7th May 2004 at 01:00
TEACHERS' LEGAL LIABILITIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES: The Bristol guide. University of Bristol graduate school of education. pound;5.50, discounts on multiple copies. Order from:

This is a pocket-sized booklet from Bristol's excellent Document Summary Service. Aimed initially at teachers in training, it provides a readable and reliable precis of the law as it applies to teachers and others working with young people. Sensibly, it starts with pay and conditions of employment and (in some detail) with induction. It goes on to explain the general duty of care for pupils, and the special implications of this whenever children are in the care of teachers off the school premises.

Other sections deal helpfully and clearly with health and safety, and with all requirements (and pitfalls) involved in issues of behaviour and discipline.

The statutory framework is outlined too, with regard to the duties of schools laid down in race relations and anti-discrimination legislation. So are the implications of the obligations to promote educational and social inclusion and equal access to education, and the definitions and consequences of teacher misconduct.

In all of this there are full cross-references to the legislation itself and to websites that offer more detailed guidance. It's a handy reminder of where we stand in law, and given the ever-increasing threats of litigation, it's reassuring.

Michael Duffy * New teachers: don't miss First Appointments, free with The TES this week

OUT OF THE DARKNESS: Teens talk about suicide. By Marion Crook. Arsenal Pulp Press pound;9.99 (distributed by Turnaround,

We all drive this subject from our minds as soon as it peers in. The blurb says it's "too horrible to contemplate, let alone talk about openly". Even for this (Canadian) author, well experienced in researching troubled young people, a study of teenage suicide seemed a project too far, and she shied away for a long time.

Eventually, though, she advertised for young people who had contemplated suicide or survived attempts, and interviewed 30 of them. You can only admire her for doing, on her readers' behalf, something almost too harrowing to think about. "I sat on a bench in Trinity Square in Toronto growing colder by the minute while a teen told me what it was like to be so alone that death seemed better than any life she could imagine."

It's a difficult book to read, but it's timely and well done. And towards the end there are practical details about recognising suicidal signs, and dealing with the aftermath of an attempt. The overarching message, though is familiar enough: "There is no magic cure, gesture or incantation that will make suicide go away, but if we learn to truly listen to our teens, their chances of trying suicide will decrease dramatically."

THE ALI ABBAS TORY:The moving story of one boy's struggle for life. By Jane Warren. Harper Collins pound;14.99

Ali Abbas looked out from our television screens in the spring of last year - a beautiful boy of 12 who had lost his arms in the bombardment that preceded the final assault on Baghdad. Worldwide media attention followed his transfer to hospital in Kuwait, with a letter from Californian governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, media-sponsored fundraising events and offers of treatment in the famous hospitals of the West. Eventually, in a move arranged by the Limbless Association in the UK, Ali came to Queen Mary's Hospital, Roehampton, to be fitted with the hi-tech prosthetics which is that hospital's speciality.

It's a heartening story about a remarkable boy who has survived dreadful physical and emotional loss. Now he's surrounded by love and care, at home and at school in England, with the uncle who left his own family to look after him. At the end Ali says: "Crying won't help; it won't get me things back. I'd better get on with it and get my education."

Meanwhile, on April 21, 2004, a year and a bit after the day we first saw the pictures of Ali, 68 people, including a busload of children going to school, were killed by suicide bombers in Basra.

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