Thursday, 31 March 2011


A great ambassador

I knew Zsuzsa in the early days of Conductive Education's emergence from Hungary. By common agreement she was the best ambassador for CE and her profession that anyone had yet met, and a  wonderful human being.

Even if you do not know a word of Hungarian, watch this video. All that you need know is that five years ago Zsuzsa had a much longed-for baby. Ten days after her daughter's birth Zsuzsa suffered a severe and devastating stroke. She was in a coma for 26 days and left with severe poblems of speech and movement.

This six-minute video has just been shown on a Hungarian-language TV news magazine:

(2011) Emberfeletti küzdelem stroke után [Superhuman battle following stroke], RTL Fokusz, 29 March

Zsuzsa a gyógyításnak szentelte az életét, 5 éve azonban stroke-ot kapott, kómába esett és lebénult. Emberfeletti küzdelmét folyamatosan filmezték. Csodák márpedig vannak, a Fókuszban be is bizonyítjuk!

Read more
Emberfeletti küzdelem stroke után

Zsuzsa a gyógyításnak szentelte az életét, konduktorként bejárta a világot. 5 éve azonban stroke-ot kapott, kómába esett és lebénult. Saját kollégái vették kezelésbe, és segítették vissza őt a magatehetetlenségből a normális életbe. Emberfeletti küzdelmét pedig folyamatosan filmezték. Csodák márpedig vannak, a Fókuszban be is bizonyítjuk!

Zsuzsától 5 évvel ezelőtt elvettek valamit. Nem mást, mint az addigi életét. A stroke, egy angol szó, amely ütést, csapást jelent, a magyar köznyelv sem véletlenül hívja a betegséget gutaütésnek, szélütésnek. Zsuzsa, túlélt egy stroke-ot, és bár óriási hátránnyal indult, kapott egy második esélyt is az élettől.

26 napig feküdt kómában. Újra kellett építenie önmagát. A szélütés előtt konduktorként dolgozott a Pető Intézetben. Azért küzdött, hogy a keze alatt cseperedő beteg gyerekek képesek legyenek az önálló életre. Mindenkin segített, a stroke után viszont lebénult. Az ő kezét saját kollégái ragadták meg és magatehetetlen testét életre keltették.

Zsuzsa nehezen beszél, nehezen mozog. Ez mind a stroke következménye. Az egykori konduktor, kislánya születése után 10 nappal kapott szélütést. 5 éve azért küzd, még ha ez néha kínkeservesen is megy, hogy visszanyerje a régi énjét.

Felmérések is egyértelműen bizonyítják, hogy akinél már a kórházi ágyon megkezdődik a rehabilitáció, az jóval gyorsabban és nagyobb mértékben nyeri vissza képességeit.

Zsuzsa anno bejárta a világot, több diplomás, több nyelven beszélő konduktor volt. Sok külföldi család videó üzenetet küldött neki, amikor megtudták mi történt vele.

Zsuzsa mellett mindig ott voltak és ma is ott vannak a kollégák. Ők mindannyian kivették a részüket a gyógyulásban. Gyógytorna, akupunktúra, masszázs, mindent kipróbáltak, hogy lábra állítsák őt. Nem kérte őket senki, mégis minden nap kitartóan jöttek Zsuzsához, ő pedig soha nem mondott nemet.

Konduktorként pontosan tudta már a legelején, milyen hosszú út áll még előtte a gyógyulásig. Ez az út rögös és akadályokkal teli, de legalább már látja a fényt az alagút végén.

This account from the television company reports that Zsuzsa dedicated her life to healing and to working as a conductor around world, before being paralysed by her stroke five years ago – and how her former colleagues have helped in her long continuing struggle to create a new life.

Monday, 28 March 2011

CE: wherever next?

New horizons await

Time Magazine this week reports –

7.5% Brazil's GDP growth in 2010
$11 TRILLION GDP of China, Brazil, Russia and India
With all the focus on Japan and the Middle East in recent weeks, an important economic milestone has gone relatively unnoticed: Brazil has surpassed France and the United Kingdom to become the world's fifth largest economy, worth about $2.2 trillion in 2010. Brazil is the second emerging-market nation to join the top five; last year China surpassed Japan to take the No. 2 slot, right behind the U.S. The result of this hypergrowth is that Goldman Sachs is now predicting that the largest developing economies--Brazil, Russia, India and China (a.k.a the BRICs) – will overtake the G7 in size by 2018. That's much faster than Goldman's original prediction of 2040, made just ten years ago...

Of course, as these countries' GDPs rise, so will their wages – and their growth rates will slow. But already there begin to emerge other 'new frontiers', the next horizons...

In the meantime, one could think of many less attractive places to start than Brazil. When I retired some six years ago, Brazil was one of the projects that I was working on. CE bridgeheads have opened up in that vast country, there are families there who have experienced CE and would like more, there are conductors who have worked there, and there seems an informed and friendly welcome from those already working with disabled children,. Climate, life-style, a whole new world to conquer... as the already 'traditional' host countries tighten the screw then this, of all the BRICs, must beckon.

