CitizenshipSEN - Eight special tales

Short stories that dig beneath the surface of troubled teens

Jo Knowsley

"Oby stands outside the head's office, rocking back and forth on his heels. He knows what's behind that door; every bluebird that flaps across the fussy wallpaper; how many birds face left from the floor to the ceiling; how many fly right towards the cabinet for the spoils of war, the trophies. Above the trophies, a royal blue caption proclaims: 'Well done St Joseph's Church of England Technology College.'

"And there are five 'Os' in that. Or maybe six."

In the life of Oby, the letter O is critical. As he waits for his expected telling off from the head, for a misdemeanour he doesn't fully understand, he is already calculating which word - which O - will save him from his imagined fate.

Oby is not a real boy, but one of eight children featured in as many short stories in the aptly titled Being Forgotten, written by teacher, foster parent and writer Katharine Ann Angel.

Each story outlines the very private world of a child affected by special educational needs, including dyslexia, or whose lives have been troubled by difficult family circumstances.

Angel, a 53-year-old mother of three, who has been a teacher in between raising her children and fostering since 1982, has had first-hand experience of them all. It was this, and her secret passion for helping troubled teenagers learn to read, that inspired the book, which is suitable for key stage 3 and 4 PSHCE and even English literature classes.

"I have given each child, in each chapter, a different voice," she says. "Each story highlights aspects of their lives - illiteracy, low self-esteem, resilience, attachment disorder and so on."

The final section of the book covers the background behind the stories and the characters and offers themes and questions for discussion in the classroom.

The writing is sometimes humorous, often poignant and always non-judgemental, and lends itself to a range of uses for teachers and trainees. Students could read the stories for homework, or discuss them in groups - prompting further debate on subjects such as bullying, anger and inclusion.

The stories have been used at Edge Hill University for first-year PSHCE students.

Being Forgotten is available from Amazon for #163;7.99, and will soon be available for the Kindle.


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Jo Knowsley

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