Sunday, 25 December 2011


At Christmas...

There are still many, many around the world who think that Co0nductive Education is 'closed' over the great Christmas shut-down. For many who work within the sector this is undoubtedly true, and some have have been already 'off' for a week or so, with at least a week more to go before they are 'back'. And for many of those their clients, this may be similarly the case too.

But at the heart of Conductive Education, and the conductive movement, stand the truly conductive families and conductive individuals, for whom Christmas Day, any public holidays, or indeed any eventuality or any activity whatsoever, is as conductive as all others. Now lives lived like that would offer an excellent index of the real spread and impact of Conductive Education.

As for all the rest, I can only wish with Wizzard:

Autres pays, autres choses

Let us not be culturally insensitive. CE in the 'West;' might be institutionally paralysed by Christmas, The 'East' is not. A two-day CE mega-conference begins in Guangzhou the day after tomorrow, organised by the China Disabled Persons' Federation, followed by a four-day programme of visits.

The conference is called 'Yangtze Children with cerebral palsy, rehabilitation and disability-prevention. Summary results of the Conductive Education technique'.

There will be at least thirty organisations represented there from the Mainland, plus three from Hong Kong, with over 350 participants in all. That's quite a bash.

Western participation

Conductor Éva Szabó from the Pető Institute will be presenting, as will Rony Schenker from Tsad Kadima. I do not know yet Éva's topic but Rony will be speaking for an hour to the title 'A step forward to inclusion – an applicable model for the inclusion of children with cerebral palsy into the general education system, community and society'.

Conductor Susie Mallett has had a book published in Mandarin and Sahk is presenting all delegates with a free copy in their conference packs:

And SAHK is displaying copies of my own just-publishwd Last Year in Hong Kong, so I am there in spirit, sort of:

I do not know what other windows to the West will be open there.

I do hope that some report(s) of what happen there might soon be available to out outsiders. Meanwhile, a quick glimpse into China, from last year:

A little more information for the moment

Organizer            China Disabled Persons' Federation
Title of the event  长江脑瘫儿童康复与残疾预防项目
                          成果总结研讨会暨引 导式教育技术交流活动
Sponsor             Cheung Kong New Milestone Plan
                          Project on Rehabilitation for Children with Cerebral Palsy

Thursday, 22 December 2011


A parallel story


The Hope Centre for Cognitive Education was founded in 1993 by British parents of children with special needs who received help from Professor Reuven Feuerstein at his Institute in Jerusalem. Their primary aim was to create a centre of excellence in the UK, using his unique methods to enable children with learning difficulties to reach their full potential.
In the early 1990’s, BBC television screened “the Transformers”, a documentary about an educational psychologist called Professor Reuven Feuerstein, whose revolutionary teaching methodology transforms the lives of children with learning disabilities. The professor over the last 50 years, has pioneered his unique, innovative approach to cognitive education.
As a result of the BBC programme, many British parents took their children to his Institute for the Enhancement of Learning Potential (ICELP). They weren’t quite sure what to expect, and at first were slightly dubious of what they saw as the Professor’s unrealistic claims of what their children might achieve.
They changed their minds as they watched their children make dramatic progress – often in a space of weeks – where there had previously been at best slow or patchy change. In addition, as parents they were taught, often for the first time, how to become active participants in their child’s learning.
After managing to raise minimal start-up funds, these parents set about building the organisation that exists today. Established as a charity in 1993, Hope’s aim was to set up a centre in the UK, a centre of excellence, which would use Professor Feuerstein’s methodology to benefit children with special needs.
We moved to our current permanent premises in 2001. We are working to full capacity and have a waiting list, both for places at the centre and for assessments. In order to enable us to see more children, and to build on the exciting work that has begun over the last few years, we will continue to seek further funding from statutory authorities and we will continue our own programme of fund-raising, through a variety of initiatives, including sponsorship and major events.
Such a shame that it did not become more of a conjoint story. It could have:

Wednesday, 21 December 2011


What’s the weather been like this last month?

A month ago Conductive World mistakenly posted an announcement of the first day of winter:
The error was in the formal date for the start of the new season, and due apology was made:
The point had not been so much to mark the turn of the season, however, but to record the growing chill in the economic climate. As for my formal error, I wrote:
I do not think that this makes any substantive difference to the argument of what I blogged this morning. I wonder whether things will read differently on the real first day on winter, in a month's time. 
Well, the month’s up. Meteorologically, in our part of Europe anyway, the weather has brought a surprisingly protracted warm spell, then a short, sharp cold snap, and now it is mild again. On the economic front, though, the climate has just got steadily gloomier and gloomier, chiller and chiller.