Like everywhere, nothing will come from waiting for institutions to do something: it will take personal catalysts to get things going.

It could be you?


Foroohar, R. Rise of the rest: developing economies see rising wealth, Time Magazine, 4 April, p.12

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Conductor-training at NICE

Wolverhampton University withdraws
Independent CE college proposed

The magazine Special Children reports –

Conductive Education course set to close

The UK’s only degree course in conductive education (CE) is set to close after 17 years. The BA (Hons) course, validated by the University of Wolverhampton and delivered by the Birmingham-based National Institute of Conductive Education (NICE), will see its last intake start in September 2011. Kit Field, dean of the School of Education at the University of Wolverhampton, said:
The decision to close the programme, while regrettable, was taken in line with the recent Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) student number cap imposed on universities in the UK. Demand for the course has not grown and an average of 12 students or fewer have annually started the course.
– (2011) Conductive Education course set to close, Special Children, April/May, page 6

The article also reports intention to find another university to validate the conductor-training course, and  create an independent college of conductive education, exempt from future government higher-education changes, including increases in tuition fees.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Stuff and nonsense

In the NEC are many mansions

To the National Exhibition Centre on the outskirts of Birmingham. I had been given a complementary ticket for the Miniatura show and, though doll's houses are not my bag, it is always interesting to peep in upon devotees in an alien world. Anyway, the Education Show 2011 was on in another hall (and that's free to all comers), so I could kill two with one.


I used to go to such events regularly but till today I have not been to an exhibition like this of any kind for at least two or three years. One thing has changed: now on arrival, instead of filling in a form, I had to book in by computer – permitting the show's organisers to ask an even wider range of more impudent than hitherto intrusive questions to advance their marketing. Once past the doors, however, things seem much the same. This was an event less to do with education that to sell things to schools and schoolteachers.

Once inside, and without donning my bar-coded and disclaimered visitor's badge, I picked up my free show catalogue and asked a lady on duty 'Where are the special needs?' 'Over there,' she replied, 'right at the back'. Fair enough – wherethey have always been. (True to the spirit of inclusion, I should add, the programme confirmed that, outside the Special Needs Zone, other stalls might also offer something for SEN.)

Not a lot there for me in either case. In evidence in the Zone were stalls for the 'softer' problems – plenty about dyslexia, a bit on dyspraxia, and of course communication disabilities and autism (sorry, I couldn't be bothered to write this last sentence with inverted commas). I received a distinct impression that I was being confronted with reasons why certain children, more than you could plausibly imagine, have inherent reasons to find simple human learning inordinately difficult. I avoided conversations with the nice people on the stalls.

I noticed no explicit acknowledgement, by either charitable associations or commercial companies, of all these countless pedagogically neglected children whose attainments and behaviour reflect the effects of our divided society – and whose education may seem as doomed for social reasons as is that of others more socially advantaged, it was implied, for biological ones.

Nor did I see sign of the hard developmental disorders (I believe that these are increasingly now distinguished as 'complex'). Perhaps these are not of interest to the hoards of young teachers and their middle-aged 'managers' who flock to such exhibitions, as not being really matters of educational concern. Should one wish to find out about such complex children, then better perhaps attend a disability exhibition.

What characterised this show for me? As befits an exhibition for companies and other organisations that market to the education industry, the bulk of its concern was to sell 'stuff'. Amazing things for schools and teachers to buy, bright, attractive (not distractive, surely?), often ingenious and beautifully presented – and certainly not cheap. Stuff, I could not help thinking, is what English education spends its money on, rather than pedagogy.

No books stalls. Professional knowledge is not presumably a marketable commodity in this context.

Oh, yes, and not a sniff of Conductive Education. But why doesn't Conductive Education work to tap into the colossal buying power of England's schools. Does it not need the money? Has it nothing to offer schools? On the basis of the Education Show 2011, – just like suggested by the recent Green Paper – No. Again, perhaps CE should be sought elsewere, under disability. I ought to check.


Glorious, splendid, eccentric, dotty, potty, obsessional nonsense (I do hope that none of the autistic spectrum disorder people cast their baleful attention upon the second hall that I visited today). I love it.
No computers to book in with here, just nice retainers welcoming at the gate.

Doll's houses and their accessories constitute a considerable underground culture, manufactury and economy in the United Kingdom and similar countries. What genteel people they seem to attract (on both side of the commercial transactions), what a determined, assiduous effort it does all seem to involve, what studious attention to every detail.

What a very different world, I thought, from 'education' – or maybe I was just observing a gathering at which participants' modal age was probably well over twice that of the one that I had just left.

And yes, there was a bookshop, my favourite stall of all those that I saw there, carrying hundreds of titles, selling rather well:

Oh dear, I must go back to the real world...

