Monday, 18 February 2013

ENGLISH INTEGRATED SCHOOLS

A short dialogue

Earlier today Conductive World put up a posting pointing out that Steiner schools are getting a toehold into state funding through the national education system's Free Schools scheme, and wondering why not CE. I proposed the obvious action of creating integrated CE schools, like the one about to open in Rosenheim in Germany, and that something similar might be done in the US by way of Charter Schools:


Norman Perrin from Paces Sheffield has come back to me on this, with 'not a response as such but a couple of thoughts'. It is easier to continue this discussion here than in the Comments column, interpolating my responses between his points (the latter being written in blue)–
1.  There is an article to be written about successful and unsuccessful applications to open SEN Free Schools. This was where it started: 
http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6077923.
I have to admit to not having known of this article when it appeared. It is worth reading to see the sad thought process of the saddo from the teachers' trade union. He is paid – by schoolteachers – to deal with their 'pay and conditions'. What a country.
2.  Evidencing 'demand' is a huge challenge, either for a new school or a 'conversion' of an existing school (as with Paces).
This is where one has to be radical. Paces had a problem generating parental 'demand' for a special school for children with disabilities. This would have to be something quite different – i.e. what is 'demanded' by other parents who get behind a 'free school bid, i.e. an school for ordinary children, but perhaps an extraordinary ethos / atmosphere / attitude (one should perhaps steer away from the 'word' philosophy!) A current example is the 'Sikh-heritage' school opening in Handsworth in Birmingham to which any child may be admitted, of any 'heritage' or none. Perhaps one could open a 'conductive school' (again perhaps, with some PR attention to the name) for any children whose parents favour that particular ethos / atmosphere / attitude and the conductive style upbringing that comes with it. The great majority of the pupils would of course be non-disabled. The minority with disabilities, and their parents, would be an integral part of the general conductive upbringing of the school, with pedagogic specifics shaped to their particular courses of development.
3.  I doubt any group of people with a commitment to CE could be brought together to propose an 'integrated school (i.e. not just SEN)
I so heartily agree. There is no reason from past performance to expect leadership or collective action from 'CE' in the UK – for anything. My suggestion simply leaves them where they seem happiest, on the sidelines, whilst others get on with the job. Of course, this would require parents and teacher and others right outside of CE to know of and recognise the relevance of its 'conductive' basis. That in turn requires that this basis should be clearly manifest, clearly visible and clearly articulated. 
4.  The exception to my point 3 could be an existing large charity. That could be done ... but I doubt anyone would.
I cannot imagine any large charity stepping out of line to do anything like this. Nor, I suspect, can you. They have their own fish to fry and anyway, free schools are not their bag, nor should they be. Further, as stated in my response to point 3, this would not be a matter for a disability charity but for an educational one. My imagination fails when it comes to thinking which one...
5.  CE's best hope would be an application to open a group of special schools nationally - but I do not know there is the will to do so.
'Hope for what? I wonder? Perpetuating the present parlous situation by continuing against all odds to keep going with with more of the came?  Norman says about his  suggestion for collaborative action: 'I do not know whether there is the will to do this,'  . Perhaps one might safely rearrange his words: 'I know that there it not the will to do this.'
6.  If you take a look at the TES article noted in point 1 you will read a statement said to be made by me which captures the optimism that the the 2010 announcement of the Free Schools programme offered SEN ('Becoming a free school will mean parents can apply to us directly and we have more ability to plan for our financial future' - just like other Free Schools. You might also notice that 'The scheme was delayed while officials dealt with the complexities of setting up publicly funded independent special education' - delayed from 2010 to 2011. From the standpoint of 2013, it can be seen 'Officials' were certainly successful in making "setting up publicly funded independent special education" complex - far more complex than it need be - and well beyond the reach of small charities and parents. Another paper waiting to be written. No if I could get some research funding …
I suspect that the truth was that from the outset Conductive Education as it is perceived in the UK was going to be a long-term political loser, whatever was done. Walford/Steiner, however, has all the look of a winner, able to attract unquestioning support within the unthinking liberal establishment, whatever little bits of bonkers lie within it. No research needed here, just good old fashioned political analysis and action: as a way of thinking, it has well-placed fiends.

In the meantime, a step forward has to be straightforward, concrete, explicit and articulate exposition of those education principles that CE loves to trumpet that it manifests, find people capable of demonstrating what these principles can do can do when knitted into the very fabric of a real school, and then see whether there is  'demand' for these (including, though not primarily,  from the families of disabled children). No quick fix.

2 comments:

  1. A note added to Point 4.
    The National Autistic Society is promoting a Free School in Reading, Berkshire, which has been approved by DfE to open in September 2013. Where there's a will ... evidently. http://bit.ly/XoFmHO

    ... and I've just noticed Andrew's comment on my point 5. I prefer my original word order! "Will" like "potential" is to be nurtured, is it not?

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  2. I have just slightly amplified some of the above posting to make my point, I hope, a little clearer.

    I have also gone on to elaborate it in a further posting:

    http://www.conductive-world.info/2013/02/schools-with-philosophies.html

    I should like here to respond to Norman's Comment made above.

    First, the National Autistic Society's Free School in Reading. I know nothing about it but the very CONCEPT of 'autistic' as she is now spoke is surely an example of what I describe above as 'a winner, able to attract unquestioning support within the unthinking liberal establishment, whatever little bits of bonkers lie within it'. I am sure that there are desperate families and most needy children involved, and that the people behind this project with have had a hard and frustrating battle, but the concept of autistic is a potential contender even before the application starts. Poor old CE faces problems of a different order in such a context.

    Secondly, I wrote: 'I know that there it not the will to do this.' You are quite right, Norman, as written this sounds dreadfully deterministic, judging potential for change from the present level of development. I hope that others spotted it and that it jarred with them too. I SHOULD have written something more qualified. How about this then?

    'I know that, until someone comes up with a way of rejuvenating or revitalising what used to be called 'the conductive movement' or even 'the conductive community', then there it not the will to do this.'

    Does this help a bit? Thanks for pointing it out. Mea maxima culpa. :

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