The high point, for us Brits anyway, was not joining something along with the rest of Europe – something of which I suspect I have no greater understanding than have most 0f my fellow citizens, including likely our ‘leaders’. Whether this turn of events will prove for good or ill we migfht all might be able better to judge after the event, perhaps. What event? I have no idea – nor does anyone else. 

So, not much change there, then. 

Today, I hear that the European Central Bank is making nearly half a billion Euros available for Eurobanks to borrow – and they have rushed to avail themselves of the facility. They desperately need the money, I am told, so that they can afford to borrow from each other. Without this, they would go bust.

I do not understand any of this this either, or its likely outcome. As with everything else, I doubt that the people actually in charge of it all really do either.  The phrase ‘end in tears’ comes to mind…

Forgive me for doubting that any of this will be to my ultimate benefit.

Or yours.

It looks like being a very long, hard economic winter… 

Tuesday, 20 December 2011


As out of date now as all those old ones...
Kádár, Ceaucescu and Hungarian oranges

In the mid eighties, Mária Hári liked telling this one. In her fractured English it sounded something like this –
In Germany, everything that is not permish is forbidden.
In England everything that is not forbidden is permish.
In Hungary, everything is forbidden, but it is permish.
(In retrospect, I wonder whether in her head she was actually saying permisch.)

I was reminded of this yesterday when browsing through the seasonally overflowing ‘humour’ section in a local Waterstone’s bookshop, where I lit by chance upon the following, from the Anglo-Irish jurist Robert Megarry –
Whereas in England all is permitted that is not expressly prohibited, it has been said that in Germany all is prohibited unless expressly permitted and in France all is permitted that is expressly prohibited….
Not specifically one of those Communist-era jokes after all then, as Google quickly confirms!

Then and now

There was a time when such broad generalisations might truly have reflected certain social truths in British and European societies with respect to the individual rights of citizens, at least with respect to the lives of their middle classes.

It was this understanding of our rights that emboldened and permisched us to go ahead and initiate conductive services in the nineteen-eighties, and establish conductor-training at degree level in the nineteen-nineties. Continental contemporaries could not understand how we g coouild do it, in either case, since there were no regulations to allow what we were trying to do. The answer of cours was simple. There was nothing to say that we could not.

The erosion of simple liberal freedoms was already then under way, however, on all sorts of fronts, amounting by the early twentieth century to a veritable landslide of centralism and bureaucratic regulation, burying all sorts in its path. It is always easy to blame such on ‘Europe’ or ‘Brussels’, and doubtless there is some truth in this. Things would not, however, have come their present pass, had the whole stifling process not fitted in with a chronic, pervasive streak of authoritarianism and illiberalism amongst the British ‘progressive’ classes, flourishing under Blairism but book-ended by regimes before and after.

I still try to live my life, however, as though my world were still much as I grew up to expect. It gets harder and harder to do so, though, and I do wonder whether we could get away today with what we did in the eighties. Put it differently, whether the windows of opportunity open to us then, are not now screwed firmly shut.

Ah, Europe!

By the way, Robert Megarry had added (for some reason missed out of Steven Gauge's excellent little compilation) –

In the European Common Market no-one knows what is permitted and it all costs more.
Is that still so now? I have no idea.


Gauge, S. (2011) Political Wit, Chichester, Summersdale

Megarry, R. (1972) Law and lawyers in a permissive society (lecture), 22 March

Thursday, 15 December 2011


And news of WC8

CEP’s latest book, ‘Last year in Hong Kong’, can again be viewed and ordered on line:

Note the new URL

Act quickly to get yours before Christmas!

Previous item

WC8 Ahoy!

The Eighth World Congress already hoves over the horizon:

More on this anon.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Found on the back of a rather old envelope

Some thoughts on ‘dyslexia’, from 1997

I found the following fragment, hand-written on the back of a tattered A4 envelope. I had been intended as the start of a book review that was not in fact taken further. The date of the postmark on the envelope is too faint to read but inside was my subscription issue of 16mm Today for February 1997. I think that the book in question might have been Martin Turner’s Psychological Assessment of Dyslexia that was published in February of that year.