Friday, 18 March 2011

Szarvas Rita

French legal proceedings

The cause of the Air France crash that on 1 June 2009 killed Rita, her son András and their two companions, among 228 on board, remains unknown. The black boxes have never been found. Now a French judge is taking the unusual step of initiating a judicial investigation against the aircraft's manufacturer, Airbus:

This report comes from the local newspaper in the English county where Rita spent two years working as a conductor at Megan Baker House. Last May the newspaper reported how András had been commemorated by the school that he had attended there:

Memorial service in Budapest, 21 June 2009:

Rita's Facebook page is maintained as a continuing on-line memorial:

Further on the French enquiry

Evaluate an intermittant programme

It is time that somebody should try
Norwegians would

See this news report on PTO's website, dated 10.07.2010. It is written in Norwegian and the following is my own take on what it means –

The research is up and running!

PTØ Norge has long wished to evaluate the effectiveness of the Pető method training. And now we are working on a research project in cooperation with Oslo University College. The purpose is to evaluate the effect of periods of Pető method training for children with cerebral palsy.
The first children have now been randomised, i.e. sent arbitrarily either to Pető method training camp or put on the waiting list.

There has long been a need for research in this field, since the method and its effects are not well enough documented. This is the first time in Norway that research on the effect of the Peto method, and PTO Norge is very happy with it.
The study will examine whether periods of Pető method training in combination with regular exercise improves children's gross motor skills, hand function and aspects of daily living. The children's and parents'/guardians' quality of life and how they perceive the care that they receive in the regular service system will also be examined.
The research group consists of Hilda T. Myrhaug (Research Fellow at the University of Oslo), Sigrid Østensjø (Supervisor and Associate Professor at the University of Oslo), Nina Vøllestad (Supervisor and Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo) and Jan Odegaard-Jensen (Statistician at the Norwegian Information Centre for the Health Services). The study will be included in a doctoral project on intensive training and rehabilitation for preschool children with cerebral palsy.  
The children who join the study are guaranteed three Pető method training periods of three weeks duration over the course of a year. The courses will be either in Hamar, Stavanger or Ski, most likely in Hamar. In the periods between classes, children will continue their regular work at home, physiotherapy and in kindergarten. The children will be followed by systematic surveys in advance of each Pető method training camp.
When parents/guardians have agreed to participate in the study, their child will be randomly allocated to start Pető method training as soon as possible, or to a list of courses starting after approx. four months (randomisation). This random distribution to the next or any later Pető method training is done in order to know whether any differences in the functions to be mapped can be attributed to Pető method training and not to other factors.  
All the preschool children with cerebral palsy, are aged from three to six years, have been approved for Pető method training and have not received the type of training prior to participating in the study.
Start up is now in November 2010.
For more information about the study or wish to participate, please contact: 
 .First thoughts
  1. I hate the English word 'training' in this context. Maybe trening means something different in the Scandinavian languages.
  2. It looks rather an off-the shelf range of outcomes. Might there not have been modalities more appropriate to the goals and the nature of the approach itself?
  3. If this is to be a multi-centre evaluation then it is more than ever essential that the actual work is manualised 
  4. ' Systematic surveys' – just in advance of each camp? Perhaps I have misunderstood
  5. '...approved for Pető method training': this really does need more definition.
Will this study be producing interim reports? Where? How? I am sure that there are many who would follow its progress with great interest.

I apologise for not having noticed this study when it first appeared over the summer. At least, if things have gone to schedule with the November start-date then we should be already well on our way to reading that first interim report!

One conductor's life

Arab. Christian. Israeli

Happiness quotient (scale of 1-10 ): '8.5, even 9 - I am happy'.

A little green man asks –

'What are conductors? What do they do?'

Above everything, they are human beings, living their lives.


Among my souvenirs
A bibliography, and a personal reminiscence

From the archive

Not as assiduously as I ought, I have been continuing to box my personal archive. I do not have time to sort through all this stuff as it deserves but I am reminded that it includes all sorts of materials and items that possibly exist nowhere else. Here is just one example, selected here not least because it is short enough to retype, and because of memories that it engenders.

A bibliography

Some years ago now, I was given this typewritten bibliography by Károly Ákos –   

Select bibliography
Károly Ákos
Psychology of Mysticism, 1955, 191 pages, in Hungarian 
Do Animals Think? 1960, 140 pages, in Hungarian (Russian edition, 1965) 
The World of our Senses, 1960, 291 pages, in Hungarian 
Cognition, 1961, 234 pages, in Hungarian
Our Nervous System, 1963, 296 pages, in Hungarian
The Soul, 1964, 221 pages, in Hungarian  

The Critical Flicker Frequency Series Effect (with Magda Ákos), 1966, 245 pages, in English 

Conductive Education (with Mária Hári), 1971, 341 pages, in Hungarian (two Japanese and an English edition)  

