Monday, 29 April 2013


More from the WC8 front
Submission deadline extended

This evening I set off methodically to put up some more submissions to the forthcoming Congress. What a nightmare the form is to fill in. Perhaps it works better in the German version...

Time was dragging, getting tired and a little cross did not help. Really, though, people ought to have their explanatory materials not just checked but written from the outset by native-speakers.

My mood was not enhanced when I saw that WC8's site was still translating my materials into gobbledegook. Still, I followed my resolve and just ignored this.

Deus ex

Then like the US Cavalry coming over the hill, a not unexpected email arrived –
Extension abstract submission deadline
Dear Sir or Madam,

Dear CE community,
This is to inform you that the deadline for abstract submission in the context of the 8th World Congress on Conductive Education, taking place in Munich and Fürstenfeldbruck from October 9 to 12, 2013, has been extended until Sunday, May 5, 2013 (24:00 CET).
Online abstract submission is possible via the congress website.
The deadline for early bird registration will be on Friday, May 31, 2013.
Don't miss the opportunity to present your scientific research results and your conductive education experiences to an international and highly motivated audience.
For any further questions please contact the WCCE scientific secretariat by e-mail ( or phone ).
The Organizing Committee looks forward to welcoming you in Munich and Fürstenfeldbruck in October.
Best wishes

Beate Hoess-Zenker
So it goes. I think that I recall something similar before the Hong Kong Congress. Why do such things happen? Who knows, who cares? Sufficient unto the day the evil thereof. I am off to my slumbers.

Meanwhile, in another part of the forest

Susie Mallett has been beavering away mentoring submissions like there were no tomorrow:

Well, for her, and for me and for quite a few others too I guess, tomorrow has been postponed, till Saturday.

Tally rises

Meanwhile, my two submissions, put up an hour or two back, have been numbered 135 and 138...

Previous item on this topic


Abstracts for WC8

If it wasn't for the last minute, nothing would ever get done

Last week I spotted this faux-antique enamel sign in a coffee bar in Birmingham. How apposite! My in-box testifies that I am not the only around the world to be against deadline and scrabbling to submit abstracts to the 8th World CE Congress before books are closed at some time on 30 April.

Keeping within the required length of 2,600 characters has offered a challenging discipline. I suspect that submissions submitted over this length will be automatically trimmed to size by the congress-organizers' computer.

I promised myself that I would submit four abstracts. Pressing the button on seems a very final act. This morning I have closed my eyes, shouted 'Geronimo' and consigned the first to its fate. I shall actually still have until that unspecified time tomorrow to go back into the site and fiddle with it.

Come on in, the water's lovely

There is still time to start another Abstract from scratch, but as far as I am concerned enough is enough.

Maybe someone, somewhere will read this and have a go.


Everything at this stage is automated and I received instant acknowledgement of my submission. I went and looked it up, and was horrified. The formatting was to pot, the punctuation all over the place, and my carefully chosen words had been, well, simplified. My precious Abstract looked like a machine-translation from the Klingon.

I emailed the ever-helpful Jessica Heimbecher at K.I.T. Group, the congress-organizing company. She assured me that everything looked fine at her end. Ah well, one of those mysteries of the compatibility between computers. Anyway, if she says that it is OK, it ceases to be my problem.

It quite took the wind out of my sails though. I shall pop some more up later this evening in the sure confidence that whatever happens next will not be my problem either.

Number 101

By the way, my morning's submission was registered as number 101. It looks like a late-minute field is coming together. Later submission numbers will help monitor this.

Thursday, 25 April 2013


Chinese public awareness of Conductive Education

Cerebral palsy seems to feature often in present-day Chinese popular education on matters to do with children's health and development, with Conductive Education's taking a routine, matter-of-fact place in discussion of possibilities for rehabilitation.

Here is an example from this morning's Zhuji News:

This particular article concerns language rehabilitation for children with cerebral palsy. Many such children, it reports, need help in this respect – but how? Outside China medical specialists and therapists have evolved practices such as NDT, Bobath, Vojta, and Conductive Education.

