Saturday, 21 February 2015


So it goes

The following summary of a lecture to a scientific meeting in Newcastle-upon-Tyne nearly 28 years ago was recently trawled up from the depths of the Internet –
Evaluating Conductive Education

Andrew Sutton

Conductive Education for children and adults with motor disorders has been developed in Hungary over more than forty years. It has not, however, been subject to evaluative research. Interest outside Hungary has led to a range of attempts to establish Conductive Education programmes but their evaluation has been patchy and what their has been has not been encouraging.

Such programmes in the English-speaking world have had in common a lack of professional training in the system, and absence of Hungarian participation in establishing it. Recent interest among potential consumers of the system and the visit of large numbers of families from this country to Budapest have resulted in political interest in setting Conductive Education in the UK on the Hungarian model. A new charity, the Foundation for Conductive Education has been set up to ensure this transfer, through conductor-training, the establishment of conductive groups and the initiation of the Foundation's first major project, an Institute in Birmingham catering initially for spastic children, later for adults with Parkinson's disease too. Numbers of children and adults helped will be small, and it may take some time to establish Conductive Education at the same level as it is practised in Budapest. Nevertheless, the Institute's work will be monitored from the outset. The Institute opens in September 1987.

Questions already widely asked on Conductive Education include the following: Where does the 'essence' of this system lie, what is the 'active agent' that brings about change?' Is the system selective with respect to the adults and children whom it admits and, if so, on what bases. How do its results compare with good services according to current British models? What factors counter-indicate success? In what areas of function is it successful, and where less so? Does it have deleterious effects? What are the cost-benefits? The presentation will address some of the problems both technical and otherwise that are already apparent at this early stage of the work.

I cannot remember the occasion of the lecture summarised here, though I suppose that I just might be able to find a copy of the full notes or text. No matter, I suppose, no one either then or since seems to have followed up the questions reported that distant summer's day in 1987 (not just my own, by any means). With the wisdom of hindsight it is hard to think who might later have done so, in what context, to what ends and with what funding in mind to answer them. Anyway, such considerations were soon swept aside by events. Ah, events, dear boy, events... How very true, whoever said it.

I still think that the preliminary lines of enquiry outlined above are rather good ones – then I would, wouldn't I? And that what has been done instead in the guise of 'CE research' has hardly proved productive. Still, what do I know? Perhaps there is a whole new generation of scholarly interest waiting just around the corner (and the required funding to boot).

All these years later none of the questions raised in the third paragraph of the above summary have been satisfactorily addressed. And all these years later I have seen and heard enough to raise a few further ones, perhaps more fundamental. Others may have some too.

All rather academic, really...


Sutton, A. (1987) Evaluating Conductive Education, Proceedings of the 19th Scientific Meeting of the Society for Research in Rehabilitation, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 8-9 July, 
International Journal of Rehabilitation Research, vol. 10, no 3, p. 349

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