I had drafted an opening sentence –
A rare bird indeed, a British monograph on psycho-diagnostic, an apparently authoritative tome on one of the most contentious issues in assessment for special education.
Then I had jotted down
‘Science’ – the first recourse of the reductionist psychologist  
Whiff of political paranoia
 I suspect that I gave up reading further because, in Popeye’s words, I could ‘stands no more’ and it would have taken more than a can of spinach to keep me on task.

My notes drifted off task, into ‘dyslexia’ as a whole –
A child ‘cannot learn’ – or to be more honestly descriptive – a child doesn’t learn. What is the problem? First and foremost it is to discover what has to be done to ensure that learning does takes place. To achieve this the prime means of investigation has to be through pedagogy. It cannot be achieved through ‘psychology’ – at least not through school/educational psychology as she is still so often spoke, through psychometric measurement of what the child already knows and can do, and does not. Pedagogy, however – real pedagogy, that is – will set to and test out in practice what can be done to restart and ensure a cycle of success and learning. And this within wholehearted commitment to the fact that pedagogy involves motivation, affect, values, human social interaction, goals and intentions. It cannot be explained by simple ‘cognitive’ factors within learners.
Nobody can deny that there are very real problems in acquiring reading, writing and number, experienced by children who cannot be brushed aside as simply dull – but what are these? Does this book, by answering ‘dyslexic’, contribute to a solution of the problem or, by biologising a whole host of possible systemic explanations, interventions and outcomes, serve ultimately to obscure it – to constitute therefore a problem in its own right?
I suspect, by the way that the notes were written on a train. Here is the final fragment that I found –
Reading this book is like a visit to a preserved railway. It offers a nostalgic walk down memory lane to those who remember when fleets of shabby blue cardboard briefcases from the NFER, workaday Binets and WISCs, ferried generations of failing or awkward children to the nation’s ESN schools. Except like on the preserved rail line this ancient technology has now been bulled up with shining new standardisations and acronyms. Its old bread-and-butter function of shunting off the failing children of the poor is giving way to a new, more glamorous role within our pedagogically leisured education service, in the service of transporting less successful children of the more well-to-do to quite different realms of provision.
At the close of 2011 this tattered envelope has resurfaced, and ‘dyslexia’ – along with all sorts of other brain-based, anti-pedagogic nonsense – is now deeply embedded within our educational system and within wider society. Together they can be evoked to explain almost everything! If books such as whatever prompted these words some fourteen years ago have contributed to this sad reactionary Zeitgeist, then their authors bear a terrible responsibility. I trust – no, I hope – that future, more enlightened generations will hold them to account.


Brief hold-up in book publication

An unforeseen circumstance has slightly delayed publication of CEP's latest book Last Year in Hong Kong.

Apologies to all those around the world who have clicked across to view and order this book, and been disappointed. It will be available again very shortly and we shall send out notifications as soon as it is.

We do not anticipate the same situation to arise again.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011


Four presentations, Hong Kong, December 2010

Available at last. £8.00 (or your local equivalent), plus post and package from US: my four presentations to the 7th World Congress on Conductive Education.

Click on the link below to flip through the first few the pages of this book:

Order your copies on line from the same site.

This is a slender volume (52 pages). CEP's next production, a collection of writings by and on András Pető, will be considerably larger.

Sutton, not Elegant

I have only just learned that there is another book of the same title. I hope that there will not be too much confusion:

Monday, 12 December 2011

A holistic view of Mano's needs

Dominique Fagnart's testimony

From Belgium, Dominique Fagnart writes –

Conductive Education (or conductive pedagogy) is a method of special education for cerebral palsy, created in the 1940s by the Hungarian paediatrician András Pető.

It is a comprehensive approach, from a positive wager on the abilities of those with cerebral palsy, in which through a series of games and exercise, disabled people are led to develop their achievements in the company of a conductor, the defining characteristic of whom is to be a versatile educator, trained for four years in psychology, physiotherapy, speech therapy, public education, to think up global exercises as opposed to usual care that is more fragmented.

Developed in Budapest in what is now the world's largest centre for children with cerebral palsy, it has spread around the world with the opening up of Eastern Europe. Since then it has been widely established in Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. It is now practised in 170 facilities around the world. In the French-speaking world pilot centres exist in Belgium and Paris.

