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The great big book bonanza

What would you do with a cash windfall? Elaine Williams discovers how one school withlimited resources suddenly found itself with a very happy dilemma

King Edward VII in Sheffield has all the resourcing problems of a large, split-site urban comprehensive. The imposing stone edifice of the upper school building, a former boys' grammar set on the city's leafy west side, contrasts with the dilapidated Sixties structure of the lower school one-and-a-half miles away.

It is a vibrant, multiracial, oversubscribed institution where more than 20 languages are spoken and morale is high. Reports from the Office for Standards in Education are outstanding and the school scores well in league tables. However, there are 10 teachers fewer than there were 10 years ago for the same number of pupils and equipping departments and maintaining buildings are unceasing problems. Alongside its praise, Ofsted also commented on peeling paint and a lack of textbooks.

So when Pauline Cavill, a special education needs teacher and form tutor, won pound;4,500 for books for the school at last year's Education Show secondary book prize draw, the scramble was on. It was a welcome sum, but pound;4,500 doesn't go far in a school of 1,500 pupils.

Ros Wilkes, the school's learning resources co-ordinator, took charge of the spoils. The money had been donated by nine publishers and the books had to be selected from their catalogues. Mrs Cavill, justifiably, received the lion's share, with pound;1,500 going to special needs resources.

The music department spent pound;500 with Music Sales, mostly on sets of sheet music for small choirs, such as carols, madrigals and barber shop songs. It also chose staff textbooks on subjects such as oral training and some classroom material for key stage 3.

The library stocked up with pound;500 of educational reference books for the staff from the Accelerated Learning Company, covering subjects such as dyslexia, attention deficit syndrome and the psychology of learning. It also spent pound;500 on general information books from Wayland for lower school pupils.

The remaining pound;1,500 was spread across the school. English and modern languages received a cache of BBC videos and CD-Roms, including plays such as Romeo and Juliet.

But for Mrs Cavill it was better than Christmas. With 270 special needs children in the school, suitable books for them were in short supply. Her pupils have been "overwhelmed" by so much new material. "It has given us a terrific boost, " she says.

For children in Years 8 and 9, those with special needs, or in particular difficulty with English as a second language (ESL), King Edward's runs extra classes in English to replace the study of another language. Mrs Cavill chose Super Doopers (Longman) and Skyways (Collins) for their "colour, wit and interest", hoping they would be directly relevant to the children's lives.

For children in Year 7 who arrive at the school with a reading age of less than 10, or English as a second language, King Edward's runs an intensive reading programme, withdrawing the children from other lessons for an hour a day. Mrs Cavill was keen to find a reading scheme that was overtly multicultural and chose Wellington Square (Nelson), which tracks the daily lives of neighbours of all races who live in a large city.

She says: "I spent between pound;400 and pound;500 on this scheme because it fits the bill so well. I wanted something that the children could identify with immediately. Also this series has wonderful accessory material - information technology resources and games that are a lot of fun. It also has a good range of non-fiction books about football and motorcycling as well as biographies, including popular sports personalities."

For special needs maths sets throughout the lower school (11-16) she selected Maths in Action (Nelson), a project and topic-based scheme, for its clarity, colour and attractive layouts. She also favoured the economy of words on each page. "If there are too many words children can feel overloaded straight away. I feel this scheme really helps them to cope," she says.

As the department was lacking suitable plays for pupils, she went for titles from the Stanley Thornes Spirals series. She says: "It's very hard to find plays with the right level of language that doesn't insult a pupil's chronological age. These books have lots of graphic in-your-face humour that kids of this age relate to. Humour is something special needs children miss out on all the time because of problems in understanding."

She chose two titles: Books and Crooks, about a gang of crooks and what they get up to, and Clogging the Works, the story of a group of adolescents getting in and out of scrapes.

For books to read to pupils during small group work she chose Longman's Traditional Tales, a series of folk tales, myths, fables and legends. She says: "Kids of this age enjoy being read to just as much as young children. These are really beautiful books and will give us the chance to talk about illustration together. They realise that books are not just about reading complicated words on a page."

* This year's free secondary book prize draw in the Publishing Village at the Education Show is worth pound;5,000.

The draw takes place on March 13 after the show closes and the winner will be notified on March 15.

The contributing publishers are:

BBC stand PV2

Collins Educational stand PV64

Heinemann stand PV164PV188

Longman stand PV10

Oxford University Press stand PV114

Stanley Thornes stand PV202

Thomas Nelson stand PV30

Usborne stand PV126

Watts stand PV154

Wayland stand PV88

Music Sales stand J56

Accelerated Learning Co stand PV212

OFSTED stand L24


Visitors to the Education Show could walk away with some great prizes for their schools. Over pound;15,000-worth of resources have been pledged by members of the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA)for the free prize draw. There's the secondary book prize worth pound;5,000 (see below right) and the Educational Show prize draw for heads and deputy head teachers

* For further information about The Education Show,free tickets or information about subsidies travel offers contact the Ticket Hotline on 01203 426549. BESAis on stand G10

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