It also notes that cerebral palsy is more an a matter of neuromuscular and musculoskeletal systems, but also 'the overall physical and psychological development of children'.Since the reform and opening of in the nineteen-seventies, it goes on, such methods have been gradually introduced to children with cerebral palsy rehabilitation sector in China (in addition to much work to use Traditional Medicine, with good outcomes reported).

Hospital-based rehabilitationists state that they aim to include the work of paediatrics, neurology, orthopaedics, rehabilitation physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapy, speech therapists, psychologists, counselors and special education teachers, and other types of rehabilitation participation.

Conductive Education in China

I have no way of knowing how far such an article is typical of Chinese public understanding of cerebral palsy and Conductive Education. I does, however, seem to accord to with most else of what I have read seen and heard:
  • while maintaining an active interest in the applicability of Traditional Medicine, China has adopted dominant medical forms of the West in dealing with the cerebral palsies – 'rehabilitation', incorporating what might by now be regarded as our traditional therapies;
  • (thanks particularly to SAHK in Hong Kong) something called Conductive Education has been imported unquestioned along with all this – but without the general discounting of CE that has so often been part of western understanding;
  • there is some suggestion that what I would call the psycho-social effects of cerebral paresis are further to the fore in professional attention in China than they tend to be in the West – perhaps an effect of a deeper mind-body understanding than apparent in much contemporary Western medicine.
And what do they mean by 引导式教育 anyway – Conductive Education?

Chinese Conductive Education

The words behind the Chinese characters 引导式教育 are conventionally stated in English as Conductive Education. I have had it courteously explained to me that is so that we outside China might understand what the Chinese mean.

I suspect that they refer to a process struggling towards the same outcomes as does Conductive education in the West, but within a different context of culture and upbringing, with all that these imply for the the development of personality. I have described this elsewhere as Oriental Conductive Education.

For a little more on the simply linguistic level, see:

And a slightly wider consideration on Chinese culture and upbringing in this context, see Chapter 2 of:

Meanwhile, today's popular education article from China is another reminder of a very important social factor distinguishing sharply between the 'two Conductive Educations', their relevant acceptance within in their respective professional worlds.


(2012) 小儿脑瘫的语言康复治疗 [Language rehabilitation of children with cerebral palsy], 24 April

Sutton, A. (2010) 引導式教育 and 引导式教育, Conductive World, 8 August

Sutton, A. (2011) Last year in Hong Kong, Birmingham, Conductive Education Press


Looks good

Today is ANZAC Day, and timely reminder that March's issue of the Newsletter of the New Zealand Foundation for Conductive Education, already distributed to subscribers by email, is now on line and publicly available:

As ever this provides a model to be envied and emulated by others in Conductive Education elsewhere who might aspire to the same degree of national coverage in their own countries.

Upcoming national events

NZFCE's AGM and Conference this year will be held on 23-24 May, in Wellington, and will feature speakers from the Ministries of both Education and Health.

People outside New Zealand may be particularly interested to see how the Foundation contributes financially to attendance at this event.

The New Zealand Annual Conductors’ Seminar will be held directly afterwards, on 23 and 24 May, also in Wellington.

Funding news

Arrangement with Ministry of Education for units based in primary schools, in part-compensation for Health's progressive withdrawal of therapy funding

8th World Congress

The Foundation will award two grants, each of NZ$2,000 for travel to Munich in October, 'to present information relative to the delivery of Conductive Education in New Zealand and bring back to NZ the latest developments in CE worldwide'.

Individual centres are considering what to do themselves in this respect.

'Suitability for the Conductive Education programme'
At the recent NZFCE Board meeting there was discussion about the suitability of children with a diagnosis other than Cerebral Palsy attending CE programmes, i.e. Downs Syndrome, Rett Syndrome etc. Also the issue of the suitability of children at the very top end of the disability scale as is the case for many of the children in the attached school units. The Foundation supports the concept that if it is considered that CE can improve the quality of life for such children then they should be able to access the programme. However NZFCE accepts that the professionals at each make these specific individual decisions.
Early days, but sensible conclusion given the state of the art.


