In brief

23rd April 2004 at 01:00
Getting Organised

By Angela Thody and Derek Bowden


By Victoria Kidwell

Getting Promoted

By Tom Miller

Continuum Classmates pound;4.99

Behaviour Management Pocketbook

By Peter Hook and Andy Vass

Management Pocketbooks pound;6.99

Continuum's Classmates is a welcome and accessible series, only marred by occasional unevenness. The authors have been encouraged, I imagine, to write using their own voice. At its best this creates an engaging, friendly tone; at its weakest it is jaunty, intrusive and offputting. Getting Organised gets it just right.

If I had been commissioning a book of advice for teachers on how better to organise their lives in and out of school, I'm not sure I'd have turned to two university academics. What can they tell us? In fact, they take a detached view of the teacher's role that helps us to evaluate the way we organise ourselves, the meetings we attend, plus strategies for stress management. It also gets the tone right: friendly but not avuncular.

Victoria Kidwell's Homework gets the tone wrong, spending far too much time telling us why homework is a dubious exercise. It's too much a cut-and-paste collection of bullet-point checklists, but there's some useful advice and it's the tone rather than the content that is irksome.

Tom Miller takes a gamble in Getting Promoted, using David Brent from The Office for epigraphs ("Think squirrels. Think nuts"). Again, the jaunty tone isn't always helpful, but the advice is generally sound, with practical guidance on CVs, interview techniques and taking up a new post.

The Management Pocketbook series continues to grow, and, based on the example of Behaviour Management, remains an outstanding quick-reference resource. Here's a distillation of practical and philosophically sound guidance on effective discipline. It includes advice on avoiding confrontation, giving students choices (probably the main weapon in our armoury), and using language appropriately. A first-rate addition to an impressive series.

How to Improve Your School: giving pupils a voice

By Jean Ruddock and Julia Flutter

Continuum pound;16.99

It's easy to sink under the weight of new books with titles containing words like "improve", "transform" and "motivate". The going gets even tougher when so many are produced by the same stable. On March 26, I reviewed Consulting Pupils: What's in it for Schools? by Jean Ruddock and Julia Flutter (RoutledgeFalmer). Now Continuum has commissioned the same authors on the same topic in a new series that aims to combine "practitioner and academic insights", in other words to take indigestible university research and make it palatable for the classroom. This is welcome and overdue, and Continuum produces consistently relevant resources for teachers.

The title of this new book is misleading, however, if you miss the subtitle (which isn't printed on the cover or the spine): it's much more about "giving pupils a voice" than school improvement. The authors convincingly demonstrate that young people today are not the young people of yesterday.

They show the importance of consulting pupils on learning and teaching matters - for example, giving advice on primarysecondary transfer. They show how we can bring the citizenship agenda alive through remembering the pupils' perspective. But we're left to infer how this will directly improve our schools, and the book is shorter on practical ideas than its RoutledgeFalmer counterpart.

Its principles are important, but schools also have a responsibility to resist some of the values of a consumer society: the assumption that because children are growing up faster they are, by default, adults. I had reservations about parts of the thesis and would have welcomed more practical guidance on implementing the proposals.

Geoff Barton is headteacher at King Edward VI School, Suffolk

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