not long before the fall of the Iron Curtain, ended one era and established a new one. Or just maybe, another new era is about to begin.
If the latter, the few who read these words, wherever they might be, will all be affected, possibly for the worse. In some instances drastically so. Most people involved with Conductive Education around the world, users and providers, do not follow what is happening in this sector through reading the social-networking sites. They will be affected too! Think of the proverbial ostriches.

If you wish to comment upon any matter raised here, then you may do so in the Comments below, or on Facebook – or you may write, in confidence, to:
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