The Foundation will compile a document in time for circulation at the AGM, summarising the state of CE services across the country.

Look to March's Newsletter for the nature and degree of detail that is to be included.

Personal news

March's issue also includes the Newsletter's usual detailed information on people, events, comings and goings from around the country...

Wednesday, 24 April 2013


For free, right now
Today, Google announced that it has just added Hungary and Lesotho to Street View, a Google Maps option that lets users virtually jump into millions of locations and take a 360-degree look around.

You can now take the little yellow man and visit the present and historic sites of CE in Hungary, just by entering their addresses at the top of the page:

It can be surprising what one sees.

Or, like I have just done, take half a morning for a leisurely stroll around half-remembered streets, where so many things are now so very, very different, while much, much more remains just the same.

Monday, 22 April 2013


The story of my life!

In October I shall be giving a 'keynote address' to the 8th World Conductive Education Congress.

I have give quite a few keynote addresses over my life, not just in the field of Conductive Education. I have also slept through quite a few more presented by others, or read a book or just slipped quietly out through the back door near which I had taken my seat for precisely this purpose. I know people who do their their marking in keynote addresses, or use the time to prepare their own forthcoming presentation for later that day – or just read a book. One might start dutifully listening with pen poised – but how often is there anything worthy of note (simple test: how often have you gone home from a conference and searched eagerly through your written notes for what 'the keynote' said?)

Now, after three years' break, here I go again. Usual panic. What can I say? How to give the punters what they deserve (and for the most part are paying for)? And a new thought, what is a 'keynote address' anyway?

I believe that the term may originate from the United States.

(I am resisting writing the term with capital letters, though I note that it is common to do so.)

What is a keynote address?

When I was younger I presumed that this was one of those questions to which everyone else already knew the answer. I did not not wish to proclaim myself an oik and an ignoramus by asking it, so I kept mum. With the wisdom of hindsight, I now suspect that many other people did not know either, and  like me were keeping their heads down. This would certainly explain the uncertainty that now surrounds the term.

In the 21st century we of course have the Internet, so we can ask embarrassing questions like this in the discrete privacy of our own homes. So tonight I did, and found loads and loads of conferences and meetings and congresses with their one or more 'keynote presentations', or (more grandly still?) 'keynote addresses'. And when I zeroed my search in on what the term actually means I found a whole gamut of cynical, mocking, dismissive and head-shaking analyses of the whole notion.

Here is a good-natured, light-hearted one, written by Mike Hourigan who appears to earn part at least of his living by making such presentations –
Generally, when people say they want a Keynote Speaker what they mean is we need to hire someone who can talk to our audience for about 45 minutes and they will probably cost a lot of money.
The term Keynote Speaker is one of the most misunderstood in the meetings industry. Many people confuse the term Keynote Speaker with motivational speaker, inspirational speaker, plenary speaker, breakout speaker, industry expert, closing speaker, business speaker, juggler, ventriloquist, illusionist, and any former Miss North Dakota or Miss Rhode Island.
Any of the above speakers could actually be a keynote speaker, but most professional speakers are not actual Keynote Speakers and most Keynote Speakers can’t or don’t do all the rest.
A Keynote Speaker should be able to capture the essence of your meeting and be able to highlight it to your audience in a short period of time. In order to capture this essence, the Keynote Speaker should be willing to spend the time researching your industry, your issues, and your audience.
Once this vital research is complete, your Keynoter can mold the presentation into a unique and distinctive moment just for your audience. Your Keynote Speaker may use humor, audience participation, show funny clips, or even sing. No matter, what shtick your speaker employs, their job is to weave your keynote message into their program in a memorable and fun way.
Here's an extract from another, by Shari Alexander, offering some concrete guidelines that I wish were better known and more often followed –
Another important thing to remember about keynote speakers is that their speeches are not content rich. That’s not a slam, it’s just the nature of a keynote speech. You will never hear a keynote speaker give you the 22 step process to successful sales. A keynote is known by its theatricality, storytelling, and emotional content.
I often consider keynote speaking to be like a one-man show. It is an engaging and emotional experience put on by one person with a microphone. And when we see the best do it, it’s unforgettable.
Keynote speeches usually only have 3 main points followed by a slew of illustrative examples and stories to demonstrate or “drive home” those few points. Popular mantras of keynote speaking are “Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry” or “Open with a laugh, end with a tear.” Basically, it is the job of a keynote speaker to take you on an emotional ride of sorts. Just like a play or movie. To make it a memorable experience, a keynoter taps into your emotions. Makes you feel things in order to think about things in a different way. Some may see it as manipulative (and those pessimists will always be around). But I see it as a beautiful and underrated art form.
The rest of this page is well worth reading too:

And there are lots more out there.

Does such stuff help?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. It reminds me of those enjoyably frustrating construction manuals that IKEA provides with its kit furniture: only intelligible when you have already worked out what to do for yourself.

In the panic of creation I shall probably just do my thing anyway, hang on tight, fly by the seat of my pants, and watch their eyes.


I see that the provisional programme for the 8th World CE Congress now announces FOURTEEN 'keynotes':

Er, yes.

Saturday, 20 April 2013


Small victory for one of CE's great survivors

Following an uncharacteristic public silence around Buddy Bear,  the ETI (Northern Ireland's Education and Training Inspectorate) has  published a 'focused report' on the Buddy Bear Trust's school in Dungannon.

The ETI's report looks like victory for Buddy Bear in the latest round of its long-running and often bitter struggle with 'the authorities' in Northern Ireland.

The published report tells of the outcome of a 'focused inspection inspection' but not of course the background story of what has been going on.


This formal report takes care to define the terms of its judgement,presented within a six-point scale of which the top three are:
  • Outstanding   Outstanding characterised by excellence
  • Very Good   Consistently good; major strengths
  • Good   Important strengths in most of the provision. Areas for improvement which organisation has the capacity to address

The report does not explain why this was a 'focused inspection'.
2.  The inspection focused on the requirement of the school to demonstrate that the curriculum is suitably relevant and balanced to meet the individual needs of the children. In addition, the school’s arrangements for pastoral care, including child protection, were evaluated.
Contention and delay
1.3   This inspection completes work that began in January 2012. The inspection was incomplete at that stage due to action being taken by the staff not to co-operate with the Education and Training Inspectorate on advice from their teaching union.
The school
1.1  The school is situated in Dungannon and provides full-time education for three children, aged 4 to 8 years, and for eleven children who attend every two weeks for a one hour session. A further five children are supported on request from their parents. The children have significant difficulties associated with cerebral palsy, severe learning difficulties and additional medical conditions.
The number of full-time pupils is up this last couple of years, from a low point of three. The report does no explain in proper English what is meant by 'five children are supported on request from their parents'.
1.4   The previous inspection in November 2004, raised concerns about the viability of the school given the small numbers of pupils enrolled. All concerned with the school remain concerned about the long term future of the provision.
The staff number three:
  • a conductor, who also serves as teacher
  • two classroom assistants
3. In the areas inspected in this school, the quality of education is good and pastoral care is outstanding...
4.1 The quality of the children’s achievements and standards is good
4.2 The quality of the provision for learning is good
4.3 The quality of leadership and management is good
Over time, each child makes very good progress from their [sic] starting points, and achievements... The curriculum planning is very child centred and thorough... The teacher and assistants work together well to create a warm and pleasant atmosphere... An excellent ethos is evident which underpins all activities and supports learning... strong focus on target setting, tracking progress and outcomes... collaborative working with parents and sharing of practical and important information about the children... collaborative working with parents and sharing of practical and important information about the children... principal’s expertise in, and understanding of, motor development which she demonstrates effectively in all activities
5.    In the areas inspected in this school, the quality of education is good and pastoral care is outstanding. The school has important strengths in most of its educational provision. The inspection has identified areas for improvement which the school has demonstrated the capacity to address. The Education and Training Inspectorate will monitor the school’s progress on the areas for improvement.