In Whirl of Times, 1975, 361 pages, in Hungarian 
Fatigue in Psychochronographic Examination (with Magda Ákos), 1979, 475 pages 
Dina (with Magda Ákos), 1988, 252 pages, in German (English edition, 1991)
Around one hundred in all, including: 
Do animals think? In Science and Humanity, International Yearbook of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, 1960, in Russian 
The Growth of Science: its Premises and its Dangers (with E. P. Wigner, Nobel Prize Winner for Physics). Magyar Tudomány, May 1969
Five books for teenagers: 

     Animals: an unknown World, 1960, 380 pages

     Man: an Unknown World, 328 pages, 1962 

Series on religion and psychology: 

     Sunday, 1962, 271 pages

     Sacrifice, 1963, 262 pages

     Devil, 1964, 230 pages
Editor of     

     Scientific Studies in Conductive Education  
     a series on Darwin 
     a four-volume medical dictionary
Translator of
Brehms Tierleben

'While in the fifties the sporadic attempts at systematic atheism tended to degenerate into anti-clericism and mud-slinging […] an exception was provided by Károly Ákos who, over the past twenty years, has published an impressive number of books and studies, popularising (at a good literary level) basic atheistic views concerning the genesis, history and current practices of the world's religions.'
Erwin László, The Communist Ideology in Hungary, Dordrecht, D. Reidel Publishing Co., 1966, p 82 and n. 5

A. K.
March 1992
A personal reminiscence

In the late nineteen-eighties and on into the nineties I used to visit the apartment where Károly Ákos and his wife Magda lived in Budapest, in genteel penury. They lived on the corner of Vörös Hadsereg útja as it was then called ('Red Army Road' (now Hűvösvölgyi út) and Kelemen László utca. In front of the house was a tram stop from which it was but a few minutes' tramride down the broad highway to Kútvölgyi út, where the main building of the Pető Institute stands. As far as I know, the Ákoses had never visited this building. Whether this had been a self-inflicted alienation, or whether they were personae non gratis, I do not know.

Suffice it here that students and conductors at the Pető Institute seemed not to know of the Ákoses and their work, and do not still (with one notable exception, for one of their daughters was a conductor). Others from outside Hungary, however, also visited the Ákoses' apartment. We would be very warmly received there, and hear their reminiscences, their powerful and frank views on András Pető,  and their critical comments of the path that his method was now following only a mile of so down the highway from their home.

I had very little Hungarian when I first went there (even less than now). We conversed, through the fog of Károly's growing deafness, largely in his remarkable English, with occasional help from his other daughter (a teacher) and, best of all, through the late Véra Szárkony who could interpret far more than just the language. Magda spoke English well, listened attentively to what was being said, and took care that the right message was being conveyed. His conductor daughter remained in another part of the apartment throughout my visits – I presumed so that she could honestly say that she had taken no part in these conversations.

At one visit I drew attention to a large book case that seemed to hold a special pride of place, and asked him its significance. 'These are my books,' Károly answered, with justified pride – taking particular satisfaction in showing me the entry that he had had published in the Great Soviet Encyclopaedia. I asked him whether he had a bibliography and, when I visited him the next time that I was in Budapest, he presented me with the above document, prepared in specific response to my request.


This was in 1992. Over the previous year I had edited the English edition of Dina, translated from Gaby Haug's original German edition. Oh, he was such an awkward author to edit. I would send him batches of pages, say a couple of chapters or so at a time – and he would go through them meticulously to make sure that they exactly fitted his original meaning. Quite right too, so he should. Unfortunately, as noted above, his grasp of English was 'remarkable' – remarkably good and remarkably eccentric – and we had some terrible tussles.

(I had been forewarned about this by Joy Stevens who only a few years previously had managed the translation into English of the book Conductive Education. Her task had been even harder, as she had to cope not just with Károly, but with Mária Hári too, and the with disagreements between the two of them about what was meant by their original Hungarian text!)

Still, no bones were broken over Dina, and the book had been published in 1991, just about on schedule. Dina was the most ambitious book that our Foundation had published up to then and, let me tell you, in those days publishing was no easy matter. We had no computers, neither had our printer, and there was no hint of the on-demand publishing that we can now  take for granted. Everything was done on paper, it all took ages and, when we were ready, we had to order from the printers what seemed a reasonable number of copies of the book to make all the effort worthwhile – and to keep down the unit price. Then we had to sell them, to get our money back, and pay the authors some royalty.

Unfortunately, by the early ninetee-nineties the great Conductive Education furore was nearing its end in the UK. Following Standing up for Joe Conductive Education had had five good years of public acclaim, so perhaps it in part deserved the lean years that were to follow. By 1992, when Dina was published in English translation, the CE boom was going bust, with a vengeance. The Foundation for Conductive Education had invested money that it could barely spare to produce Dina, but the book did not sell in significant numbers. Parents who bought it still tell me that this quirky little book was the best thing that they ever read on bringing up a child with cerebral palsy, but these parents were few and far between. In the end, the Foundation had to write off the money spent on Dina, and accept the financial loss as just one more in a whole sea of troubles at that time.

