Off to a good start

TEACHING IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS. Edited by Asher Cashdanand Lyn Overall. Cassell Pounds 12.99 Tel: 01202 670581

There is a television advertisement which claims, in a laid-back sort of way, that the product on view simply "does what it says on the label". The same claim can be made for this book. Aimed at students and newly qualified teachers, it covers primary school teaching in a way that is remarkable given its relative brevity (220 pages).

There are 20 contributors: academics, advisers, teachers, special needs experts, heads. They write to their respective strengths, so each chapter carries the stamp of authority.

Part One is "Becoming a teacher"and begins with a chapter by Angela Rees on the new national curriculum for teacher education. It is supported by "Partnership in primary school experience" by Alan Haigh, a discussion of the increasingly important role of the class teacher in the mentoring of student teachers. As he points out, the idea is not new - it harks back to the pupil-teacher system of the 19th century.

Part Two is "The context of teaching", with chapters about the system and the pressures and influences upon it. David Turner's on "The Development of the English primary school" is informative and, at times, entertaining, especially on school buildings. Post-war schools, for example, "Iwere characterised by flat roofs, an over-indulgence in asbestos and some rather dangerous heating systems with cast iron coal-burning stoves".

Part Three is the longest, with seven chapters about the actual business of teaching and learning. There is a background chapter on the national curriculum, by David Owen, and separate chapters on English, maths, science and PSE, as well as one on geography and history and another on new technologies. Again, the offerings are up to date, proper attention being paid, for example, to the numeracy and literacy initiatives.

Part Four is "Relationships in school and with the community" and covers special needs, classroom assessment, behaviour management and accountability.

The book is coherent, and each author finds the right balance between academic credibility and informality of voice. All are either on the staff at Sheffield Hallam University, or working in education in the area. Together, they have done a service to those who are embarking on the teaching profession.

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