Education and Training Inspectorate (2013) Focused Inspection – Buddy Bear Trust Conductive Education Independent School, Dungannon, Bangor, Department of Education, 16 April

The conductor

The report continues a trend apparent around the world of not mentioning conductors by name. The survival of Buddy Bear since the late eighties, against unremitting official opposition, is a remarkable achievement.

It my be invidious to identify particular individuals. Forgive mention here, therefore, that Buddy Bear's conductor / principle is Ildikó Veres:

Friday, 19 April 2013


Deadline approaching

Circular email received today from the 8th World CE Congress –
In the context of the 8th World Congress on Conductive Education (WCCE 2013), taking place in Munich and Fürstenfeldbruck from October 9 to 12, 2013, we would like to remind you of the deadline for abstract submission on Tuesday, April 30, 2013.

Online abstract submission is possible via the congress website.
The deadline for early bird registration will be on Friday, May 31, 2013.
I shall have to get my skates on. I suspect that I am not the only one.


By the way, if you do not speak the jargon, 'early-bird registration' means signing on early to attend, which gets you a reduced registration fee. 

Thursday, 18 April 2013



We have just had World Autism Day.

I read a follow-up story in the local paper informing me that there are between ten and twenty thousand adults with autism living in the city of Birmingham (total population: just over one million) –

The life-long condition affects around 1.1 per cent of the population and sufferers come from all races, classes and intellectual abilities.
It is a spectrum condition, meaning that it affects people differently and to varying degrees...
More than one per cent of the population? Phew! I wonder who they might be, what they have in common with each other that distinguishes them from the rest of the population, what might have brought about whatever it is that affects them, what on Earth is it that causes this – and what enables our society to speak of them with such assurance, as if their 'condition' were a known fact.

I also wonder whether others who read such follow-up articles, here and around the world, will question what they read in such a way. Or just incorporate it unquestioningly, as fact.

As for the technical details paraded above

What they say:
  • autism is a 'condition'
  • this conditions is clearly enough defined to permit an astonishingly high figure for prevalence, (1.1%) – even though this leads to an estimated adult population of astonishing uncertainty ('between ten and twenty thousand')
  • presumably this is because autism is a 'spectrum condition' – construed here as a common supposed cause for qualitatively and quantitatively different developmental outcomes.
I remain unclear. Introduction of race. class and intellectual ability, even if solely to say that they are not relevant, does not help. Autism's mystery remains. Can the autism movement ever be understood in terms of a disorder of human development? Or is it a category error to try?

I do not really understand the politics and micropolitics at work here, and I know it. Do others?


Only on completing the above did I think to see whether the term 'autism schmautism' has been used elsewhere. It has, extensively:

Monday, 15 April 2013


CE's most entitled advocates (and critics)

I have had a note from Chris Basterfield who, if my memory is correct, first came into CE in January 1988 –
Ester Baston and I are trying to get in touch with people who have had Conductive Education since the mid-1980s and are now over 18, in order to find out their views and opinions on it, in order to perhaps to organise some kind of event initially.
In the long run the ideal aim would be to create some kind of document/dossier to extoll the virtues of Conductive Education and put pressure on people in positions of influence to get more recognition and perhaps funding for Conductive Education.
Any other help that you could give us in this regard would be very much appreciated.
Chris Basterfield
It barely needs remark that the movement to spread awareness of Conductive Education round the world has been born largely on the backs of parents, and that they took up their burden voluntarily, for the good of their children and for other people's children too.

It also hardly needs saying that those children were not themselves volunteers in this great crusade!

Time rolls on, however, and those children are themselves approaching the age at which their parents made their choices, took their stand, and fought their early battles. Those children are now adults, citizens in their own right, and what they have to say is potentially the most valid testimony that CE could enjoy (and a most valid source of criticism too in constructing a balanced view).

