A wide world of materials for the classroom

3rd February 2006 at 00:00
Meeting SEN in the Curriculum: Geography By Diane Swift David Fulton pound;25 (Paperback and CD-Rom)

Anyone who knows Diane Swift or has heard her speak will recognise the contagious enthusiasm for geography that runs throughout this book. But its strength lies in its roots as a collaborative action research project, using experienced SEN geography teachers and case studies of individual students. It is real, contemporary and relevant to anyone who teaches geography in Britain today, not just SEN teachers.

This well-structured book covers equality issues, department policy, types of SEN, inclusive geography classrooms, outdoor learning and monitoring and assessment. It interweaves policy with theory and practice and presents a constant, gentle challenge to any geography practice that may exclude students with SEN.

It is clear that the authors believe that every child matters. The benefit for the readers is that they have been able to offer ways to turn this ideal into action.

Ask any geographer what they like best about their subject and many would put fieldwork at the top of the list. Nevertheless, fieldwork has been in decline, due largely to fear of litigation and curriculum pressures. The chapter on outdoor learning makes a robust case for its revival.

Like the rest of the book, it not only shows how to cater for students with special needs, but also offers suggestions for alternative teaching practice.

The chapter describing different types of SEN is as illuminating as it is comprehensive. It covers dyslexia, moderate and severe learning difficulties, attention deficit disorder, autistic spectrum disorder, Fragile X and many others.

Each SEN profile provides an overview, followed by a case study of a student. The profiles outline how better SEN knowledge can lead to improved access to the geography curriculum, both in the classroom and through outdoor learning. This chapter will be a welcome resource to most geography departments and it makes you wonder how much better education would be if we had time to get know every child's needs in the ways described here.

If we want to support students with special needs to allow them access to the geography curriculum, we may need to rethink our teaching practice.

Diane Swift's tips are helpful and inspirational and are likely to have a positive impact on every student.

Martin Crabbe is head of geography at Glebe School, Bromley

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