Bouquet of the week

30th January 1998 at 00:00
Schools are full of special people who make a difference every day to children's lives. These are the teachers and other staff who we celebrate in Friday, sending flowers to say well done, thanks, and please stick at it - our schools need you!

This week's bouquet goes to Mrs Alison Welsh, reception class teacher and special needs co-ordinator at Willesborough Infants School in Ashford, Kent. "We don't know how she does it," say the eight learning support assistants who sent me a note describing their "brilliant line manager and good friend".

Like thousands of SENCOs, Mrs Welsh has her own class - four-and-five-year-olds - but is always ready "to support parents and pupils, to counsel and listen to younger members of staff".

Her practical advice and experience are highly valued in this large infants school (425 pupils on roll) which integrates physically disabled children. Even after their children have left, parents come back to Mrs Welsh for her tips, especially on learning difficulties and behaviour.

"She's a remarkable lady, an absolute whizz," says headteacher Judith Paul, who admires the fact that, on top of everything, Alison recently got an Open University degree in psychology.

OFSTED has praised the special needs practice at Willesborough but we think it's unlikely that the inspectors saw Mrs Welsh's mountain of paperwork. "She keeps it in a basket - a laundry basket actually - which she carries out to her car," says Vicky, part of her team. So to all you SENCOs out there, lugging laundry baskets, plastic crates and shopping trolleys from the staffroom to the car park - you are not alone.

Now, who cares about teachers with special needs of their own, like the "tallies" featured this week? It may seem frivolous, but given the increasing height of the human race - four inches in as many generations - why don't bed designs, door frames and school furniture take it into account?

Don't be defeated, is Professor Ted Wragg's advice about the trouble with boys, especially their performance in English. Leading our subject of the week pages, his starting points might just do the trick if you're feeling overwhelmed by "grunting and laddishness". And for all English teachers everywhere, we've chosen Poet Laureate Ted Hughes's Birthday Letters as Book of the Week. The poems, written to Hughes's first wife, Sylvia Plath, have caused a sensation. Read them for yourself, including "The Minotaur" which we print in full, and you'll see what all the fuss is about.

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