The specialities of the year

10th November 1995 at 00:00
Academic Book Award. A wide cross section of special educational interests were represented by the 27 publications entered in this section. Contemporary issues such as behaviour and discipline, parental involvement and life skills featured alongside more academic subjects such as reading, mathematics (alas no science), history and drama for children with special educational needs. The judges were looking for "the book which most enhanced the knowledge and understanding of those engaged in the educaton of children with special educational needs."

After careful consideration nine titles were shortlisted, including one book which contains well-designed material for use in the classroom. Colin Shepherd and Ann Moore's Medieval Realms, adapted for special needs pupils,is closely related to John Murray's Schools History Project. Already tried and tested in classrooms, it provides an excellent example of motivating and well-differentiated material.

Melanie Peter's Making Drama Special (David Fulton) lives up to its title.Based on a research project it deserves to be read by English teachers concerned with providing a "broad and balanced curriculum" for children with special educational needs.

Cassell's Secondary Mathematics and Special Educational Needs by Daniels and Anghileri is a well-planned book that tackles the challenge of motivating children in mathematics. Among subjects dealt with in detail are the plight of the uncertain teacher and the concept that pupils may be "disabled by the curriculum".

Ann Lewis's innovative Children's Understanding of Disability (Routledge) is one of the few books that addresses children's opinions on working together in integrated settings. A book that is very readable, easily assimilated but tries to do too much in the space available is Jane Lovey's Supporting Special Educational Needs in Secondary School Classrooms (David Fulton). It is, however, up to date and will prove useful reading particularly for those new to the demands of children with special educational needs.

Sylvia McNamara and Gill Moreton's Changing Behaviour (David Fulton) is a practical book which reveals an understanding of the teacher's role. The reader may find that it has greater relevance for primary pupils, although the panel felt it could also be valuable in secondary schools.

Also from Routledge, Challenging Behaviour in Schools edited by Gray, Miller and Noakes would be a useful reference book for administrators who are seeking solutions through policy or practice.

Books to challenge one's thinking are Derrick Armstrong's Power and Partnership in Education , yet another contender from Routledge,and the extremely well edited Making Difficulties, published by Paul Chapman. In the latter Peter Clough and Len Barton successfully bring together the works of 11 authors to challenge one's thinking about the concept of disability.

The judges were unanimous in their choice of the winner of the 1995 Award: Power and Partnership in Education. The author's examination of professional practices, the identification of the real source of power in the decision-making process, particularly how this relates to the part that parents and children play in the assessment procedure, are clearly presented. It is well researched and innovative and gives a comprehensive analysis of a key area of a contemporary issue. It raises many questions and leaves the reader concerned about professional status and the part it could be playing in denying parents and children (particularly where emotional and behavioural difficulties are prevalent) their true place in the assessment process. It certainly made us think.

A fuller account of the panel's deliberations will be included in the Spring edition of The British Journal of Special Education.

Dennis Gray is a former inspector of schools, a tutor and lecturer at the School of Education at Birmingham University and consultant at Birmingham Royal Institute for the Blind The other members of the panel were Jim McNicholas, convenor of the NASEN curricula sub-commitee; Angela Dyer, adviser for complex learning difficulties working in the home counties and Debbie Bailey, special educational needs co-ordinator, Kings Norton High School, Birmingham.

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