Raid the secret funds

24th October 2003 at 01:00
This year's TESNational Association for Special Educational Needs book awards have attracted record entries. Geraldine Brennan reports

The Books for Learning and Teaching Award is for the book that most successfully helps children and young people with special educational needs access the curriculum Award winner

Down's Syndrome Association Education Support Pack for Schools. By Sandy Alton, Jane Beadman, Bob Black, Stephanie Lorenz, Cecilie McKinnon and members of the UK Down's Syndrome education consortium. Edited by Stephanie Lorenz and Eric Nicholas

The names of 14 schools and eight pupils are listed above the authors' credits on the first page of the Down's Syndrome Association's schools support pack, which the Books for Learning and Teaching judges agreed "should be in every school, paid for out of the head's secret fund". And if the head cannot locate the relevant jam jar, it can be downloaded free from, or the chunky ring-bound print file is available at pound;15 including pamp;p.

Many of the examples of good practice in mainstream schools come from teachers, support staff and LEA inclusion teams who have attended DSA training. The 10 units follow every stage of schooling including alternative accreditation at key stage 4 and transition into the wider world.

The first two sections outline the aims of inclusion and strategies to put it in place, setting the tone for later sections devoted to literacy, numeracy, behaviour and social skills and ICT. The wealth of detail and thoroughness makes it a "tour de force", the panel agreed. "There is more meat, more information and more training resources in this than anything I have seen before," says one judge. "Using this sends a message to the whole school that we are prepared for children with Down's syndrome and we are positive."

The panel urged schools not to wait for the arrival of a pupil with Down's syndrome - the most common identifiable cause of learning disability - to acquire the pack, which represents more than two years' work for the DSA and was published in response to requests from Sencos, teachers and LEA support teams.

"A lot of the good practice, and the very positive message of not entertaining anything other than inclusion, would be applicable to any kind of special needs and in fact to all children," they say.

This is borne out by statements in the pack such as: "An inclusive school is one where: The classroom climate is as important as the curriculum; the environment is as important as the curriculum; all students are made to feel good about themselves; students learn respect and tolerance of one another; students learn ways of working together so that everyone can participate."

The pack is a team effort from trainers on the DSA conference and workshop programme. Bob Black, the DSA's education information officer, contributed to the text and was project manager. The authors have waived royalties so that everything can be freely photocopied, Black explains. "They were all incredibly generous with their own work and allowing others to share and use their examples and practice. While the Down's Syndrome Association took the lead and funded the production and distribution, the individual authors should be clearly recognised," he says.

Without their willingness to improve practice without personal gain or royalties, this pack would not be available. "The authors were able to adapt their handouts and examples of work using the experiences of very many Sencos, teachers and learning support assistants," Black says. "The feedback from staff who had hands-on experience with children was invaluable."


Children Can Learn With Their Shoes Off: supporting students with Asperger Syndrome in mainstream schools and colleges (book and video). By Barbara Maines (Lucky Duck).

"Accessible and user-friendly for staff, parents and children. Very useful for training, whether a whole day's in-service or 10 minutes in a staff meeting. Strikes a balance in being sensitive without being gushy. Ideal for a teacher encountering their first pupil with Asperger Syndrome."

Highly commended

Special Needs Assessment Profile User's Kit: computer-aided diagnostic assessment and profiling 5-14. (book and CD-Rom). By Charles Weedon and Gavin Reid (Hodder amp; Stoughton).

"A very comprehensive ready-made resource for the diagnosis of learning difficulties which would be very helpful to a new Senco as it rolls the content of four or five texts into one. It flags up the interdependency of dyslexia, dyspraxia and attention deficit; these are difficulties which overlap in many cases."

Speaking, Listening amp; Understanding: games for young children. By Catherine Delamain and Jill Spring (Speechmark Classroom Resource).

"Very practical and teacher-friendly, and an impressive organisational feat. This is one to keep in the professional development library for teachers and support staff to dip into."

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