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Off The Shelf;Books

The great polymath Francis Bacon, it is said, was the last person who knew everything there was to know. From his time onward, everything just got more complicated and now you cannot even find anyone who knows everything there is to know about the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, let alone the wonders of the whole universe.

A dip into Education in the UK Facts and Figures by Donald Mackinnon, June Statham, Margaret Hales (Hodder and StoughtonOpen University. pound;9.99) reveals just how our corner of the cosmos has become a galaxy of acronyms, Acts, official reports and circulars.

The book is filled with factual information about our education system - what the various Acts and reports have said; what the official bodies do; what the different post-sixteen examinations are; how different kinds of school operate. It is difficult to imagine anyone in education who would not from time to time use it to fill a knowledge gap or rectify a lapse of memory, and I recommend it to conscientious governors who are fed up with having to ask basic questions.

Which brings us seamlessly to Understanding Attention Deficit Disorder by Christopher Green. (Vermilion, pound;8.99) . In this country, it seems, ADD, is at the point that dyslexia had reached 20 years ago. That is to say, some people promote it as a useful concept; some disbelieve in its existence; others think a label can be a substitute for tackling symptoms, or fear that "genuine" cases will be overwhelmed by over-anxious parents whose children are just being themselves.

All the worries, however, are tackled in Dr Green's very readable account which, though aimed at parents, will help teachers who come up against either the condition or a parent who asks about it.

ADD's unfamiliarity in the UK is underlined by its non-appearance in even the second edition of Troublesome Behaviour in the Classroom by Mick McManus. (Routledge, pound;12.99) But Mr McManus, a former teacher of long experience, knows what teachers have to cope with is what the children actually do rather than what labels they bring with them.

It is the author's understanding of real schools, and his ability to make the reader think about real solutions that make this book so positive and useful. The fact that it is very readable helps a lot too.

The Making of Curriculum by Ivor Goodson (Falmer Press, pound;12.95), now in a second edition, is a collection of essays that examines the issues around the growth of the generally accepted collection of subjects that make up the school curriculum. As a sideways look at the history of the modern education system, it makes fascinating reading. Another way into the history of education is to look at accounts of individual schools. DJ Armour's Felsted Preparatory School (Athlone Press, pound;16.95) is well-written, and I enjoyed the account of "The League of Manliness" which boys had to join on their 12th birthday, and which was much concerned with "impurity".

The road from impurity to Attention Deficit Disorder has been a long one. But I do wonder sometimes whether they both represent an adult need to stitch up normal youngsters with admonitory labels.

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