Families tell their stories

SCHOOLS HISTORY PROJECT THE TWENTIETH CENTURY WoRLD: Special Needs Support Materials. By Colin Shephard and Ann Moore. John Murray Teacher's Resource Book Pounds 35. Picture Pack Pounds 17.99.

The term "special needs" is a portmanteau for a variety of conditions and contexts and the Schools History Project team has taken this into account in designing this package.

The authors use the term "pathways" to describe the approach to their target groups - those who have severe difficulties in reading, those who can access some text, and slower learners and reluctant readers in mainstream classrooms.

The substantial Teacher's Resource Book is impressive with more than 200 of what it would be condescending to describe as worksheets, constituting as they do a self-contained course. The requirement that "at least one" depth study should be undertaken has been liberally interpreted; there are, in fact, six, the presumed rationale being that more focused topics assist the less able. The use of a German Jewish and an English Roman Catholic family as vehicles for the overview is not a success. Family history over five generations is a complex web and, although it works effectively to illustrate anti-Semitism and evacuation, the association of the families with events is in the main weak.

The tasks reflect serious thinking about the needs of the less able. The picture pack with separate guidance notes will attract many. Here the families, the Oppenheimers and the O'Connors, appear in depth studies in the context of the Second World War. This approach using visual sources only is described as a "minimum entitlement". In practice teachers will wish to use more sources than those suggested, picture packs for secondary schools are a rare commodity and the selection which includes Nevinson's painting "The Harvest of Battle" and Hiroshima after the bombing invites use.

These publications offer a bank from which to draw material for a particular target group and all who are teaching the 20th-century to the less able will find something that not only meets their needs but improves the quality of learning.

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