SEN show and Dyscalculia launch

SEN show

On Friday and Saturday 9th and 10th October we attended the SEN show in London where we found the atmosphere especially lively and positive this year. We met up with old friends and made several new ones. We always appreciate the great feedback we get about Pocketbooks at shows; it is very encouraging to know that the work we are doing with our authors supports teachers and is so well received.

Fintan O’Regan, author of the Challenging Behaviours Pocketbook, led presentations both days of the show. His seminar, ‘Boys, Girls and SEN’ examined challenges and opportunities that present themselves to girls and boys with special needs. It covered: brain and biology and considered the possible reasons for the differences in rates of overlap of conditions including: ADHD, ASD, dyscalculia and dyspraxia; differences in attitudes, thoughts and emotions in terms of academic, behavioural and socialisation areas; and how to maintain and develop the confidence, self-esteem and stickability of boys and girls. If you would like more information about Fin’s work visit his website:

Dyscalculia Pocketbook

Our newest title the Dyscalculia Pocketbook – a book for which we have been receiving requests for a while – was launched at the show.


Dyscalculia is a specific learning difficulty that affects a person’s mathematical ability. It is estimated that around 6% of the population have dyscalculia, so in a typical classroom there is likely to be at least one dyscalculic learner. Research is ongoing, but we know that dyscalculia is a much deeper-rooted problem than just ‘being bad at maths’. This Pocketbook looks at the difficulties faced by pupils with dyscalculia and explores the support strategies that work.

The author begins by summarising and explaining what we currently know about dyscalculia. Key indicators are described, along with various ways of screening and assessing to identify students with this SpLD. There’s a chapter on ‘maths anxiety’ and a central practical section on teaching strategies that will help learners to work around the obstacles dyscalculia presents. Details of the three components of a mathematical idea and the six levels of learning – intuitive, concrete, pictorial, abstract, application and communication – provide good underpinning structure. Games that help develop number sense and the ten most effective classroom approaches are also covered.

Judy Hornigold is an independent educational consultant specialising in dyscalculia and dyslexia she has written the PGCert in dyscalculia and maths learning difficulties for Edge Hill University and the level 2, three-day dyscalculia course for the BDA.

These are just two of the reviews we have received about the book:

This valuable book provides a very accessible introduction to and overview of dyscalculia. It offers succinct explanations of the underlying problems plus pragmatic ideas for teaching and helping children who are affected by dyscalculia.

Dr. Steve Chinn, visiting professor, University of Derby

I love this book. Helpful, really easy to use and packed full of resources and plenty of ideas to help make Maths fun for the child in your classroom with Dyscalculia . After 11 years as a SENCo, I still found lots of new ideas in this Pocketbook.

Carolyn Watt, SENCo, Chilcote Primary, Hall Green

The other most popular titles at the show were:

TZ-DYSPDyslexia Pocketbook9781906610708Frontcover

£8.99 from Teachers' Pocketbooks

If you click on the jackets above this will take you to the extracts of the titles on our website where you can find out further information about the content.

For more information about our books please visit our home page


Happy reading!

Pocketbook Jenny



Last Days of Summer

Are you ready for the autumn term?

We hope you have enjoyed the summer break and feel invigorated and ready to launch into the autumn term. No doubt many of you have been planning and preparing lessons and schemes of work. We know our friends in Scotland are already back at school but for those of you who have a few last days of summer maybe now is a time to start thinking about your own learning and development for the coming term. What do you want to learn about in the next few months? Are there any skills you would like to brush up? Maybe there’s a topic you keep hearing others refer to, only you never seem to have time to read about it. This is where Teachers’ Pocketbooks can help. Our pocket-sized books are bursting with informative content and ideas that you can pick up quickly. Diagrams, bullet points and humorous cartoons help you to remember what you have read – and make your learning fun!

New website

You will be able to locate CPD content quickly and easily on our brand new website. We would love you to come and visit and let us know what you think. You can leave a comment here on the blog or email us at There are extracts on the site from all of our books, enabling you to browse the contents and view a selection of pages. Our runaway best seller at the moment is the Growth Mindset Pocketbook but the recently published Raising Achievement and Independent Learning Pocketbooks are giving it a run for its money. We have blogged about these titles before, but for a quick recap:

Growth Mindset PocketbookPeople with fixed mindsets believe that fundamental qualities like intelligence are essentially stable; people with growth mindsets believe such qualities can be developed and nurtured. Research shows that learners with growth mindset are more: open to challenges and constructive feedback; resilient; convinced that effort makes a difference; able to learn well with and from others; likely to succeed…

With a foreword by Carol Dweck, this Pocketbook by Barry Hymer and Mike Gershon is full of strategies to help you equip students to think about their own thinking and learn about their own learning. As professor Guy Claxton describes it:

‘Small but perfectly formed. The core ingredients of 21st century education masterfully distilled into its essence. A must-read for all teachers.’