I shall certainly feed Chris and Ester a few suggestions about whom they might rope in. Some of these are in the UK but there are others. I would urge them to caste their net wide, internationalise – but strategy and tactics are for them to decide. It is their time, and their world.

Suffice it here and now only to ask those with relevant contacts amongst people who experienced CE for themselves as children, and might be interested in getting together, and just possibly then some political action, to get in touch with Chris direct:


Hungarian Government ducks the issue

It looks like the Fidesz Government has ducked out of restricting Hungarian graduates' freedom to leave the country and work abroad, at least for all practical purposes –
Students who receive state scholarships will not be banned from leaving Hungary after graduation, but will have to meet work obligations in Hungary within a 20-year period... Recipients of state aid will still be required to work in Hungary for double the number of years for which they received state aid, but can do that within 20 years of graduation... etc
In other words, graduates will be able to come and go as they please without financial penalties, within any foreseeable future.

Within this the supply of newly trained Hungarian graduates will not now be drying up, at least as long as the Pető Institute continues to exist in its present form.

As for the possibility of the Hungarian Government's calling in the present deal, well that's won't be till 2033. I don't know about you, or Fidesz, or the PAI, but that really does sound like another country!

Fidesz: standing up for its policies

The next test for Fidesz's resolve may come from Wednesday 17 April, when the European Parliament will be debating wider political developments in Hungary:


(2013) Government fine-tunes system for keeping graduates in Hungary,, 15 April

Wednesday, 10 April 2013


Succeed and Advance

I received a big brown envelope through the post yesterday, with Chinese characters on the front. It was from SAHK in Hong Hong.

Inside was a smart folder bearing the name of SAHK's Institute of Rehabilitation Practice, and inside that was a a kind letter and a certificate to acknowledge my services as an Honorary Advisor to the Institute. Actually these thanks are a bit premature since I have not yet had opportunity to offer any advice – so now I had better start singing for my supper.

I have already done the honours at home: I found a suitable frame, knocked a pin in the wall, and hung up my certificate. When you are retired you can afford ten minutes for such details.

My limited direct experiences of Hong Kong had initially suggested to me that Chinese people particularly like giving and receiving such tokens of esteem, but further reflection soon put this into context. After all, my roles in being there in the first place put me in the very situations in which such things are regularly given and received, anywhere. And it also brought back to me the pleasure that I myself have had from presenting certificates, badges, awards etc., in the days when I was in a position to do such things. I hope that recipients on the whole enjoyed the gesture, and the simple but sincere flummery that could be attached to the presentation.

The certificate, by the way, bears the name of SAHK, written in Chinese characters:


I like the way that this starts of with a little flower in a pot and ends with a gingerbread house. At least that is how I identify the expression. In reality, I believe that the flower-pot character signifies 'incense' while the little house signifies 'can'.

The folder carries SAHK's strong public slogan, in two languages:


'Succeed and Advance'
I'll go with that.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013