I have long been convinced that Conductive Education provides children with disabilities the keys to self and to self-esteem. Originally founded and described for children with motor disabilities, the philosophy of this approach can to my mind be extended and used in many other situations of disability.

When Mano joined Centre la Famille two and a half years ago, I knew that he would find a nurturing environment, taking into account all his capabilities as well as his difficulties, and be respectful of those around him and their and expectations.

Whatever their disability, children must be educated to interact with their peers, communicate with them, find their place in society, learn to see, confront and solve everyday problems – and they are legion – in the best way.

That is the price of finding their find their place in society and being as independent as possible.

When Mano says to me ‘I want to do it on my own’, be this wanting to climb into his car seat, or into his new bed – then let him proceed by trial and error, telling me what he does and seeking the help of the environment, and I tell myself that he has integrated the principles of Conductive Education to arrive at making a further step towards independence by seeking to adapt to new situations.

How does he get there? He mobilises all its resources; he uses his motor capacities by seeking the necessary points of support , by availing himself of his environment (stool, walker), by verbalising what he does. Speaking ‘out loud’ to help anticipate and plan his actions. Language helps connect him (what he thinks, what he will have to do) and his body. He likes to try to solve problems and I know that this always encouraged at school and in the family. The programme offered him at school is structured and makes connections between learning movement, language and cognition. He learns in situ, which gives his learning meaning.

Conductive Education mobilises many brain networks: not only the motor circuits but equally circuits of attention, emotion, communication, memory, learning, vision – it aims to make connections between them. It is a holistic approach.

Mano is an adorable little fellow, determined, joyful, generous and tender. He amazes us every day, and not just when he improvises at the piano and plays four-handed with his grandfather.

But his current difficulties do not just affect motor aspects. Other functions, are also very often affected as a result of brain damage: fine-motor skills and organization of movement (dyspraxia), difficulty to analyse and understand what he sees (central visual disturbances), difficulties in speak ‘on demand’ (for example, to answer a question: he expresses himself best spontaneously), concentration and memory.

The children's learning should always start from the concrete (if not, he does not see the sense in it), to be repeated, transposed and integrated into every moment of daily life. Conductive Education offers him this framework and allows it to grow. Learning is slower but once it is acquired, it is well established.

Any other type of education, taking account only only one of his difficulties on its own (as unfortunately our special education does, all too frequently), or even more commonly does not try to make connections between the motor aspects, learning and communication, is doomed to fail.

It is a holistic view that he needs. It is thanks to this that he has been able to progress so well and will continue to do so.

Dominique Fagnart, neuropaediatrician and Mano's grandmother

With apologies for lack of time and therefore quick-and-dirty translation. I shall try to comment on Dr Fagnart 's posting tomorrow.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011


Children, charity, homelessness

One of the things that András Pető did, allegedly, to eke himself a living when he was in straits in Austria, was to write essays and other course work.

I have received a press release. It comes from All Answers, an essay-writing service based in Nottingham, England. Also on Nottingham is a ‘school for parents’ cast out by the national charity Scope and soon to become homeless unless it finds £50,000.

The essayists are appealing to help towards this immediate ash injection.

The essay-writing trade goes back a long way, long long before András Pető found himself short in pre-war Vienna. Given immanent general austerity, I wonder what it pays. I see that the company offers bespoke dissertations too. A possible way to escape fuel poverty this winter!

If only there were a market! Whowasnts essays on CE?

Buying in
Has anyone out there (in any country) ever used such a service within the Conductive Education sector? I should love to see the sort of stuff that people get for their money?

No suggestion of plagiarism of course.

But seriously folks, if there were ever a need for reasonable and non-misleading copy, Conductive Education demonstrates it wall to wall. I wish that I had sixpence for every error that I read on the websites of CE centres and centers!

Never mind the students, maybe these institutions ought to be buying themselves some help!

(Not from me, please)


All Answers (2011) Festive fundraising for local children’s charity ticks all the boxes (press release, no specific date), Nottingham, UK Essays

Monday, 5 December 2011

An anniversary

A heavy night tonight

Not celebratory and wholly coincidental! A year ago I was in Hong Kong, at the 7th Conductive Education World Congress. And this morning I received the proofs of the little book that I have written as a result.

So tonight, I shall try to index this in one single sitting (the only way to index!). Even though the text runs to under fifty pages, that is still a heavy night! It will be for me anyway.

