A clear message emerging from the annual conference of the Scottish Institute for Residential Child Care earlier this month was the need to develop a more holistically-oriented model in view of the manifest and manifold weaknesses of the current social work-oriented model.
A qualification based on a social pedagogic model is on offer in Scotland, however. In March 2003, the Scottish Social Services Council recognised a BA in curative education as an appropriate qualification for those working not only in the residential childcare sector but also in the wider social care sector in Scotland.
The programme is offered in a partnership between the Camphill Rudolf Steiner School and Aberdeen University. "Curative education" refers to a trans-disciplinary professional activity in which aspects of care, education, therapeutic and medical activities, the use of crafts and creative arts are all integrated to form a holistic approach in supporting children and adults with complex needs.
What makes it unusual is the fact that, over the four years of the programme, students "live the course" in a residential care community. Thus the line between "classroom learning" and "learning in practice" is deliberately blurred - a practice strongly advocated by the Scottish Executive.
The holistic model - which embraces mind, body and spirit - is attracting the attention of those working in mainstream social care, medical, nursing and psychological professions in the UK. It is also relevant at a time when the dominant values of contemporary western culture can be characterised as anti-spiritual, anti-aesthetic and anti-ecological.
Karl Konig, the Austrian paediatrician who brought the Camphill community to Scotland in 1940 after fleeing the Nazi barbarism, developed a vision of a "learning community" where the traditional boundaries between professional disciplines would be dissolved; where the spiritual well-being of those in the community would be nurtured and respected; where creativity, spontaneity and originality would be encouraged; and, where ecological sensitivity and responsibility would be exercised.
He was looking at one possible way to generate social renewal at a time of social disintegration and to send a message of hope at a time of universal despair. It is a vision which has a strong contemporary resonance, an approach described in Holistic Special Education: Camphill Principles and Practice (edited by Robin Jackson), published by Floris Books.
Robin Jackson Bieldside Aberdeen