Bill and Sandy Goler are impressed by the new channel
The first month of Teachers' TV, the government-sponsored digital channel, offered a wide range of curriculum-based programmes and documentaries about good practice.
The special needs programmes are broadcast in two hour-long blocks, divided into 15-minute slots. The audience is likely to be professionals involved with special needs, Sencos, special needs teachers and teaching assistants.
However, any teacher or senior manager would benefit from seeing the innovative practice and positive school cultures that are featured. Special needs advisers will find a rich source of training materials.
Some of the programmes were familiar, such as the edited versions of Channel Four's Count Me In, which will hopefully reach the wider audience it deserves. Carden primary school in Brighton featured twice in Speech and Language Strategies and Singing and Signing. These two programmes showed how Makaton signing was promoted throughout the school, to the benefit of all children. The additional sensory experience of signing, and other strategies, such as visual timetables and Makaton symbols, appealed to a wide range of pupils, and, as one teacher noted, when they're signing they're not poking each other. Interviews with pupils showed that friendships between disabled and non-disabled pupils develop naturally in such settings.
A Day in the Life of a Senco tracked Claire Tyrell through her day at Morden Mount primary school, south London. It clearly showed the demanding nature of her role and the importance of her senior management position in promoting inclusion throughout the school. It was interesting to note that non-judgmental access to professional counselling was available to staff in recognition of the stressful nature of their work.
Sackville Community College in West Sussex was featured in the Secondary Zone. Complex Special Needs looked at two pupils, one recovering from a damaging brain tumour and another with vision and hearing difficulties. A number of teachers interviewed had clearly enjoyed the challenge of adapting teaching materials and ensuring the necessary access arrangements were in place. Again, a strong commitment from the special needs department and senior management were important.
In Success and Self Esteem we heard staff sharing a common concern about the relationship between poor behaviour and an inappropriate curriculum. It is less common to find a school, like Sackville, that then embarks on a more relevant curriculum, which it considers as valid as its mainstream work.
Throughout the Sackville programmes the commitment of the staff to their pupils came over strongly. They liked them, and said so.
Teachers' TV has made a promising start, although it is sad that the subject-based programmes have little to say about differentiation or children with additional needs.
* Programme schedules: www.teachers.tv
Bill Goler is education adviser at Kirklees school effectiveness service.
Sandy Goler is an advisory teacher for the deaf in Kirklees