After this, it is just a matter of inserting the Index pages, having one last anguished look-through for all my errors that I am sure will have slipped through, and then it is ready to be launched.

The next big CE conference, by the way, will be in Shanghai, starting on 26 December.

In the meantime, here are the contents of this newest publication from Conductive Education Press:

1. Researching CE: past and future
2. Possibilities and implications of feldsherism in Conductive Education
3. Historical, social and political issues
4. Conductive Education in the twenty-first century
Watch out for availability.


Sutton, A. (2011) Last year in Hong Kong: Four presentations to the 7th World Congress on Conductive Education, Hong Kong, December 2010 (with a Forward by Ivan Y. W. Su), Birmingham, Conductive Education Press

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Seven lean kine*

If we are lucky

Yesterday Britain learned that – touch wood and if everything goes well – the country will be economically back on even keel within seven years (not five as in the Government’s previous optimistic prediction). Seven years are a long time for the world economy not to be effected by further ‘events’. This will be a hard, white-knuckle time.

I could not help be reminded of an old, familiar story –
1 And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river.
2 And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well favoured kine and fatfleshed; and they fed in a meadow.
3 And, behold, seven other kine came up after them out of the river, ill favoured and leanfleshed; and stood by the [other] kine upon the brink of the river.
4 And the ill favoured and leanfleshed kine did eat up the seven well favoured and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke.
5 And he slept and dreamed the second time: and, behold, seven ears of corn came up upon one stalk, rank and good.
6 And, behold, seven thin ears and blasted with the east wind sprung up after them.
7 And the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, [it was] a dream.
8 And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them his dream; but [there was] none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh.
9 Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day:
10 Pharaoh was wroth with his servants, and put me in ward in the captain of the guard's house, [both] me and the chief baker:
11 And we dreamed a dream in one night, I and he; we dreamed each man according to the interpretation of his dream.
12 And [there was] there with us a young man, an Hebrew, servant to the captain of the guard; and we told him, and he interpreted to us our dreams; to each man according to his dream he did interpret.
13 And it came to pass, as he interpreted to us, so it was; me he restored unto mine office, and him he hanged.
14 Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon: and he shaved [himself], and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh.
15 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and [there is] none that can interpret it: and I have heard say of thee, [that] thou canst understand a dream to interpret it.
16 And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, [It is] not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.
17 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, In my dream, behold, I stood upon the bank of the river:
18 And, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine, fatfleshed and well favoured; and they fed in a meadow:
19 And, behold, seven other kine came up after them, poor and very ill favoured and leanfleshed, such as I never saw in all the land of Egypt for badness:
20 And the lean and the ill favoured kine did eat up the first seven fat kine:
21 And when they had eaten them up, it could not be known that they had eaten them; but they [were] still ill favoured, as at the beginning. So I awoke.
22 And I saw in my dream, and, behold, seven ears came up in one stalk, full and good:
23 And, behold, seven ears, withered, thin, [and] blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them:
24 And the thin ears devoured the seven good ears: and I told [this] unto the magicians; but [there was] none that could declare [it] to me.
25 And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh [is] one: God hath shewed Pharaoh what he [is] about to do.
26 The seven good kine [are] seven years; and the seven good ears [are] seven years: the dream [is] one.
27 And the seven thin and ill favoured kine that came up after them [are] seven years; and the seven empty ears blasted with the east wind shall be seven years of famine.
28 This [is] the thing which I have spoken unto Pharaoh: What God [is] about to do he sheweth unto Pharaoh.
29 Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt:
30 And there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land;
31 And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following; for it [shall be] very grievous.
32 And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice; [it is] because the thing [is] established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.
33 Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt.
34 Let Pharaoh do [this], and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years.
35 And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities.
36 And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine.
37 And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants.
38 And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find [such a one] as this [is], a man in whom the Spirit of God [is]?
39 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, [there is] none so discreet and wise as thou [art]:
40 Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.
41 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.
42 And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck;
43 And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him [ruler] over all the land of Egypt.
44 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I [am] Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.
45 And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnathpaaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over [all] the land of Egypt.
46 And Joseph [was] thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt.
47 And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls.
48 And he gathered up all the food of the seven years, which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities: the food of the field, which [was] round about every city, laid he up in the same.
49 And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, very much, until he left numbering; for [it was] without number.
50 And unto Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, which Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On bare unto him.
51 And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For God, [said he], hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father's house.
52 And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.
53 And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended.
54 And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.
55 And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do.
56 And the famine was over all the face of the earth: And Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt.
57 And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy [corn]; because that the famine was [so] sore in all lands.
Genesis, Chapter 41
I have been surprised to see that no one else seems to have been reminded of it. No one who writes for the British media anyway – perhaps editors consider it an allusion outside readers’ repertoire. When I was a lad it was one of those tales that it was impossible to avoid. I never figured out what I was supposed to make of it all but I doubt that the existence of economic cycles was to the forefront of tellers’ minds. Perhaps it was the virtue of fiscal prudence. That is the only sense that I could make of it anyway.

