Every child really does matter

3rd March 2006 at 00:00
Sencos will find something for every type of student at this year's show, writes Gerald Haigh

Most teachers and support staff who visit the Education Show are likely to agree with Michaela Fallon, special needs co-ordinator at Canon Maggs C of E Junior School in Warwickshire. The show is just down the road, so she is a regular. "We're looking for anything that will make the job easier," she says. "Something a bit different - games, new ways into problems."

Michaela has often spoken about the difficulty that children on the autistic spectrum have in making sense of common sayings that don't mean what they actually say, such as "blow your own trumpet" or "that rings a bell". She would probably welcome LDA's Pull Your Socks Up! - a game intended to help with that very problem. There is a set of 40 cards with sayings on them and another set with jolly illustrations. Children match them up and learn something of the intricacies of our tricky language along the way. Also new from LDA is a PE scheme for key stage 1 called Get Physical! What is interesting is that it's designed to be truly inclusive.

It addresses specific motor skills and has a diagnostic as well as a developmental function. The scheme began as an after-school programme for children with motor learning difficulties and has grown from there. In that sense it's truly "bottom up", in comparison with schemes that are written for mainstream and have special education needs provision bolted on.

It's also significant that Get Physical! is written from the standpoint of occupational therapy, though in collaboration with physiotherapists and teachers. The links between physical and mental development are becoming clearer all the time and this scheme looks like filling a real need in an area where few teachers feel totally confident. The lesson plans are clear, accessible to non-specialists and well illustrated, and they will be welcomed with relief by the many teachers of younger children who struggle to run a coherent and developmental physical education programme. The scheme was developed by Lois Addy, a paediatric occupational therapist and senior lecturer in the school of professional health studies at York St John College.

Another sort of physical approach comes from Yogabuds, which promotes yoga for primary schools. It's the brainchild of Michael Chissick, a long-serving primary teacher who developed his own interest in yoga into a service for schools. Many teachers attend yoga classes for their own well-being and they undoubtedly wonder whether, and how, it could work with children. One answer is to talk to Michael, who is convinced that it's excellent for self-esteem and has particular value for autistic children. "Come and talk to me," he says. "I run a teacher training programme. It's pretty robust, 15 months long, accredited as a BTEC Advanced Diploma."

For Sencos, motivation - simple encouragement, if you like - is always high on the agenda. "We're always looking for incentives - bookmarks, pencils, stickers," says Michaela Fallon. "Some of our children are making such small steps forward and we're trying to reward them every step of the way." She should not be disappointed. There's plenty of material like that around - Stickers4Schools is introducing a new range of merit stickers that can be ordered with the school's name on them, and there's always the well-tried range from Superstickers.

As well as good practice, Michaela is also keen to keep up with what the experts are saying. She intends to head for David Fulton's stand to see what's on offer from a publisher she regards very highly. "There's always something good," she says. "You can equip yourself with the latest thinking and research." No doubt she will pick up Every Child Matters: New Role for Sencos, by Rita Cheminais. Published last autumn, it sets the Senco role in the context of the latest legislation.

Many KS1 teachers will be interested in Sue Palmer's Synthetic Phonix.

"It's based on Philip and Tacey's existing phonics cubes," she says. "It's a very concrete approach that will back up whatever you're using to teach phonics."

* LDA Stand SN-B5


* Yogabuds Stand B40


* Stickers4Schools Stand X57


* Superstickers Stand PZ-J30


* David Fulton's stand Stand PZ-M41


* Philip and Tacey Stand X10


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