As we start a new chapter, we remember the start of the story

By Norman Perrin, co-founder of Paces and our first CEO

Under the headline “New home at last for treasured city charity“, the Sheffield Star reported the opening of Paces’ new office and adult services base at Smithy Wood. Amidst the celebrations, the congratulations and the plans for the future, maybe a moment can be spared to remember those who came before?

The pioneers – Kirstin Hague, Sophie Tippett, John White, Angie Turner, Sarah Perrin: then still young Sheffield children and their families, who made the challenging journey to the Petö Institute in Budapest in the late 1980s and early 1990s, on the back of the challenge of fundraising every penny for each visit; journeying into a very different world from now and from one they knew then, sometimes for months on end. The Berlin Wall had only been only pulled down in November 1989 and Soviet troops finally withdrawn from Hungary only in June 1991;

Phil Robson: Education Officer for the the Spastics Society (now Scope) who helped bring the Conductive Education Summer Schools to Sheffield. 100 children from all over the UK and 50 conductors from the Petö Institute for 3 weeks each summer in 1992, 1993 and 1994; and Sue Collett, Conference Manager, who, on behalf of the University, looked after us each year; among the very first steps in the internationalisation of conductive education;

Scott Barton – Consort to Lord Mayor Doris Askham (1991-1992) in World Student Games Year; who with 24 hours notice helped us find accommodation for the Summer School at Sheffield Hallam University; who shortly was to set up ‘After Dark’, Sheffield’s 5th November firework spectacular with the first years’ donations going to Paces; whose introduction of Paces to Joan Armatrading led to the production of a CD “Lullabies With A Difference”; and later much more besides;

Lord Mayor Ian Saunders (1994-5), who adopted Paces as his charity of the year and later became a Trustee; and Lord Mayor Frank White (1998-99) who again adopted Paces, uniquely for a second time, as Lord Mayor’s charity of the year.

Barrie Briggs – CEO Sheffield Enterprise Agency – who taught us organisation & structure and the need for good governance & financial management;

Graham Moore of Westfield Health who came to a parent gathering at the last Summer School and on hearing of our ambitions for conductive education in Sheffield said “I thought these people had no chance. So I thought I should help them.”

Norman Adsetts, an early and longtime friend of Paces, who became a Patron and who as a grandparent of 2 autistic grandchildren knew the struggles families go through;

Ken Ruddiman – Principal of Sheffield College who gave Paces its first space, on the College site at Dyche Lane; while at Dyche Lane, Paces was registered as a charity in August 1995;

Glenn Allchurch and his colleagues of Mowlems plc who helped us renovate the accommodation and who later, with his colleagues was to help renovate Paces’ present school accommodation; not forgetting David Rodgers, who put so much time and effort into making the Dyche Lane accommodation warm and friendly;

Ildiko Kozma, who with her colleagues, supported those early sessions at Dyche Lane with conductors on placement from the Institute, until she judged it was time for us to recruit our own staff directly and who then rightly judged the time had come for us to stand on our own feet;

Jill Bungay: Property Services Manager for Sheffield Council who found us the High Green School site after months of searching for a permanent home “You’ll like it.” Quite who, at the highest level in the Council approved the Licence to Occupy at a ‘peppercorn’ rent, we never discovered, to be able to thank;

Steve Jenkinson – Paces’ first chair of trustees and all the first trustees;

And so, in 1997, to Paces Campus in High Green; Trisha Monteyne, our first headteacher; Helen Jackson, the then local MP; Brian Edley, asked by Helen Jackson to “to see what he could to help”, quickly opened and ran, with his wife Brenda, the cafe as the ‘heart of the Campus’; and the first 7 children and their families, including Ben whose Dad and Grandad between them brought him from Rochdale every day; all the new staff and conductors, too numerous to mention right here and now;

The late Cllr Pat Midgeley who tried to build bridges between Paces and the Education Department. “You have no friends in the Education Office”, said Phil Robson, by then lead Ofsted inspector, following his inspection of special education in Sheffield LEA. Pat struggled bravely.

Make no mistake – these were brave people; standing out and standing up for Paces when, in the press, conductive education was always “controversial”; when, long before Free Schools and Academy schools, the notion of parents setting up an independent school was regarded as absurd; especially a special school when the tide was for inclusion. People who gave of their time, of their energy and of themselves, to help parents achieve their ambitions and vision for their children.

All bricks in the Paces’ wall. Now there’s a commemorative idea!

Memories fade. Memory fails.  But “treasured city charity” – who’d have thought it?

The piece was originally written on Norman’s website. You can see more of his writing on conductive education at www.cejottings.co.uk.