Perhaps come Sunday this will get further mention to those who put themselves in the way of such things, though possibly retold in less sublime language.

* kine: cows, cattle

Tuesday, 29 November 2011



I have only just read this book by Alexander Masters. Not ‘enjoyable’ as such but very nicely written and very readable for those who can bear it.

It offers a vivid peep at the hideous underbelly of our human services, including along the way a glimpse at ‘special educational needs’ (Stuart has a mild form of muscular dystrophy, FSH).

With a life misspent puzzling over systemic developmental sequelae I found this book exceedingly frustrating, but then it was not written for me!

I still wholeheartedly recommend it, of you have the stomach, and perhaps especially if you do not.

Masters, A. (2005) Stuart: a life backwards, London, Fourth Estate

There has been a film too, I gather:

Friday, 25 November 2011

Mária Hári

A pedagogue of principle

In May 1983, as a contribution to the International Year of the Disabled , the government of the Republic of San Marino organised a congress. Mária Hári attended, accompanied by conductor Éva Puski. The report of the conference was published in a small booklet with parallel Italian and French texts. Here’s a snippet, from page 54 (there’s a lot more)  
‘Conduire’ ne signifie pas travailler à la place de l’enfant, il ne faut pas faire faire.
L’enfant n’est pas un malade passive, mais c’est une personne qui peut s’épanouir, peut apprendre par une méthode active.
Le conducteur est là pour aider l’enfant a terminer ce qu’il a commence et pour qu’il commence il faut render active, lui donner l’interêt, lui montrer la vie, lui demontrer qu’il a du succès, qu’il peut faire.

‘Condurre' non vuol dire dare al posto del bambino; bisogna fa fare.
Il bambino non e un malato, che è passive, ma è una persona che può svilupparsi, può imparare con un metode attivo.
Il conduttore e lì solamente per aiutare a finire ciò che il bambino ha cominciato e per cominciare bisogna farlo attivo, bisogna motivarlo, fargli vedere la vita, dimostrargli che ha successo, che può fare.
In English, something like this –
'To conduct' does not to do the work instead of the child, one should not make it happen.
The child is not a passive patient, but someone who can thrive, can learn through an active method.
The conductor is there to help children finish what they have started, and in order to begin children have to be made active, given interest, shown  life, demonstrated that they do have success, that that they can do. 
A pedagogic principle
To help, not to interfere. To teach the will to succeed for oneself -- rather than teaching dependency and helplessness. Not primarily a matter of ‘skills’. Certainly not to ‘support’! And above all, nothing to do with wooden furniture and those other all-too-familiar ‘principles of Conductive Education’. A stern way-of-life principle, straight from András Pető personally.


Canevaro, A., Cavallieri, G. (1983) Gli handicaps e l’integrazione quotidiana: le competenze di tutti e le tecniche di alcuni, Bologna, Edizione Dehoniane

* Nothing to do with AP’s rules for living or MH’s pedagogic principles, but I could not resist putting into English this little bit from Andrea Canevaro’s Preface to this book (page 5) –
The International Year of the Disabled has coincided with the global economic recession and has started a double reevaluation:
  • reevaluation of intentions and policies in favour of the handicapped and the services that enable them access, social and cultural ; and 
  • reevaluation of the practices and the very concept of integration that have been, perhaps unconsciously, linked to  a movement of economic growth (augmentation of production, of accumulated profits and wealth) that is not certain for the future.
Integration is to live reality, seek connections and overcome obstacles, visible and invisible.
Perhaps there exists a concept of integration that is incorrect, as a proposition and result of the society of well-being, almost as a result of ‘luxury’, that could not co-exist with urban poverty, recession and eventual zero growth…
That was in 1983….

