Friday, 7 June 2013


Not just a side-issue?

I have always enjoyed reading small ads. I have hardly ever bought anything through them, and possibly never sold anything that way, but I love reading personal advertisements for the light that they shed on how the world lives, and the questions that arise from this.

I do not know what cultural status small ads have in other countries. In the UK they have provided a resource for social history – and have even engendered a minor literary form. I first read a small-ads novel some fifty years ago, the late Keith Waterhouse's dark and disturbing Judd. Coincidentally I have just started a rather lighter offering, John Osborne's The Newsagent's Window (not that John Osborne)... Sorry, I digress.

Here is a thought-provoking small ad, currently on line and offering a window into personal worlds totally alien to me –
Creative and fun special need nanny needed to work with
a little girl with autism (35 hours)

Area: Gloucester Road, London

Contract type: Permanent
Area: Gloucester Road
Start Date: ASAP
Temp to: N/A
Hours: 7am to 10am and 2:30pm to 6:30pm with one evening babysitting and then afternoon off, flexibility required when Sarah has appointments or is unwell.
Days: Monday to Friday
Wage Gross £25,480 gross per annum
Wage Net: £387 net per week
Accommodation Provided: N/A
Driver Required? Essential
Experience Required: Behavioural management, Autism, Physical disability.

We are seeking an enthusiastic and confident special needs nanny to work with four gorgeous children, 'S' (5), 'D' (3) and twins 'A' and 'G' (1.5). 'S' has severe global developmental delay due to her underlying chromosomal abnormality and has been diagnosed with autism. She is nonverbal but communicates her likes and dislikes by different signs. The nanny will need to be patient and try to 'read' 'S's needs when communication is not clear. 'S' also has a congenital heart condition and will have an open heart operation in July. She is generally a very happy and affectionate little girl, who likes cuddles, reading books, music and cause effect toys. She needs support with walking and physio exercises on a daily basis. 'S' can get frustrated easily due to having limited abilities both physically and with communication. She expresses challenging and self-harm behaviour. She needs lots of stimulation in terms of activities and a positive and motivating approach. She attends school full time where she receives input from different therapists. 'D' is a typical little boy and he enjoys outdoors, reading and trains! The twins are into everything, they love running around and messy play. The family are looking for an experienced special needs nanny who will be able to multitask. The ideal person will be active and happy to muck in, but know when to step back to allow the family have some quality time together. It is essential that the person has experience of working with young children with behavioural issues and physical disability. Experience of physiotherapy and speech and language therapy or conductive education would be highly desirable.

The family requires somebody who is flexible and is happy to do tidying and cleaning as well as preparation of meals. Sarah tends to put things to her mouth therefore it is essential that everything is kept clean and organised. The person will have a sole charge of Sarah or the other children at a time, but mum will be around and the person needs to be happy to work alongside her. The position will be 35 hours a week with the possibility of more hours in school holidays or at other times when needed. It will be a lovely role for a nanny that enjoys a busy household and working with young children. For more information contact Alicja who has met the family.

Unknown social facts

Never mind what on Earth the word 'autism' might mean in this advertisement, never mind whether conductors are professionally prepared for the role of nanny, never mind what quite a few people in CE think of 'conductor-nannies', here is yet another potential conductor-nanny job and, whether this be a good thing or bad, I have no idea whether such opportunities are exceedingly rare, or an important and ready source of employment and income for young conductors.

A substantial number of Hungarians now live in London –

London may be home to up to 200,000 Hungarians, so many that it is popularly referred to as the second largest Hungarian city.

I have no way of knowing how true this figure is but one can be fairly sure that a large proportion of these London Hungarians are young, well educated and keen to work – and it is a fair bet that quite a few have been trained as conductors.

How many? Who knows? Possibly enough in number to compare or even exceed the low number who work in London in more 'traditional' conductor jobs?

Come to that, there are possibly more conductor-nannies in London than there are conductors in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where very few conductors work conventionally in conductive establishments. Within the United Kingdom as a whole, only England outside London might redress the balance.

Empirically speaking, then, what proportion of the unknown number of conductors working across the UK are conductor-nannies? In London anyway, in 2013, how should one respond empirically, asked the question 'What does a conductor do?' – or even the more basic one, 'What is 'Conductive Education?'

And how do such matters stand in other wealthy cities around the world, in countries at all levels of economic development?

Reputation and recognition

It has to be remembered that in the UK and other economically advanced countries the role of children's nanny is a profession, with training that involves not just child care and related fields but aspects of nannies' social and legal position in society. The work as a nanny without such training may put one at a decided disadvantage – not to put too fine a point on it, untrained nannies could get some things terribly wrong.

In the UK as elsewhere, conductors often express the themes of their professional reputation and recognition. Whatever the conductive capabilities of conductors involved, a disproportionate number working in a country as untrained nannies might have corresponding effects upon aspirations for reputation and recognition, not because nannies might be perceived as of more lowly status, but because of capital-city, dinner-party stories about unsatisfactory practice and experiences.

The roles of conductor and nanny may overlap, and a conductor with nanny-training might be really something, but a conductor working with a family, even if this occurs in the family home, is not de facto a nanny.

This question has rumbled away in the background ever since the late nineteen-eighties when conductors began to move out of Hungary to private employment with families abroad. There have been many satisfactory experiences reported on various grapevines 
 plus some truly horrendous horror stories  and some arrangements have formed the basis for the future development of successful CE centres. 

Over this time conductor-nannies have not contributed to the formal, public discourse of Conductive Education. I could be wrong, but I doubt that doubt that they will figure in the forthcoming draft programme for the next World CE Congress. The professional practice and the social position of conductor-nannies may, however, be a hidden factor in the course of Conductive Education that merits a wider public domain that provided solely by the small-ads columns.

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