An encouraging development in the field of residential child care in Scotland has been the recent recognition by the Scottish Social Services Council of the BA in Curative Education Programme as an appropriate qualification route for those entering the residential child care sector in Scotland. What is interesting about this award, which is offered in a unique partnership between Camphill Rudolf Steiner Schools and the University of Aberdeen, is that it breaks the mould. The Programme integrates theoretical input with practical experience in a residential child care setting thus offering a unique opportunity to combine the development of cognitive, affective, personal and practical skills. Living and working in such a setting provides the opportunity for close, continuous supervision of work at all levels and facilitates the concurrent acquisition of theoretical insights, practical skills and personal growth.
Conferring recognition upon this award was a bold and imaginative move on the part of the Council, for this Programme represents a major departure from conventional forms of professional training. It means that curative education has been accepted as a professional discipline in its own right; the importance of an holistic approach to addressing the needs of the individual child has been recognised; and, the spiritual dimension in the provision of child care has been acknowledged.
Whilst no claims are being made that the BA in Curative Education provides a model that can be universally adopted, it does provide encouragement to those wishing to devise professional courses which are more “fit for purpose”. The aim of the Programme is to produce critical, reflective and intuitive practitioners who are capable of acting in a creative, innovative and ethical manner. One way of producing such practitioners is through daily and direct immersion in practical situations which demand the integration of theory and practice. There is a sense in which this might be seen as a form of “apprenticeship” in which skills are acquired, attitudes formed and values absorbed “on the job”.
It is to be hoped that in the present febrile climate there may be increasing scope to establish new approaches which are not based simply on reactions to scandals and the adoption of measures to counter child abuse, but which aim positively to meet children's needs, to foster the skills, knowledge, values and attitudes needed for good practice and to create a confident and competent profession in the process. However, if the principal driving force behind current social care reforms is the elimination of the risk of abuse, then one is likely to witness the emergence of sterile and stultifying child care regimes in which opportunities for personal growth and development of both children and professionals are significantly reduced.
Robin Jackson is a Professional Development Consultant with Camphill Rudolf Steiner Schools in Scotland