Friday, 13 June 2014


A quotable quote
A sentiment of its time

Dr Tom Stuttaford worked as a family doctor in Norwich, and for 27 years, till 2008, served as the Medical Correspondent to The Times. His regular weekly column in that newspaper made him de facto medical interpreter and health guru to the British Establishment. He still writes monthly for The Oldie magazine.

I met him once, in those thrilling, distant days when Conductive Education was a national cause célèbre, even for a while a matter of interest within the Establishment. We met over dinner at the handsome flat that served as the Residence of the Hungarian Ambassador, as quests of the last Ambassador of the Hungarian Peoples' Republic, Mátyás Domokos. It was a very pleasant evening in the company of two very civilised but very sharp inquisitors.

Dr Stuttaford went to the Pető Institute in Budapest, to see for himself what all the fuss was about. He spent some time with Mária Hári. I think that they were mutually impressed. He published his impressions in a one-page feature in The Times:

Great credit to Norman Perrin for preserving this document from 1987 and making it so readily accessible – with a text version too for those who prefer one:

A doctor speaks

The article is redolent with the emerging world of the then new enthusiasm for Conductive Education of the time, and strongly parent-oriented. Parents' enthusiasm for Conductive Education in the United Kingdom was closely linked with their general dissatisfaction with existing special schools and the wish to sweep these schools away – but not to be replaced by the model of 'inclusion' that is manifest in this country today. Through the action group RACE (Rapid Action for Conductive Education) parents were campaigning hard for the introduction of special pedagogy for children with motor-disorders, not its abolition. They dreamed of 'getting Conductive Education over here' as a replacement for the existing services provided by the state. No wonder Conductive Education met such vigorous opposition!

Tom Stuttaford's article in The Times evoked the image of a converted minibus (the short bus) delivering children to special schools, 'a depressing feature of early-morning life'. His article made a powerful statement for Conductive Education. It concluded –

If I were the parent of a child with cerebral palsy, I would want Dr Hari's opinion before I assigned my child to the minibus run.

Some years after Norman Perrin blogged approvingly of this article –

In passing, I note – with no surprise – that the author is a doctor, not an educator...

This is perhaps less surprising when one has mind that this doctor had been a general practitioner, a family doctor – not a specialist in the workings of some component sub-system.


Stuttaford, T. (1987) Standing on their own two feet, The Times, 1 October

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