When Billy met Donald;All ages;Special needs;Books

3rd April 1998 at 01:00
TEACHING SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR. By David Warden and Donald Christie.

HANDBOOK FOR PRE-SCHOOL SEN PROVISION. By Chris Spencer and Kate Schnelling.


BUSINESS PLANNING FOR SPECIAL SCHOOLS. By Caroline Coles and Richard Field. David Fulton. pound;11.99 - pound;13.99 each.

These six manuals vary in their quality of writing, research and presentation, but most give sensible guidanceon helping children with special needs.

Teaching Social Behaviour contains much good advice on fostering children's interpersonal skills and awareness. Written by a psychologist and an educator, it skilfully combines theory with practice, discussing social behaviour and development before presenting a series of activities which can be used with children and young people.

In one, a picture shows a boy helping up another who has fallen over. The caption reads "Donald has fallen over and hurt himself. Billy helps him up and takes him home". Questions follow such as, "How do you think Donald felt when Billy helped him?" In fact, Billy is leering like a psychopath and looks as if he might at the next moment knee Donald in the groin, so the answer isn't immediately transparent. This reservation apart, the book should provide some useful classroom discussion material.

The Handbook for Pre-School SEN Provision isn't quite as all-encompassing as its title suggests. It's really a guide on how to structure assessment and recording in the pre-school years. There are useful review, assessment and recording sheets provided with an accompanying commentary. The whole thing is organised around the five Code of Practice stages.

Physical Education in Primary Schools begins with a discussion of why children may not be able to engage fully in PE and it locates the answer not simply in the children, but also in the learning environment. It then gives advice on assessing movement skills in children, observation, task analysis and ways in which tasks can be differentiated so that all children can join in movement activity. With more children who have physical disabilities now in mainstream schools, this is a valuable addition to the literature.

In Practical Strategies for Individual Behaviour Difficulties, Geraldine Mitchell provides a good overview of approaches to behaviour management in primaries. It focuses on Code of Practice stages 1 and 2 - so it is minor, but nevertheless highly disruptive, behaviour disturbance that is being addressed. The advice given is good, with sections on observation and information gathering, defining the problem, planning a strategy and implementing a programme.

The Extended Curriculum: Meeting the Needs of Young People is a manual for those working with students with learning difficulties in post-compulsory education. This is an expanding yet neglected field and the book does a lot to encourage reflection on aims and processes. Like all the other books, this one has many pages of activities and programmes, which in this case encourage consideration of pupils' academic, vocational, social, domestic and self-care skills. There are plenty of case studies with accompanying questions and activities.

I was prepared to welcome Business Planning for Special Schools, knowing that they often seek advice on management matters. However, the advice here isn't limited to the technical side of running an organisation. It imparts a particular view of education and schools: there is relentless talk, for example, of "customers" and "competitor analysis".

The competitor analysis related to "competitor" schools which might make an "impact upon the purchasing base"; the purpose would be to see how one could "maintain the pupil roll". If this kind of ideology is at the front of our thinking, how are we ever to move to alternative forms of special provision?

Overall this is a useful set of books, but it would be best to view before buying - some have clearly had much more thought and effort put into them than others.

Gary Thomas is professor and reader in education at the University of the West of England, Bristol

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