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Girls' Voices: supporting girls' learning and emotional development

Girls' Voices: supporting girls' learning and emotional development. By Leona Cruddas and Lynda Haddock. Trentham Books. pound;10.99.

This is a short and beautiful book describing two years' action research in the London borough of Newham using developmental group work, an extension of circle time focused on adolescents. The programme is framed in terms of listening to girls' voices and "removing barriers to learning". Therein lies its strength: to make education in school more effective. One of the girls comments: "The good things about school are education and friends."

The authors respect the pressure in the working lives of teachers and comment that, in one school, "the success of this initiative means that heads of house have been freed to focus on creating positive experiences for the benefit of all students".

There are sharp insights into the differences between how boys and girls are treated, and robust criticisms of the impact of primary-secondary transition on girls. The familiar issues are here: girls from ethnic groups, girls and friendship, girls and PE, girls and bullying.

Crucially, this is an account of how the improved and targeted resources of Excellence in Cities, implemented in Newham since 1999, can make a difference: learning mentors, SEN staff, teachers and learning assistants can create an effective, solution- and education-focused programme to support students. The book also relates the project's aims to the national curriculum and citizenship.

The final section describes how to set up developmental group work in school, and the concluding sentence is a call to action: "Participatory action research through developmental group work is a way of asking our pupils what we should do to make schools better places to learn and be happy in. Let's work for it!" Read the book, put it into action and let's see what happens.

HILARY BELDEN

Hilary Belden is co-ordinator of Ealing EiC action zone

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