Bouquet of the week

5th March 1999 at 00:00
Children's compliments are often the ones that staff treasure most. Sandra Hickman quotes a 10-year-old boy who had trouble learning to read in the infants. She helped him when he was struggling, and he's hasn't forgotten. "Mrs Hickman," he told her recently, "I'm not afraid to stand up and read any more."

Sandra Hickman is a classroom assistant concerned with special needs in a Berkshire primary - Sulhamstead and Ufton Nervet Church of England Primary School. Twenty years ago her own young son struggled at school, but dyslexia wasn't diagnosed until he reached secondary. Since then she's been on a mission to help others.

"In those days I felt on my own, fumbling around and being fobbed off. I was told my son's difficulties were down to my middle-class anxieties."

When she and her family moved to Berkshire, Sandra joined Sulhamstead and Ufton Nervet as a lunchtime supervisor. Then a vacancy came up for a teaching assistant and she took a course at The Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre.

Since then Sandra has become expert at devising games for children and drawing in reluctant readers. "With some children their confidence is absolutely nil. But if you tailor-make a game for them and add some fun and humour to the exercise, they're away."

She sees 15 children on a one-to-one basis, works with spelling and handwriting groups, and helps in classrooms alongside teachers.

She recently did a presentation to the school's governors about her work; they were so impressed they nominated her for Friday's Bouquet of the Week. "She is achieving great results and deserves a huge pat on the back," writes Gillian Jackson, one of the governors.

This week two articles explore ways in which reluctant learners can be encouraged. The Government's Study Support strategy gives an important new role to football clubs, so Gerald Haigh went to Elland Road, Leeds, where primary and secondary children are finding inspiration. And in Oxfordshire a programme called Active 8 (as in activate) is challenging the learning of children in Year 8 - otherwise known as the forgotten year.

On a personal level, if you need support to give up smoking read Mind and Body. You might just stop by National No Smoking Day next Wednesday.

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