I do not know how Gaby's edition fared in the German-speaking market place. I suspect that it did much the same as ours. She put the lack of interest down in part to the fall of the Iron Curtain. Conductors were fee to leave Hungary to work abroad, either with individual families or in newly opening conductive centres. Many families preferred this model to one that depended upon their own self-help transformation of their children's upbringing at home. Perhaps the lack of interest in the English edition may have reflected much the same trend.

Sales of our book fell well short of paying even the printer's bill and we were left with a  'Dina mountain'. The English Dina did not bring a penny to the Ákoses, and I have deeply regreted that. I know that they did too.

A gentleman and a scholar

Károly was as crazy and as awkward a cuss in his own way as all the other cussed crazies whom I have met with during over over thirty years' contact with Conductive Education around the world. But he was a gentleman and a scholar, and he could have contributed so much. What a terrible loss to Conductive Education that his earlier involvement had not continued.

Some bibliographic footnotes
  1. The bibliography that Károly prepared for me was a select one. I have not seen a complete list, though I am sure that he would have had one. 
  2. The titles had already been translated into English for me when I received it.
  3. It would be interesting to know whether he had published more books than he mentioned here, and the detailed references of of all those other items that he mentions
  4. As for his psychochronicity, this was very much 'their thing' (his and Magda's) but I have to admit that I never had the time to get to the bottom of it.
  5. As far as I know, subsequent to writing the above bibliography, Károly did not publish anything further.
  6. Dina went on to be published in Russian and Chinese translations (from the English text). I do not know how these versions fared either, in terms of sales and circulation.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

A little green man asks –

What are conductors? What do they do?

What would you answer if the proverbial little green man from Mars were to emerge from a flying saucer and surprise you with these two questions.

In reply, you could offer him these two most contrasting job descriptions from the last 24 hours, and suggest that he should draw his own conclusions:

(He might also say, as they do: 'Take me to your leader'. What would you answer to that?)

The jobs conductors do

On way of defining Conductive Education is to approach it from the viewpoint of its consumers (who after all keep the whole thing going, because they continue to buy it). What does the consumer of this commodity want or expect? What has to be satisfactorily delivered if customer-demand is to be maintained?

And what can be satisfactorily trained for, to ensure that consumers get a decent bang for their bucks? Over 1995-1997 Chas McGuigan and I, with a lot of help from others, put together an initial conductor-training course. At that point it still seemed fairly easy to construe the sort of contexts that its future graduates would be working in. We might have got this right we might not – in the event it did not matter because the world was already beginning to change around us and our graduates, and the pace and diversity of this change continues to intensify.

Look at some other recently advertised jobs, some 'traditional' most not:

I would not know now how to answer the little green man's questions. If, before he lost patience and flew off, he were to ask me a supplementary question, 'How should people be trained nowadays to meet the requirements of a possible future conductive job market/', I should probably begin with the Irishman's reply:

'Well, I wouldn't start from here...'

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

That was a week, that was

One week on from the Green Paper

Earthquake, tsunami, fires and floods, nuclear meltdown, uncounted thousands dead, as many homeless and without sustenance, world economic dismay...

It has been a week since the Green Paper on 'special educational needs' was published. This for some reason is called Support and Aspiration (which sounds like a leaflet on a couple of first-aid procedures), and nobody has come forth, as far as I know, to account for a title that sounds no more that a bit of PR puff about a commodity that nobody can be bothered to understand.

It has been a week in which domestic news on social welfare and education could sink without a trace. Then next week we have the Budget. And of course, there will be Colonel Gaddafi, and the Royal Wedding and other claims on public attention as yet undreamed of. There was just time for the media to have a one-day wonder and now the national debate has vanished underground while the world gets on with more interesting things.

As for Conductive World, on that first day it received more visitors in a single day that ever before, and then they tailed right off. I suppose that I encouraged this by doing what I had promised, backing out to watch what might be happening, as far as anything would be visible from above the surface of the dark political pool.

Using my own 'took kit'

Like others I have tried a first to read-through of the Green Paper and struggled to find form in the void. At first reading, I see not light but rather darkness visible. It will take me some time to get beyond this, so I shall try out here the 'tool kit' that I offered to others, shortly before the green paper was published:

CE people will be looking out for mention of Conductive Education. Maybe it will be mentioned, maybe not. If it is mentioned, will what is said make you shout 'Hoorah', or sink into despair?

There is no mention of Conductive Education in the Green Paper. You might be disappointed with that, or you might wonder what mention could have been and breath a sigh of relief. Either way, at this stage of the long process of legislative and adminstrative change, in England Conductive Education, officially, just does not exist.