Her role in Conductive Education
Weighing the balance
It's a funny old world
One definition of Thatcherism is pulling oneself up by one's own bootstraps. Conductive Education fits this to a T – offering perhaps the very antithesis of today's fuzzy and probably iatrogenic ideology of 'support'. To be outrageously ahistorical, I rather suppose that, outwardly at least, András Pető might have been regarded as having been developmentally and pedagogically a bit of a Thatcherite. Mária Hári too.
Be all that as it may, Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 7 May 1979 to 22 November 1990, coincidentally from the year that I first stumbled into Conductive Education to the time that it began to dawn on me that things were going seriously wrong. Today I keep hearing how Margaret Thatcher epitomised the 1980s and, for good or for ill, I guess that she was certainly one of those who did.
It is impossible to think that the great explosion of interest in CE in the UK in the latter part of that decade could have happened at any other time, before or after, or in any other country. And if that had not happened in Thatcher's UK then, by definition, it seems safe to suppose that nothing much would have followed on elsewhere. Perhaps almost as probable is the counter-factual possibility that CE might not even have survived in Hungary.
Weighing the balance
'Balance', the 8th World CE Congress assures, is an important consideration in Conductive Education.
So, whatever else the god Anubis or the Archangel Michael have been weighing in  Margaret Thatcher's final reckoning, perhaps CE around the world, in this century as in the last, has something indirect to thank her for, in that the world is are still considering Conductive Education at all in 2013.
But there is also a concrete physical memorial to Margaret Thatcher's involvement in Conductive Education, the building that now stands upon the Stakhanovite foundations of András Pető's old State Institute, at Villányi út 67 in Budapest's District XI.
'International Pető'
In the late eighties the then Hungarian government seriously misread what was happening behind the first influx of foreign (then largely British) parents coming to Budapest. To be fair, how could official people in even the most liberal of the Eastern Bloc countries ever understand this very Thatcherite 'get on yer bike' activity? Surely, it was assumed, governments were involved, and surely there would be big valuta (foreign, 'hard' currency) to be made from them. Hence the ludicrous International Pető Appeal put out to governments around the world, aiming to raise some sixty or seventy million US dollars as I recall.
(And to be equal-handedly fair, how could British Foreign Office wallahs ever understand the hopes, apirations and feelings of parents of disabled children?)
Launched at the same time was the idea of a colossal International András Pető Institute in Budapest, and an International András Pető Association to bind together Conductive Education  worldwide. Families in the growingly Thatcherite UK would not wait for pie in the sky, however, and soon turned their bikes around, to establish their own personal, local CE enterprises, conductive greengrocers' stores one might say, rather than waiting for what vaunting institutes might bring. And the rest of the world did the same, leaving the grandiose plans for the multi-million pounds International Pető Institute, and a few other big plans, dead in the water.
No foreign government responded to this peculiar International Appeal – only Margaret Thatcher's government responded. Why?
The answer was Margaret Thatcher
She and Ronald Regan were fighting the end-game of the Cold War, in which the actions were financial rather than military. One front was the socially, financial and politicly wobbly Eastern Bloc, amongst the nations of which the wobbliest in all three of thse respects was probably the Hungarian People's Republic. And what do you do with a wobbly tooth, you wobble it till it wobbles some more, in the hope and expectation that ultimately it will fall out (with the then likelihood of others' following).
Any opportunity to show the impoverished elite of Hungary where public esteem and above all financial rewards might be found was to be seized upon. Her Britannic Majesty's Ambassador in Budapest and the UK Foreign Office seized upon the International Pető Appeal as one way to do this.
Margaret Thatcher's eye for a Cold War tactic abroad was sat alongside a keen eye for popular sentiment back home. Here was a foreign venture for which there would be no political problem in raising the money. I was told at the time about a cabinet meeting in which she announced that she wanted £3,000,000 for the UK's donation to the Ingternational Pető Appeal from existing budgets, some from the Foreign Office, some from Education, some from Health, and some from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland pro rata according to their populations. There was no argument from Ministers. This was after all Margaret Thatcher – She who was Obeyed.
Presumably all this can all now be be checked in the public record.
Personally I was opposed to this grant, and did myself no good by trying to express this view to Government. In the event, perhaps that three million did help sway Hungarian political opinion, and helped lower the Hungarian wire to the East German refugees – if so you have a case for arguing Conductive Education's tiny contribution to ending the Cold War.
Something else to be weighed in the balance by the god Anubis and the Archangel Michael when judging Margaret Thatcher's soul.
The UK's donation was enshrined in a Treaty between the UK and Hungarian Governments but Hungary never managed to deliver on its side of the deal and in the end therefore the UK Government got away with paying only £1.25M. This rebuilt Villányi út 67. The terms of the Treaty have now expired. As far as I know the building now houses a hotel and a school.
Margaret Thatcher was very popular in Hungary in the 1980s. Maybe a wall plaque at Villányi út 67 would be a nice touch. Hungary does such good ones.
Two further postscripts
By the way, the International András Pető Institute seemed to have stopped calling itself International a few years ago. And the International András Pető Association split away and seems to function solely to encourage the occasional International Congress (number 8 coming up soon, in Munich).
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