Teacher training

27th October 2000 at 01:00
SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS FOR NEWLY QUALIFIED AND STUDENT TEACHERS. By Rita CheminaisDavid Fulton pound;15. SPECIAL NEEDS AND THE BEGINNING TEACHER. Edited by Peter Benton and Tim O'Brien. Continuum pound;14.99.

These books are for teachers new to the profession and in their different ways both will be enormously helpful.

Rita Cheminais's book is in A4 format, has only 72 pages with lots of diagrams, boxes and bullet points. It is a quick reference to key special needs issues and the legislation and official advice surrounding the area. There are sections on legal expectations and requirements, problems experienced by children, planning in the curriculum, and working with others.

This is all given rapidly and matter-of-factly, and is what most beginning teachers will want. At times, though, this zoom through the terrain made me think that too much was becoming blurred and over-simplified. Particularly in the section on key problems, I wanted to ask "Er, just how much evidence is there for this?" (for example, that dyscalculia arises "from a deficiency in the mathematical ability in the brain"). There is the danger in this no-nonsense approach that a shot of adrenalin is given to the deficit model so many of us want to see drop dead.

This said, though, a mass of useful information is summarised, including key reference sections, and if I were 22 again I'd certainly fid this book invaluable (though if I were 22, and poor, I doubt if I would pay pound;15 for its 72 pages).

Special Needs and the Beginning Teacher is an altogether more reflective tome, and is in the main about teaching and learning. It has chapters on a range of topics: differentiation, managing behaviour problems, working with LSAs, teaching children with sensory impairment, able children, and approaches to reading, spelling, writing and numeracy. All are good. There are fewer bullet points than in Cheminais's book and it takes more work to read it, but for those NQTs with the time, it is worth the effort. That particularly frightening subject for newly qualified teachers - "What do I do to maintain order?" - is, I think, handled better in Roy Howarth's chapter than I have see in any other publication. The DFEE should explore the technology needed to put it on microchip and have it installed in the brains of all new teachers.

Other chapters - Glenny's on reading, Robinson's on spelling, Stevens's on numeracy - are models of clarity and non-prescriptive good sense. All those willing to resist the drive to the fully automated teacher will welcome the reflection about failure that these chapters inspire. With a reinstatement of this kind of writing, who knows, John Holt's dazzling How Children Fail might even get back on the teacher education curriculum.


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