What is currently called 'physical disability' will surely get a mention. Again, what is said may make you shout 'Hoorah', or sink into despair.

The word 'physical' occurs 17 times in the Green Paper's 128 pages. There are a couple of 'physical prompts', an 'appropriate physical contact', and a 'physical requirements'. In all the rest, physical appears to be combined with other needs and impairments. There was nothing about 'motor' or 'movement', these also not appaprently existing at the present stage of the game.

'Inclusion' is a guaranteed topic – 'Hoorah', or despair, or somewhere in between?

Only nine mentions. It looks like its unquestioned place in the sun has certainly gone

Money, money, money – and best value (evidence-based practice?)

'Money' gets eleven mentions; 'funding' 125 (and six more for 'funds'). 'Cost' gets 46; 'price', six more. 'Value' has twenty, including three that were 'better' but only one that was 'best'.' Evidence' was mentioned 28 times, being often 'clear' or compelling', and twice including 'evidence-based practice'.

Allocation of what money there is – or to use the old financial term 'assessment'. (And what will happen to educational psychologists?)

Aah, le vice Anglais: 'assessment' gets 191 mentions. And there are 27 mentions of 'psychologists', now apparently emerging as a problem in their own right – what to do about them?.

Transition to adulthood (and those non-existant adult services)

In all, 62 mentions. This penny seems to have dropped. The next question then must be about life-long services (especially when there are no longer parents to shoulder the burden)

Training (for whom, in what, by whom?)

'Training' is mentioned 96 times, though many of these are in relation to children and young people. What about the workers? Time was when such a report would have had a whole chapter elaborating on this. The Green Paper is far from specific about what: 'key workers', 'to identify children's needs', 'to underpin integrated working' etc. And by whom...?


This is something else that might once have merite a chapter of its own., Here it gets 64 mentions, but much of this occurs in the titles of institutions, or refers to research already dne. Paragraph .62 therefore looks unusually promising – but under all the jargon, what does it actually say?

In our brave new Big Society, lots about the voluntary sector (charities)

The 'voluntary and community sector' gets 57 mentions; charities three. I am sure that this says something, but I cannot tell what.

And of course parents, with bold talk about 'choice' and 'partnership' – and lots of 'support'.

'Parents' win 359 mentions; 'families' a further 270. 'Choice' has 70 mentions; partnership, 31. And here's the money shot: 'support' is mentioned 658 times. ('Pedagogy'of course does not occur once).

More qualified responses

This was of course just a crudely quantified first look. What views has English CE as a whole advanced over this first week.

None yet as far as I can tell – though it is early days and there is plenty of time to formulate these. The Rainbow Centre hosted an already-organised meeting of conductors and others with a CE interest last weekend, on the subject of 'developments in practice', at which the Green Paper was presumably a hot topic:

Perhaps views emerging there, on the possibly biggest influence on English CE practice since inclusion, will be shared more widely. In the meantime, try pasting the following line into a Google search:

“conductive education” “green paper” “2011”

Fascinating... No doubt this picture will evolve over the months of consultation.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Watch out

There's an author about

Sarah Miller writes –

Dear Andrew Sutton,
My name is Sarah from Article Writing Services. We have a client who would like to pay you for the opportunity to post some of their content on your website. All of the content is professionally produced and you can select from pieces relevant to your audience.
The result is you get some free, interesting content for your readers while getting paid.
In return our client is asking for one link that they specify at the bottom of the content (no porn or gambling). Feel free to contact me with any concerns or clarifications you may have.
If you would like to see some examples of our content, please email me at so we can begin.
Sarah Miller
Outreach Manager - Article Writing Services

Myself, I think of bargepoles. Perhaps I am wrong to do so. Othere might wish to give it a try.

Say not pay

I am of course open to the occasional guest posting from people who have something to say. And there is nothing to pay!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011



The Green Paper has at last been been published. It can be found at:

Conductive Education? It isn't there. Nor, as far as I can see, is anything that might represent lessons learned from England's Conductive Education experience since the mid nineteen-eighties. My, how the mighty has  fallen.

Lots, however, to examine and think about in far more detail. Good luck with it folks.

Me, I am off now, to prepare my Conductive Education lecture for this week. Export only, I am afraid. It is about healing, pedagogy and upbringing, hardly discourses de jour in England!

