Thursday, 5 May 2011

Informed choice...

What do I do?
What about parents?
And what did Marilyn Monroe say about all this?

I should be out voting.

Today the polls are open across the United Kingdom to vote upon what voting system we should use in future Parliamentary elections – well, at least to chose between the long-hallowed system that we have always used, 'first past the post', and just one of the umpteeen possible alternatives, AV or 'alternative vote'.

Every household in the country has received a comprehensive booklet explaining the implications of the two. Politicians and the media, trustworthy sources neither of them, have banged on about the respective virtues – and dangers. I am none the wiser. There are significant differences between the two, and how the country votes on this will determine the results of General Electios and the shape of governments for years to come.

I am interested in politics and have always been always concerned about 'the shape of government for years to come' but – relatively informed as I consider myself to be – I cannot work out how to chose.

Basically, I cannot decide what would be for the best, for me or my society. In real elections, where intellect fails, there are always candidates to personify the choice, and in the last resort 'tribal voting'. Here I am, though, stuck with a wholy intellectual choice – and my intellect is not up to it. Maybe, with nothing really to justify my choice, I shall imply abstain. I suspect that many will do just that, resulting in a ridiculously low turnout – making a choice that will determine the outcomes of possibly far higher turnouts in subsequent elections.

Nice one, HMG!

And what about Jo Parent?

If Jo Public is up a gum tree over this one, what about Jo Parent?

Years of involvement in helping advocate parents' rights have found me a strong advocate for informed parental choice in allocating, say, educational resources. Of the alternatives, bureaucratic choice (sometimes suger-wrapped as professional choice) has always truck me as the least preferable, most worst system.

My today's persnal dilemma is salutary. Am I any better or worse off in this situation than, say, parents of a disabled child offered the possibility of making an informed choice about their child's services, for which they will have to become critically informed in unfamiliar technical fields then, so informed, make a perhaps irrevocal intellectual choice on what to do what to decide 'for the best', for their child and for themselves?

I am not the only one to have spotted problems here. Peter Limbrick has his own long history of advocating parents' right to informed choice. Depending upon how things work out over the next few months, the Green Paper on Special Educational Needs might mean that disabled children in England will depend rather more upon their parents' choice, informed or otherwise, than has been the situation hitherto. Yesterday Peter wrote –

If a politician reassures you that there will be knowledgeable people on hand to support parents in their choices, please inform him or her that, by and large, there is no 'knowledge' in the field of early childhood intervention for disabled children. We do not have a body of science to refer to. The more complicated a child's condition, the more each child is a new mystery and the more we all must resort to trial and error, groping in the dark with little more than a 'suck it and see' strategy to offer new parents.
These problems do not come with the coalition government. In our traditional services there was always the danger of overloading some disabled infants and there has never been an effective early childhood intervention science. The question has to be, 'Will empowering parents to select and secure support for their child improve the situation?' Perhaps while we wait for an answer to emerge, the best we can achieve is to support parents as best we can (if they want us to) as they throw their dice or, eyes closed, stick their pin in the map.
For good or ill, radical changes are coming and, in part, the coalition government is creating a bigger space for changes that were already happening. Statutory services (health, education, social care) will soon cease to be at the core of support for children with disabilities and their families. They will cease to be the main providers or deciders of what children and families get. This will require a fundamental shift in how statutory service providers think and how they shape what they offer. There is very great danger that some new parents will be even more confused, even more lost and even less supported than they have been in recent decades. I see babies going down with the bathwater.

See his whole thoughtful piece at:

And what about Conductive Education in England...?
What indeed, at two levels?
  • Individuals conductors, centres where they work, and possible users of Conductive Education, may indeed find themselves in a situation where funding for services is more genuinely up for grabs than it is now, and where misunderstanding, misrepresentation and even downright lies may be bandied about with abandon to 'inform' parental choice. Clarity and consistency will be even more essential than now in informing what Conductive Education is and does – and isn't and doesn't. (This of course applies equally to all the other things on offer). One would like to hope that practical preparations for such a contingency are being made for this as I write...
  • At a higher level, this emophasises Conductive Education's opportunity, and problem, of offering something from a different – and more advanced – paradigm, not just choice between different versions of the same sort of thing but choice of something altogether different. Now's there's something to be bending the mind to in the new dispensation.
Still, I can't complain. 'Informed choice' is what so many have called for, so will be interesting to see what, if anything, transpires. Meanwhile, here's Marilyn Monroe with a cheery dittie on the subject:

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