Along with many others, I’ve admired Namcy Gedge’s award winning writing since I began reading her blog. In the rich world of educational social media, her posts stand out for their clarity and humanity. It is therefore no great surprise that I enjoyed her new book. She has demonstrated the ability to write with similar clarity in a very different genre. Her book offers practical advice structured around themes fundamental to effective, inclusive teaching. The book is not intended to be exhaustive and may lead to further reading, however, it would be an unusual primary teacher who did not, on reading this book, find their teaching improved for the benefit of all children including those with Special Educational Needs and disabilities.
Nancy’s book offers a welcome change from the current focus on a one size fits all to teaching children from 3 to 18. Her work runs against the current policy fad for teaching to be presented as a straightforward activity based on empirically evidenced techniques learned through apprenticeship because this model is undermined by children who inconveniently arrive with different backgrounds, experiences, cultures, needs, interests and behaviours. Trying to apply a simple pedagogy to an Early Years or primary classroom will work for some of the children, some of the time but leads to exclusion in one form or another for children who do not sit close to the attainment mean. It is those children for whom this book is invaluable because the advice provides a solid foundation for their teachers to develop a more inclusive pedagogy.
The book begins with the statement that all teachers are teachers of special educational needs. This important truth was reinforced by the recent changes to the SEND code (which are covered well early on in the book) Primary teaching has to meet the needs of all the children in the class and therefore all staff require understanding, pedagogical range and relationship to sit alongside subject knowledge. The book sets out practical ideas to support teachers in meeting a wider range of needs of children.
The importance of relationship runs through the book as well being the subject of a single chapter. Behaviours, reducing barriers, disability and differentiation are all framed in the ability of the teacher to form and maintain relationships centred on the needs of the class.
There is a very useful chapter summarising specific learning barriers and disabilities along with suggestions to support children with these labels. In line with the overall approach of the book, this chapter discuses issues without losing sight of the focus on the child as an individual. As with her blog, Nancy’s book is run through with a deep sense of humanity which is unusual in a practical “how to” style of work.
In line with recent educational publishing trends, the text is broken up with suggestions for activities and reflection. This works better here than in many books because the relevance of the material to classteaching requires reflection and assimilation.
For anyone like me who gets bamboozled by jargon and acronyms, the final chapter alone is worth the price of the book.
As I am returning to teaching in a primary school, I will keep my copy of this book close at hand. The concise style of writing and clear structure means it is suited to frequent checking of suggested steps for specific situations. I would also recommend the book for early career teachers who are getting to grips with inclusive teaching by increasingly focussing on the individual child rather than his/her label.