I do hope that I won't feel myself called upon to blog on the SEN Green Paper for a bit. I should like to see how the dust settles, and what others make of it. I shall try to restrict any irresistable snippets along the way, to brief notifications on Facebook! See you there perhaps:

A first 'tool kit'

The Department for Education loves 'tool kits'. I do not but I do offer the following questions (from a week or so ago) as one way of opening up the Green Paper in other than its own terms:
  • CE people will be looking out for mention of Conductive Education. Maybe it will be mentioned, maybe not. If it is mentioned, will what is said make you shout 'Hoorah', or sink into depair?
  • What is currently called 'physical disability' will surely get a mention. Again, what is said may make you shout 'Hoorah', or sink into depair.
  • 'Inclusion' is a guarunteed topic – 'Hoorah', or despair, or somewhere in between?
  • Money, money, money – and best value (evidence-based practice?)
  • Allocation of what money there is – or to use the old financial term 'assessment'. (And what will happen to educational psychologists?)
  • Transition to adulthood (and those non-existant adult services)
  • Training (for whom, in what, by whom?)
  • Research
  • In our brave new Big Society, lots about the voluntary sector (charities)
  • And of course parents, with bold talk about 'choice' and 'partnership' – and lots of 'support'.
Something visible through the mirk

Indeed, it is already today's headline news in England – but still visible only through the eyes of the media's educational correspondents:

The actual document is yet to be released to hoi polloi.

Patience yourself, as the French say. Keep your eyes peeled.
Meanwhile, perhaps you might like to watch a short video:

I do hope that this helps clarify matters.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

SEN: D-DAY – that was the day that was

No Green Paper – but first intimation

Certainly the Times Educational Supplement thought that the Green Paper would be published today, as did other publications. So did the very best source that I have on such matters.

The Press Office at the Department for Education was prepared to say only that it will be this week – that is, it hasn't a clue and knows better than to second-guess its masters.

So, whenever.

Conspiracy or cock-up. Choose your own preferred explanation. As for me, Occam's razor demands the latter

What a way to run a railroad. (And please don't mention the SAS!)

Watch this space

The Green Paper's putative D-Day has less than a hour to run now, and has seen one of the highest numbers of visitor in one day that Conductive World has seen. Presumably there are people out there gagging for information (not necessarily all of them from CE)

Jeevan Vasagar, the Guardian's Education Editor, has just published what has the looks of an informed leak, confused by lack of approprate vocablary to deal with the topic and dealing mainly with children whose problems are primarily social in origin: Well worth at look:

Inter alia this article states that D-Day will be tomorrow, in which case there will soon be a flurry of similar such articles. One will also be able to read the actual Green Paper.

One of Mr Vasagar's revelations I find deeply depressing –

...government proposals that will also replace SEN statements with a new "health and care plan”

Now there's one policy meme that people outside England should work hard to ensure that we never export to you.


First news

Very early this morning, at five minutes past midnight, the Guardian newspaper published the following item:

Er, that's it.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Yes, Prime Minister

Sir Humphrey is about

David Cameron, speaking in May 2009, on the stump in Northern Ireland –

I think that what the Pető Institute has done in Hungary and the advance of Conductive Education for children with cerebral palsy – actually my son Ivan didn't have that sort of education but I know many people who have and just say that it transformed their lives and that suddenly, from thinking 'My child wasn't going to do A, B and C', it turned into 'Well, actually, now he can do all these other things', so I know how transformative it can be...

I think that what we need is very simple legislation that basically gives people the right to chose. In the end, trust the parents, because I think that, with Ivan, in the end my wife and I probably knew more about him and his needs than any other human being and you want the best for your children, you want to find out about what is available, but you've got to make sure that the information is there for parents to chose. That, I think, is the key, and then I think you'll find that you'll have a system where money follows the child and follows the parents' decision and then you shouldn't have such a problem in funding your school.

Mr Cameron has become Prime Minister and has had other, bigger things vieing for his attention. Tomorrow's Green Paper will have been composed by lower-level ministers and by civil servants. For the great part they will not be informed by personal experience, but they will have been subject to all sorts of advice and pressures from individuals and institutions at the level at which they operate, pressure groups, academic and professional organisations, the media – all of which has to be smoothed over, parcelled up and gift-wrapped under the watchful eye of Her Majesty's Treasury.

Something else to look out for, come the dawn.

Special needs: D-1

On the eve

Tomorrow will come the full text of the Green Paper, and an official gloss on this from the responsible Minister, Sarah Teather

There will be first responses from individuals and organisations – and it will be interesting to see what comes from Conductive Education

In the meantime... the silence of the grave

Not even a peep from Mary Warnock – though I am sure that many will have sought her views. I look forward to seing her take on all this when she does give voice. Strange, there is no one in the SEN establishment who comes to mind as likely to have anything exciting to say – although of course it will be really great to be proven wrong on this.

Recent postings leading up to D-Day

Sunday, 6 March 2011

SEN: D-2

All quiet on the public front.

Yesterday's posting in the run-up to the publication of the Green Paper on the future of 'special educational needs' in England was delayed by problems over connection to the Internet.

No matter, I am sure! 'SEN: D-3' is now published and – as far as today is concerned – I have little to report – except that the apparent  lack of interest in this matter in the national Sunday papers provides a useful reminder of just how unimportant and uninteresting SEN is seen to be.

