Learning from James: Lessons about policy and practice for schools' special provision in the area of literacy difficulties

Wearmouth, Janice (2004). Learning from James: Lessons about policy and practice for schools' special provision in the area of literacy difficulties. British Journal of Special Education, 31(2) pp. 60–67.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0952-3383.2004.00330.x


Janice Wearmouth is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Education and Language Studies at the Open University in the UK. She has many years' experience of teaching and research in mainstream secondary schools and of developing and leading postgraduate development courses for teachers in the area of special and inclusive education. In this article, she argues that successive Governments in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have adopted policies in relation to special educational provision that are essentially technicist in character. These policies proceed from assumptions that are made about the clear and unproblematic nature of the issues and the responses that need to be made. In this model, difficulties in learning can be ‘fixed’ by selecting the most appropriate ‘tool’ in the most efficient and cost-effective way. The current focus on competency-based teacher education can be seen as a corollary of this approach.
Drawing upon a personal account of the experience of having difficulties in literacy acquisition, this article presents a contrary view. Janice Wearmouth argues that the area of special educational needs in schools, including literacy difficulties, is fraught with uncertainty and conflicting viewpoints. Given this complex situation, the technicist responses of recent Governments in the UK seem inappropriate and inadequate, Janice Wearmouth suggests. She proposes that practice in relation to special educational needs in general, and literacy difficulties in particular, can be most effectively understood from the perspective of a reflective practitioner. Her article closes with a call for practitioner professional development to be reconceptualised in these terms.

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