Raising Achievement PocketbookIn the Raising Achievement Pocketbook Caroline Bentley-Davies shows how to strengthen learning and engagement and boost progress and attainment. She describes a ‘climate for achievement’ drawing on education research on feedback, metacognition and motivation, bringing theory to life with examples and case studies. It’s a thought- provoking read that could raise your game!

One reviewer commented:

‘A treasure trove of fantastic tips to raise achievement not only in your faculty but across your school.  A really useful read.’


Are you sometimes under such pressure to ‘deliver’ that you are tricked into a spoon-feeding shortcut and become trapped with pupils in an unhealthy cycle, where you are doing more and more of the work and your pupils rely on you more and more heavily? The Independent Learning Pocketbook is about breaking that cycle and creating ambitious learners who are self-regulated, self-motivated, resourceful and resilient, learners with clear goals and direction who use their initiative to achieve success.

All our books are priced at £8.99 and are also available as e-book pdf versions.

SEN show in October

Our autumn preparations here at pocketbooks include several new books in the pipeline (watch this space) and getting ready for the Special Educational Needs show on 9-10 October at the Business Design Centre in London. If you have not been to the show we can tell you that this event attracts school leaders; teachers; support staff; parents and carers all with an interest in SEN. There will be 48 CPD sessions, free workshops, 200 exhibitors and money-saving offers. Pocketbook author Fintan O’Regan, who some of you will have heard speaking previously, will again be running seminars at the show.

For now, we hope you have a lovely, relaxing last few days of summer and return to school feeling refreshed and ready to enjoy excellent and innovative lessons during the term ahead.

Pocketbook Jenny

Ronnie Young

It is with great sadness that I write with news of the death of author Ronnie Young.

Vivacious, bright and kind, Ronnie was committed to improving the lives of students with special needs and to helping their teachers better understand how to support them.

She was thrilled, as we all were here at Teachers’ Pocketbooks, with the publication of the Asperger Syndrome Pocketbook in 2009. Her popular Pocketbook helped, and continues to help, spread the word about understanding and overcoming the challenges posed by Asperger Syndrome. It increased her profile in the UK and abroad – principally in Australia and the US – as an excellent trainer in the field.

She will be sadly missed.

Ronnie Young

Three New Teachers’ Pocketbooks!

June has seen the publication of two Teachers’ Pocketbooks – a brand new title and a new edition – and coming within the next two weeks is a third. Read on!

1. Independent Learning Pocketbook

‘ The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled’ (Plutarch).

The trouble is that, as much as we believe those words, we’re sometimes under such pressure to ‘deliver’ that we’re tricked into the spoon-feeding shortcut. We then become trapped, with our pupils, in an unhealthy cycle where we do more and more of the work and they rely on us more and more heavily.

The Independent Learning Pocketbook is about breaking that cycle and creating ambitious learners who are self-regulated, self-motivated, resourceful and resilient. These are learners with clear goals and direction and who use their initiative to achieve success.

Peter Anstee draws on a variety of research, as well as first-hand classroom experience and observation, in this clear-sighted look at how to inspire and nurture the people you teach to become lifelong learners.


2. Managing Workload Pocketbook

A recent survey found that work-related stress among teachers is double the national average for most other professions. In the Managing Workload Pocketbook Will Thomas demonstrates how changing your mental approach to workload and implementing a few key elements to manage stress can minimise the impact of psychological distress on your health and well-being.

From effective planning, thinking and delegation to goals, sleep and resilience, the book is a mine of information. It contains a workload management self-evaluation tool with strategies, steps and solutions for making changes where changes are needed.

When you’re juggling balls, remember: work is rubber; health and family are crystal. This Pocketbook helps make sure you never drop the wrong one.


Coming mid-July – Raising Achievement Pocketbook

We’re delighted to be publishing a third Pocketbook by inspirational Teachers’ Pocketbooks author Caroline Bentley-Davies. In the Raising Achievement Pocketbook, available from mid-July, Caroline shows how to ‘close the gap’ between those who are underachieving and their high-achieving peers. With characteristic energy and a wealth of information and strategies, this book looks at ways to strengthen learning and engagement to boost progress and attainment.


All 3 Pocketbooks are priced at £8.99 +p&p and are available direct from Teachers’ Pocketbooks. (You can place an advance order for Raising Achievement by mail or telephone and we’ll dispatch it on publication.) Telephone 01962 735573 or email The books are also available from our website; however bear with us over the next fortnight as we work to bring you our brand new Teachers’ Pocketbooks site.