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


Oh no it's not

I received an email this morning, from which I (mis)understood that today is the first day of winter. Seized by a thought, I made a blog posting on this:

Of course, as any fule kno, in 2011 winter begins on 22 December.

So, another month of Autumn to enjoy!

I do not think that this makes any substantive difference to the argument of what I blogged this morning.

I wonder whether things will read differently on the real first day on winter, in a month's time.


Not just the weather

I am told that today is formally the first day of winter (in the Northern Hemisphere). Here is Middle England the world outside the window looks just as it did yesterday, chill and drear, with nature continuing its annual, anticipated decline, bur formal communication and acknowledgement are now possible that quantitative change has brought about qualitative – as it does.

I refer of course to the weather. After all, I am English.

Can spring be far behind?

Of course not. In formal terms, spring will be upon us in precisely three months to the day, though as ever its arrival will seen so slow and gradual.

And metaphorically?

Have the myriad changes in our human world over the last few years cumulated enough yet to constitute a ‘winter’?

If I look out of my metaphorical window things continue to look dull and drear, like they did yesterday and the day before yesterday, and probably will tomorrow. Is it yet possible to say with agreement that these changes are coalescing to create a new state of being, a new era? Oh, for the wisdom of hindsight,of history, to be free to refer to some arbitrary, defining division and say: ‘We live now in the age of…’, and deal with its implications accordingly.

Can metaphorical spring be far behind?

It cannot work that way, for human affairs are a not simply of nature but of economic, social, cultural, historical forces and – so as not to sound too deterministic about things – individual, psychological forces too. There is no annual rhythm, indeed no inevitable cyclical rhythm of any other kind, not even boom and bust (or from where we presently stand, bust and boom). If winter is upon us, there is no necessary spring to follow – in three months’ time or indeed ever.

Though for individuals, groups, movements, whole societies, there will always be tide in the affairs of man…

As ever, where is Conductive Education in this?

If this indeed be winter, there is no inevitable cycle to take us back to how things were before, no spring marked by reproduction and rebirth of how things used to be in some receding, fondly remembered summer.

But there will be opportunities to be seized, and there will be those, right or wrong, who will seize the day and create something new *.

Whether what arises from this turns out to be better or different, or worse, from what we have now is another matter.

We live in such interesting times…

*  Shakespeare put it rather better
    Julius Caesar
    Act 4, sc. 3, ll. 215 ff

Thursday, 17 November 2011



After an earlier career in Uganda, lecturing in social work, Leslie moved to Birmingham to continue his work away from Idi Amin – where in time he fell victim to early onsetting Parkinson’s disease.

In the early 1980s the ‘Birmingham Group’ (Philippa Cottam, Ronni Nanton, Andrew Sutton and Jayne Tichener) was making the first thorough-going investigation into Conductive Education from outside Hungary. Ronni’s presence ensured that Parkinson’s disease and services for adults were integral considerations from the outset.

A pivotal time

The commitment of Mary Baker, then the Director of the Parkinson’s Disease Society nationally, was central to the Group’s intention to commence adult work – and Les, a young local academic with Parkinson’s, articulate and mentally and physically determined, was a vital link in the case being constructed. Ronni led a fact-finding expedition to Budapest (yes, believe it, a visit to Budapest in the mid-eighties really was ‘an expedition’) and Leslie's participation in this ensured that the user’s voice would be part of the Society’s deliberations on this important matter… and believe this too, that was pretty radical stuff in the disability charities of those days.

Not just a voice, though:as soon as he arrived at what was then still the State Institute, Les had thrown himself into the work of a group, language notwithstanding. This would be CE reported upon ‘from the inside’ – yet still, when he returned to the UK, his written report would phrased as a cool, academic appraisal, written by the Leslie who he always was.

Leslie's activities contributed to the support of the Parkinson’s Disease Society, both moral and financial, when the Foundation for Conductive Education was created in 1986, thus ensuring that CE in the UK should never be viewed solely in terms of childhood or cerebral palsy. Leslie was a founder-member of the first Parkinson’s group when it commenced in Birmingham in 1990 and maintained his participation for the remainder of his life, for some of which time he served as the Society’s representative on the Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

In later years Leslie suffered ill health and became very frail, though still outliving most of his Parkinsonian contemporaries. Family referred to his as a ’phoenix’ for the way in which he would come back from the seeming edge, again and again. Hard to see perhaps in his later years that he had played badminton for the English Universities – but the spirit was still there.

