We are proud to work with NICE – Centre for Movement Disorders and their Conductive College, awarding their BA (Hons) in Conductive Education. Recently, a Master’s degree in Education was developed which allows students to specialise in Conductive Education at an even higher level. Julia McDonald has become the first person in the whole world to receive a Master’s degree in Conductive Education! We spoke to Julia to learn about why she took on the challenge of higher study and what she’s taking away from it.
“I finished my training as a conductor back in 2004, before the Conductive College even existed! I knew about the profession from a young age. My older cousin was amongst the first British Conductors to train at the Petö Institute in Hungary (where Conductive Education was founded) before training was set up in the UK. As soon as I knew what she did – and saw the impact it had on the lives of people with physical disabilities – I decided that was what I wanted to do.
"After qualifying I worked in a Conductive Education summer camp in Ontario, Canada before moving to Lancashire and working as Outreach Conductor at Rainbow House (a children's charity, which provides Conductive Education). I worked there for 15 years, progressing through different roles, holding the Lead Conductor position for the last 10 years.
“After a few years working as a conductor I began thinking about my professional development and how I could further my own knowledge and skills. I looked into various options such as a Master’s in Psychology or a PGCE (teacher training) but nothing really attracted me as all I wanted was to do more in Conductive Education. So when the Conductive College launched the MA in there was no question in my mind about signing up to it.
“The variety of modules offered on the course was exactly what I wanted. The practice tutor module was the first one I took. It allowed me to supervise undergraduate student conductors in my setting, which allowed us to train two conductors 'in-house' and was such a great tool to improve my knowledge and skills in both principle and practice of Conductive Education (and this impact was felt across others in our Conductive Education services too).
“By contrast, more theory-based modules, such as Special Pedagogy, helped me to bring my academic knowledge of Conductive Education up to date and gave new breadth and depth to my understanding of Conductive Education and my ability to articulate it.
“The idea of a dissertation sounds tough but it was a real pleasure to delve so far into exploring a single aspect of Conductive Education. I chose to look at the concept of orthofunction (a term used in Conductive Education to describe the aim of our practice) as my professional experience led me to believe there was significant variation in what people perceived to be the definition of this term and that these differences seemed to influence practice between different conductors. I am so grateful that many conductors contributed to my dissertation and I look forward to sharing the results of the project at the annual Conductive Education Professional Education Group (CEPEG) Conference in 2020.
“None of the work was easy but I can honestly say it was all enjoyable. The study was at my own pace and I hopped in and out of the modules over a few years which really suited me as I was able to fit it around my work and young family.
“The MA had a huge impact on my work as soon as I started it by letting me step back and examine my practice at a deeper level. It has given me a breadth of understanding of my work and confidence to articulate this.
"In summer of 2019 I moved on and launched my own private practice providing CE in people's homes and in the community to children and adults across the North West. Having just set up my own services, the Master’s also really helps my professional 'identity' when meeting with potential clients or other professionals since Conductive Education is not well known as an approach. The opportunity to explore Conductive Education at a postgraduate level has empowered me as a conductor and I would recommend it to anyone!”
What does a conductor in training do?
We spoke to an undergraduate student to find out what she gets up to on a typical day on placement.