Well, not entirelty. One of the richest local authorities in the country, Richmond-upon-Thames, has announced that it is improve access at one of its special schools – and Teachers' TV says that the Green Paper is 'eagerly awaited'. We shall see. Oh yes, and Bexley council proposes cutting its budget for special-needs transport. Life goes on.

By the way, the report on Richmond says as follows –

...the improvement works are part of Richmond Council's bid to enhance the provision of additional educational needs (AEN) and special educational needs (SEN) facilities in the borough.

Is there a distinction here to look out for in the the future?

SEN: D-3

Nudge nudge. Wink Wink
Know what I mean, Squire?

There are three days to go before publication of the Green Paper – but so far no great surge in public debate. The 'charities', the official and quasi-official bodies, the professional and academic interest groups, the rent-a-mouths, are holding their fire. They will have plenty to say later, especially perhaps as it becomes clearer which way the winds are blowing. Meanwhile, the real actors on this stage – who are not acting but actually living real lives – will continue their concrete concerns and their struggle, while the Great and the Good get on with redrawing the maps.

This morning two items appeared in local papers, exemplifying two very real problems that affect everyone concerned with 'special educational needs' in whatever context:

The first of the problems that these two reports exemplify goes without saying, the second is as pervasive – and as vital.

Problem number 1 – money

Simple really:
  • there isn't enough to pay for everything that people want
  • everyone wants more
  • there is already less to go around that there was, and there is going to be less still – maybe for any foreseeable future, a lot less
  • 'special educational needs' will have to fight, lobby, politicise, for every penny that it hopes to get
There are lots of other people out there who would also like to get their hands on more of what little is going – and who may be advancing powerful arguements to say why their claims are the more pressing.

If ever there was time for clear thinking, sharp analysis and a crisp articulate statement of what these 'special needs' are, then that time is now.

Problem number 2 – what exactly are they talking about?

In the first of the above two newspaper stories, a local councillor from Sussex is talking about children whose development and education have been impaired by problems that are fundamentally social in origin, operating individually through mechanisms of health, family functioning, cultural deprivation, pedagogic neglect, social injustice etc., matters that used to be conveniently expressed under the rubric of class. They are the children of the poor, whose developmental problems are potentially surmountable, if only the appropriate measures – primarily social – were to be taken. At least these are the children whom I understand him to mean. How more concrete can I be from what I read here?

In the second, the head teacher of a special school and her deputy in Essex are describing children whose personal development has been affected by problems that are fundamentally physiological in origin, resulting for the children who attend their school in severe, in some cases very severe disorders of development that extend into every aspect of their lives, psychological and social ­ and even physiological. Such problems fall alike upon the most advantaged and influential families as well as upon the least, irrespective of social class (perhaps that in part is why the council was persuaded to rebuild their school). Such children's underlying problems will be always with them, and the task for education and upbringing here is to ensure that these are well compensated for through the processes of upbringing and education, rather than running wild and ruining lives. At least, these are the children whom I understand them to mean. How more concrete can I be from what I read here?

Do not blame the reporters for confusion that arise, or the councillor and the head and her deputy. These are indeed 'special needs' in both cases as these words are currently construed. But if you do not know the code you will not see that two quite distinct problems are being referred to here.

By coincidence, also today, Norman Perrin published on his blog a posting about a recent report on vocational (trade) education. Of direct relevance here, he quotes its author, Professor Alison Wolf –

… this country has many young people who are classified as having ‘special educational needs’, without being severely disabled, and/or are highly disengaged, persistently truant, and, at the extreme, excluded from school.

I guess that she may be referring to the same population as does the councillor in Sussex. Like him, however, for want of a proper, shared vocabulary she speaks in code, so I am left again to presume. I am sure that in other aspects of her work Professor Wolf would expect to be far more precise.

(By the way: 'disengaged'? Whatever happened to 'alienated'? Too specifically defined?)

Norman goes on to write –

May I be allowed to end on a small quibble? It's with the perspective in the phrase "most low-achieving". Of course we know what Professor Wolf means.

In wish that I could share his confidence. Without wider context to help me guess, I struggle to know what precicely she does mean, and I have no certanty that the next person to read her words will be any the clearer, or conclude. Why should I have to guess, and why should she find herself so constrained in what she can express?

Can there be any other field of human endeavour, in engineering, medicine, commerce, science and academe, art, human relations, sport, anything, where people have so abandoned distinctions and definitions as essential intellectual tools? This – from an educational establishment that, from the towering aedifice of all that it has achieved, has the absurd arrogance to badger the world with cries of 'science', 'evidence' and 'quality standards'.

Three days to go. We live in hope...

Hope for a clear, sharp, crisp document that is – as they do so like to say – 'fit for purpose'.


Hewett, S. (2011) Councillor Chris Oxlade launches petition against school cuts, This is Sussex, 5 March

Perrin, N. (2011) Wolf review of vocational education, Paces, 5 March

Thomas, E. (2011) Why we need our new £25million school, Essex Echo, 5 March