Both teachers and parents are increasingly using Clean Language in education.
At a simple level, the Clean questioning approach, with its acceptance of the subject’s view of the world and its fascination with imagined metaphoric landscapes, can be used to find out about a young child’s experience. For example, a parent could ask about a picture they have brought home, to get a them telling stories about the things they have painted. Clean Language questions such as “What kind of castle is that?” “Is there anything else about that dragon?” “Whereabouts is the dragon?” or “What happens next?” all make perfect sense in the context.
But Clean Language facilitators in education have also used the approach to good effect in more sophisticated ways. In particular, it has been used to help tackle behavioural problems. Just as in adult therapy, children can be helped to self-model, to find out how particular behaviours happen, what their consequences are, and to discover new choice points for themselves. This approach has been used with a number of youngsters who were in danger of exclusion from school: as a result of the Clean Language sessions, they developed a new level of self-control and were able to continue in mainstream education.
Teachers like Julie McCracken of Colchester also use Clean Language in everyday education, in the classroom and playground. Julie particularly likes the way the Clean approach emphasises self-actualisation, empowering children to make their own decisions. Her favourite Clean Language question is: “<Given the situation>, what would you like to have happen?” which has helped her pupils to identify their own goals and resolve their own disputes and dilemmas. Initially, Julie was the one asking the Clean Language questions. But with repetition, her pupils picked them up and began to ask them of each other – again, empowering the children themselves.
And it is certainly possible for children to learn to use the Clean Language questions very effectively. A twelve-year-old, Amanda Stanton-Nelson, recently became a Certified Clean Facilitator. She had trained alongside adults, practised with adults as clients, and was assessed to the same standards as her adult colleagues. Now her ambition is to become a Clean Language trainer, so that she can teach other children to use Clean Language to enhance their own lives.
In the future, we may see Clean Language used in education more generally. A project at Liverpool John Moore’s University, initiated by Caitlin Walker of Training Attention, seeks to encourage the entire Education Department (which trains the teachers of the future) to adopt approaches such as the Clean Feedback Model.