The bare necessities

2nd February 1996 at 00:00
Ann Lewis on practical guides to policy development

Policy Development for Special Educational Needs: A primary school approach. By Kathleen Luton. NASEN Pounds 5. Planning the Curriculum for Pupils with Special Educational Needs. By Richard Byers and Richard Rose. David Fulton Pounds 12.99.

Kathleen Luton's succinct Policy Development for Special Educational Needs: A primary school approach is deliberately narrow in focus and has a clear target audience. The 41-page booklet focuses on areas for possible inclusion in a primary school's policy document on SEN, as well as containing appendices of relevant checklists and pro formas. The policy guidelines draw heavily on the code of practice on identifying and assessing pupils with SEN, circular 6.94 on the organisation of SEN and associated regulations (notably those concerning school information on SEN policies).

Readers familiar with the source documents will find few surprises in the booklet, which is sound, if unexciting. As recent survey evidence has shown that only a small minority of primary schools do not have written policies, it may be used more as a guide for revision.

An inherent difficulty is that the material has two main target groups but may be unsuitable, for different reasons, for each. Teachers concerned about SEN issues probably have access to the source documents, local education authority materials and publishers' support. They do not need this simplified approach.

On the other hand, schools that wish to produce new written policies - or to revise existing ones - could use this booklet as a guide. However this is likely to lead to policies on paper that have little impact on, or relevance to, practice.

If schools need this material then they also need more than this, notably guidance about underlying conceptual frameworks and approaches for meeting individual learning needs. It is therefore disappointing that the list of background reading is brief and narrow, omitting many key publications such as the Innovatory Practice in Mainstream Schools Project.

The materials have no doubt been useful for the staff, pupils and LEA in which they were developed. But it is doubtful whether their strengths can be transferred more widely through publication of such summary documents.

Planning the Curriculum for Pupils with Special Educational Needs has a wider focus and more detail. Its 106 pages encompass nine sections, including schemes of work, principles, short, medium and long-term curriculum planning, assessment, recording and reporting, and curriculum co-ordination. This booklet contains much of value for teachers planning curricula for pupils with moderate, severe or profound learning difficulties. The heterogeneity of SEN practice across age phases and across specialmainstream sectors makes a single guide an ambitious target. There are frequent references to guidance from the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, although the code of practice features little. This reinforces the impression that this booklet is aimed primarily at special schools although this is not stated explicitly.

Both these booklets are intended as practical guides. They are attractively presented and contain potentially useful photo-copiable material. In summary, they are likely to be worthwhile if used judiciously alongside a wider range of materials.

Ann Lewis is senior lecturer in education at the University of Warwick

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