And so on Sunday we flew home from Munich and the 8th World Congress. On Monday, the Ofsted Inspector announced his imminent presence, arrived Tuesday morning at 8.00am and gave his feedback on Wednesday at 4.00pm. Home and back to earth! His judgement is embargoed until formally published by Ofsted in about 2 weeks time.
Munich and the 8th World Congress will, for me, be ever associated with my Honorary Conductor award. May I say one more time how proud I am to have received it. Thank you, too, to all the many colleagues old and new who kindly in person congratulated me. The impressively bound certificate will be treasured.
I was touched, too, by the kindness shown me by colleagues from SAHK who gave me a wholly unexpected gift of a picture painted by one of their clients, now hanging in our dining room; and Magara Millan of Con Nosotros in Mexico for the gift of “Acto de Presencia – Antologia Poetica”.
As always for me, the pleasure of the 8th World Congress was in the chance meetings and conversations even more than the formal presentations.
I had been looking forward to meeting fellow blogger, “lawyeronwheels” Ralph Strzałkowski. We had a long chat during which, talking about life as a person with cerebral palsy, Ralph displayed a clarity of reflection and introspection that was both illuminating and a bit scary. Listening to Ralph, I thought deeply of my 31 year old daughter, Sarah, and her need for advocacy by someone with Ralph’s insights. An amazing guy.
Another amazing and delightful person is Birgit Kober: double Paralympic Gold medalist in London 2012 where she broke the World record in both javelin and shot putt and has since gone on to defend both her World titles in 2013. As I said in the Parents’ Round Table session, why are German employers not queuing up to employ this multi-talented young woman, who speaks four languages and has studied at degree level? (BTW Birgit studied “Pedagogy”. Is it possible in the UK to study Pedagogy?
Paces is a bit unusual in several ways, so I’m always looking out for the conductively unusual elsewhere. As with Ralph and Birgit, my meeting with Bettina Brühl was all too brief. I have long wondered whether it might be possible to have an inclusive nursery or school for children with and without disabilities – with conductive education at the heart of its practice – and under what conditions. Bettina has kindly sent me her Congress presentation; there’s much to get my head around, but this new school, opened just this September, linking conductive education with Montessori practice seems an interesting innovation and experiment. I may have to return to Bavaria!
Good, too, was talking with the guys (sorry, I did not note down your names) from the Centre for Independence through Conductive Education (CfI), based in Countryside, outside Chicago. http://center-for-independence.org I was especially interested in their Poster: “Developing an orthofunctional personality through adaptive sports”, a collaboration between CfI and a local special recreation organisation for children with motor dysfunctions, SEASPAR. As we at Paces Campus at last begin to develop our sports, fitness and wellbeing facilities and activities (see for instance our recent Inclusive Sports Spectacular day), what a pleasure it would be if it were possible to "pop over" to CfI and learn from their experience!
More generally, and briefly, I have come away with several reflections – which may approximate more or less with reality and which will be for debate elsewhere on other occasions. Two in particular:
Conductive education in Germany is much more closely bound in with health services and is therefore seen more as therapy than education than in the UK. Is this because historically a key source of funding is health insurance?
The challenge of inclusion – and its threat to special education – seems to be a live debate in Germany. Inclusion ran as a thread through several Congress presentations that I attended. This is not the place to enter that debate but in both countries I suspect that protagonists of “inclusion” simply mean all children attending the same local school, thereby confusing “education” with “schooling” from the outset.
I was troubled by some of the representations of conductive education that I heard. An early notable example came in one of the opening keynote presentations: Conductive education, it was said, is “repetitive block therapy based upon repetitive training of functional skills in everyday living”. I wanted to respond flatly, no it is not. But I have heard something similar in the UK recently.
All in all? Transport between hotels and congress venues aside, and the lack of seats of any kind, never mind wheelchair height seats and tables in public areas, Congress was again a worthwhile and enjoyable experience, the best attended Congress yet; one that I was glad to attend with colleagues from Paces. Thanks to all the organizing committee for your hard work. Finally, should any reader or CE colleague ever find yourself near Sheffield, you would be very welcome to visit us at Paces.