Saturday, 13 October 2012


Something to bear in mind in planning the future

Norman Perrin and I have been bantering on Facebook. I had kicked off, he took the ball –


It is beginning to look like this may how much of it will look:
- local
- tiny
- parent-led
- family-oriented
- non-profit (though not necessarily a 'charity')
- no school (or 'conductor-teachers')
- not necessarily 'a centre'
Such features have been apparent for a long, long time. Should we now be considering them as a definitive model? (And all their implications for future training of conductors?)

Norman Perrin Broadly speaking, I welcome all new CE initiatives. One never knows whither they will lead (acorns and oak trees and all that). However, the atomisation of CE in the UK such as you describe is but one potential future. Collaboration, even amalgamation is another. Actually, as one who has been in the voluntary sector now for 20-odd years and seen many CE and other community projects fold because of financial pressures (especially when the when the business model is 'free places funded-through- fundraising'), I worry about the sustainability of 'tiny, local...')

Andrew Sutton The question of viability is an interesting one in 2012. I used to think it so important but the world changes and so perhaps does consideration of this. 'Viable' – if this means 'here to stay' I would ask what today is truly viable in that sense. State institutions change around us by the week to meet new goals and circumstances, and the non-state sectors are in constant flux as their business environments change. Perhaps non-permanence is now potentially and paradoxically a kind of viability, for services, goals, ideas, values... with the beneficial by-product of lessened personal regret when the people involved have to move on to pastures new. Isn't that already accepted as the carer trajectory that our young people are being educated for? Collaborations and mergers are surely subject to the same evolutionary forces. I don't say that I like all this but I am very aware that what I like is irrelevant in the face of powerful economic change.

Norman Perrin Twas ever thus. As Elliot has it –
    Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,
    Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
    Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires,
    Old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth.

This exchange is getting too long for Facebook's limited format...

Continuing the discussion...

Oh, Norman, T.S. Elliot did put things well. And of course he and you are right here to remind of what he said and meant.

As you did, I grew up in a place and at at time when the general presumption was that houses, and institutions, and ideas, would and should last, the only desirable change being their increase and enhancement. In that context T. S. Elliot's's words had the power to shock.

Unthinkingly I transferred this presumption to my own life and work, and aspirations – including the world of Conductive Education. I doubt that I have been alone in this!

Today the world has changed, and continues to do so. T.S. Elliot's sentiment moves from the shocking to the commonplace. I sometimes find this hard to accommodate to. I know that many others do too. With specific respect to Conductive Education, for example, I found it rather shocking when a few years back David Dworak drew attention to the fast turn-over of many CE centres in North America. But perhaps this was no more than yet another example of America's again leading the way to other people's futures. And I know that, more generally, there are many who are upset that what we call 'Conductive Education' is changing too.

Here is another long-term truth expressed in memorable and resounding words: 'Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live...' This is eternally true but for many in the developed world today, life-expectancy is just a little less short.

This counterposes the foregoing social trend. Having been socialised into the expectation, the mind-set of permanence, we are having rather longer to experience the new alternative. In other words, we may see our houses crumble well within a working lifetime, perhaps more than once. This is something that younger generations have increasingly to take on board, and education systems start claim to accommodate.

Just one of the new problems facing our area of interest as they develop into the new century...



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't quite know where to go with this discussion. Let me try this.

First and foremost, I'm Sarah's Dad. It was her 30th birthday in September. Since almost a year ago, she's been living with two friends in her own place. Of a weekend, she's regularly come home Friday after Paces and stayed until Saturday tea-time, when I take her back. She likes regularity does Sarah. Today she was a bit grumpy going back. I suspect she was put out because, unlike most Saturday's when we get a sandwich out somewhere, we came home for lunch.

Anyway, on my way back, I was listening to BBC Radio 4, a business programme, the topic of which was 'What do we mean by Quality'. One of the panellists was a businessman who bought failing companies, turned them round and sold them at a profit. A good business to be in at this time of economic recession, you might think. Not so, this chap said. Apparently in a recession there are fewer insolvencies than during a boom. Which are the countries in Europe currently with the lowest rates of business failure? Why, Ireland, Spain and Greece. A high level of business failure, it seems, is a sign of a healthy economy!

Maybe 'a few years back', presumably before the world economy shuddered in 2010, the 'fast turn-over' of conductive education start-ups and failures was a sign of a healthy economy, or, dare one say it, a healthy sector? People were bolder, dared more, took risks ... and failed.

I am and shall forever remain, as Sarah's Dad, immensely grateful that for the past 24 years her life (and our life as her parents) as been continuously informed by conductive education. I have no doubt whatsoever that her achievement (as great an achievement if not greater, than any pile of A*s at 'A' level or Firsts at a Russell Group University)in so successfully taking the enormous step in moving out of the family home, is a tribute to conductive education and to those conductors who have worked with her and to others who have worked conductively with her.

Continuity. Stability. Predictability. Regularity.

I began by saying that I was not sure where I was going with this. I do, now. It is in the lived experience of those, like Sarah, who have or do or will or should benefit from conductive education, continuously - as the prime, maybe even the only important dimension. For Sarah, 'a fast turn-over', maybe including periods without conductive education, would have been a sort of failure.

Nobody sets up a business with any other hope than for success and longevity. Nobody puts all their hopes in one conductive education egg-basket with the expectation of failure.

That simple thought means to me that questions of viable, sustainable business models are valid questions; that for a start-up conductive education business (or charity or social enterprise, it matters not the difference), asking which business models a more likely than others to lead to sustainability, longevity .. and continuity for the child-becoming-an-independent-adult .. is not just valid question, or an important one. It might be an essential one.

Essential, at least until come sweeping over us "boundless and bare/The lone and level sands" that "stretch far away".

Now I think I might have another glass of Vinho Verde.

Saturday, 13 October 2012 at 19:44:00 BST  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home