An apocryphal tale?

A tale from Budapest in the mid eighties was that Leslie responded so well and rapidly to Conductive Education that he took himself straight off on a walk. Outside the Hotel Budapest his re-found mobility led him too quickly off the kerb, and a careless Lada went over his toe.

True of not? The incidental, corroborative detail (‘Hotel Budapest’, Lada’) are the marks of an urban legend, but the story rings true to the Leslie whom I knew and remember. True or not, I recounted it enough in those early days. It was certainly 'him'.

It was true for me today, at Leslie’s funeral. He is remembered as a lovely, decent man.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

England: light in the darkness, cracks in the wall?

Is there to be room once more for genuinely free schooling?

BERA – the British Educational Research Association – is (gleefully?) circulating the following report –

Ofsted’s opinion of Summerhill School: from pariah to paragon
Release: 27 October 2011
A. S. Neill’s famous Summerhill School, the world’s first ‘child democracy’, has received thebest HMI/OfSTED report in its 90-year history. After decades of criticism and controversy atthe hands of the Inspectors, the School has now been found ‘outstanding’ in 8 aspects of itsprovision and practice and ‘good’ in all others. Inspectors were particularly impressed by itscontinuing excellence in relation to pupils ‘spiritual, moral, social and cultural development’(SMSCD). ‘Welfare, health and safety of pupils’ was also outstanding, as were all 5 aspectsof boarding provision, welfare and outcomes’.
The contrast with Summerhill’s 1999 Inspection is total. Then, HMI condemned its philosophy, aims and outcomes, finding its freedoms to be an ‘abdication’ of adultresponsibility. The adjective the Inspection most often directed at its pupils was ‘foul-mouthed’. The finding that it offered neither ‘suitable’ nor ‘efficient’ education meant thatthe school faced closure. The School had to raise a Tribunal case to prevent that outcome.
The Tribunal vindicated the School, and the Ministry withdrew in haste from the case afterthree days. These events were vividly portrayed in an award-winning BBC drama in 2008.The parties to the TribunalAgreement accepted that future inspections of the School wouldbe accompanied by an ‘expert’ nominated by the School. In turn the Ministry demanded asimilar ‘expert’. So now the Inspectors were to be inspected, and the inspector of the inspectors likewise. Thus the possible tragedy of closure became something of a farce ofsurveillance (hyperveillance?) – but a necessary and useful safeguard for the School.
Since then, things have looked up. The 2007 Inspection deemed the school ‘satisfactory’,while assessing SMSCD features ‘outstanding’. Why have things turned round sodramatically? Two explanations are possible. In audit logic, a ‘failing’ school has beentransformed. Or, from a research perspective, a ‘failing’ OfSTED has finally acknowledgedthe virtues of the school, including uncoerced learning, democratic governance led by thepupils, and freedom in relation to learning and assessment.
Professor Ian Stronach, Liverpool John Moores University), the school’s ‘expert’ since 1999,argues that the school A.S. Neill wrote about more than fifty years ago, and the school heresearched in 1999, 2007 and 2011, is ‘essentially the same place, though the inspectorial surfaces are much more expertly polished.’ He added, ‘OfSTED deserve credit, at last, for an‘outstanding’ Inspection process and outcome in 2011’. Let’s hope this marks the end ofInspectorial persecution, here and elsewhere.
Ian Stronach
Professor of Educational Research, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool L17 6BD

Free at last?

I personally have never held much truck with the philosophy or methods of A. S. Neil but there is a higher-order principle at work here: LIBERTY.

At most Summerhill's success is qualified freedom: freedom under bureaucratic licence. That falls rather short of liberty but should offer hope and precedent to other would-be free educationalists in England, such as Paces in Sheffield. There is still a long, long way to go to get to the open situation in which the first attempt was made to establish CE schooling in the United Kingdom in the mid-eighties.

I received BERA's note yesterday. By coincidence, the same day I received from Inteconnections update the campaign EYE-Open, against Her Majesty's Government's repressive and counterproductive 'educational' policies in the early years of life:

Again, I have little sympathy for much of these campaigners' views on child development – but. my respect for liberty overrides this.

Are there cracks here for Conductive Education to slide through, and force further open?
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