Ester Cotton

The five pillars and all that – what did Ester Cotton say?

I have just been working in the garden and thinking about the on-going discussion about the spread of Ester Cotton’s principles  on Andrew’s facebook page. It occurred to me that there are probably people who are reading all the comments who don’t know what Ester actually said, and what the principles are, that are now being questioned.
So I have given up on the pruning and weeding ( thank goodness!) and come inside to try and find material in the Internet which might help clarify what she said.
I have found a number of documents which are based on her principles and understanding of what she saw in Budapest in the late 1960s.

The article on her visit to Peto and his institute can be found on my blog at

She later wrote another article , published in  the Journal of Mental Subnormality, June, 1968, with Margaret Parnwell, about the service she had set up using the principles, and this can be found at
The now defunct UK Federation of Conductive Education produced a brochure  detailing the principles which has a foreword by Ester Cotton and this can be found at
The Scottish Centre for Children with Motor Impairments has a paper on its website which also gives details of these principles which I believe they use. (I hope someone will correct me if I am wrong about this.)
These are the result of a quick search based on my memory and I am sure that a longer more thorough investigatioin would turn up others too. I do know that more items written by Ester Cotton can be found in the National Library of Conductive Education at NICE, but these won’t be as easily accessed as the Internet.

Judit’s Hungarian book about Conductive Education

I have seen today a note on Judit Szathmary’s blog about a book on Conductive Education in Hungarian:
Hári Mária, Székely Ily (1963)  Bevezeto A Konduktiv Mozgaspedagogiaba; Pető András eloadasai es gyakorlati bemutatoi alapjan. Gyogypedagogiai Tanarkepzo Foiskola, Budapest: Tankonyvkiado.
Judit has a copy given to her by Ester Cotton, who had had the book signed by Maria Hari , making it a very special item  of CE literature.
I remember this book, as it was held in the National Library of Conductive Education whilst I was there.
If anyone wishes to look at it I suggest they contact the National Institute of Conductive Education in Birmingham or perhaps Judit,  via her blog at

Conductive Education classics no.2

The Institute for Movement Therapy and School for ‘Conductors’, Budapest, Hungary; a report of a study visit.

Over the years there has been a large number of reports of visits to the Pető Institute, in a variety of languages – English, German, Russian and Slovenian, for example. These form an interesting collection in the library as they not only present the different viewpoints of health professionals, parents, teachers and academics but also give different accounts of the work there over a period of time.
The first to come out of Hungary in English was that by Ester Cotton, a physiotherapist, reporting her study visit to Pető’s institute in 1965. Her first visit at the instigation of Berta Bobath was only for one day, but she returned after being granted a month’s study leave from the Bobath Centre and obtaining a bursary from the UK Spastics Society (Russell and Cotton, 1994). On her return to England her enthusiasm for Pető’s system led her to set about trying to bring the system out of Hungary.
The institute was residential and Cotton gave a detailed account of the daily routine for the children which started at 6.00am when the children were woken and finished at 7.00pm. The group, rhythmical intention, and its effect were outlined, along with general background information on the institute’s set-up, equipment and staffing. The report included a number of photos of the children on the plinths, standing, and walking with the conductors.
Although she wrote of ‘unity of treatment and education’ and ‘conductors’ there was no mention of ‘Conductive Education’.
An abstract of the article was appended in English, French and Spanish.
Copies of this article can be obtained from the library. Further details on request.


Cotton, E. (1965) The Institute for Movement Therapy and School for ‘Conductors’, Budapest, Hungary; a report of a study visit. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 7, pp.437-446.
Russell, A. and Cotton, E. (1994) The Peto system and its evolution in Britain. London: Acorn Foundation.