The Characteristics of Winning Leadership

In our last blog post we looked at the Head of Department’s Pocketbook by Brin Best and Will Thomas. Today’s post reveals the authors’ CPRS model for winning leadership:

The CPRS Model for Winning Leadership

C is for:

  • Challenge – see roles/tasks as challenges not problems
  • Creativity – engage creativity in meeting challenges
  • Careful listening = listen to understand the issue before responding

P is for:

  • Planning – carry out planning in the long, medium and short term
  • Purpose – have a clear sense about overall purpose of your role
  • Priority – prioritise workload to meet goals

R is for:

  • Resilience – take time out for mental, physical, spiritual and social renewal
  • Reflection – tke time out for you and your team to reflect on past events
  • Reflexivity – pay attention to what you are doing, as you are doing it

S is for:

  • Solutions-focused – believe that all challenges have solutions
  • Strength-recognition: know the strengths of the team and use them; know your own strengths and use them; give feedback recognising strengths.
  • Stay flexible – be open to new ideas and learning from whatever source

How do you currently rate your attitudes and behaviours? Use the model above to help you look at your leadership attitude:

  1. Consider each of the leadership attitudes listed in turn.
  2. For each one, ask yourself: How consistently do I demonstrate this characteristic? Then score yourself out of 10 where 10 represents excellence.
  3. You may wish to get some feedback from others on this too. This can add objectivity
  4. From the results, pick an area you would like to develop further.
  5. Use the helping model on page 28 to guide yourself through the process of development in the chosen area.

The model referred to in point 5 is about turning vision into action by defining goals, timing, resources, responsibility and success criteria. There’s more in the book about building and realising vision, both areas in which Best and Thomas are experienced and successful.

Will Thomas - author

Will Thomas – author




Calling all HODs – Aspiring, New, Seasoned, or Jaded…


The third edition of Head of Department’s Pocketbook will support middle leaders in all aspects of their job. Authors Will Thomas and Brin Best have designed the book to help you view the issues in your department from different angles; challenge the norms and traditions; and ask the question: just because it’s always been done this way, is it the best way?

If you are a new HOD, be excited by what is possible and build a programme of personal development around innovation. Challenge established practice and create fresh perspectives – tread new ground. Your role has WAY more influence than you think.

If you are an established HOD, remember that appropriate change keeps people fresh and vital. Things you tried in the past that didn’t work so well may just be worth re-examination. Challenging received wisdom in your superiors is a part of your role, but it can be very hard to do. This book offers you the tools to approach these kinds of challenges. The courage, of course, must come from you.

Call up the CIA!
Brin and Will remind us of the need for optimism closely coupled with pragmatism. However tough the challenge, they suggest you keep in mind the three secret choices, the CIA:

  • C = CHANGE IT: those things around you that you have the power to change, including your own thoughts.
  • I = INFLUENCE IT: use your influencing skills to persuade others to do things differently, eg change policies.
  • A = ACCEPT IT: accept what cannot be changed or influenced and move on to C and I

Exceptional teachers have the wisdom to differentiate between these three choices.

The main body of the Pocketbook is divided into five key sections:

  1. Managing Your Department
  2. Effective Documentation
  3. Maximising Student Achievement
  4. Raising the Profile of Your Department
  5. Self-evaluation

It’s the first section that gives this book its particular flavour. Emphasis is placed on planning and goals, creative thinking, vision, team spirit, rapport, coaching, mentoring. Starting with the responsibility triangle, the authors present a neat way of looking at your role as an academic leader and of focusing on your development: your role is a combination of accountability, challenge and support.

There’s a free pdf extract of the book on our website here and if you’d like to buy your own copy direct from Teachers’ Pocketbooks at £8.99 +p&p you can do so at or by emailing or by telephoning +44 (0)1962 735573. All Pocketbooks are available as both paperbacks and e-books.



NAPLIC review – SLCN Pocketbook

Speech Language & Communication Pocketbook



£8.99 + p&p from Teachers’ Pocketbooks

We are pleased to include below the full text of the NAPLIC review of the Speech, Language & Communication Pocketbook. This review appears in the NAPLIC Spring 2015 newsletter and is reproduced with kind permission.

NAPLIC® is an established national organisation for teachers, speech and language therapists and other professionals, led by a volunteer committee elected by the membership. It exists to promote and increase the awareness and understanding of children and young people with speech, language and communication needs, amongst all the professionals involved in meeting their needs.

NAPLIC = National Association of Professionals concerned with Language Impairment in Children.

Pocketbook Review

This is a useful pocket guide which recognises how vast a topic SLCN is and the associated challenges in supporting children with wide ranging communication needs in the mainstream classroom. The authors make it clear that it is a guide of ‘need-to-knows rather than a comprehensive insight into every aspect of SLCN’ and it succeeds in doing just that.

The pages on typical development are very brief but provide teachers with the necessary relevant information. As speech and language therapists I feel we can sometimes be guilty of wanting to include in our training to teachers all the theory and research from our field. This often leaves us with little time for the ‘useful stuff’: the strategies.

This book achieves a good balance and offers very practical tips without an overload of theory.

It details the main areas of difficulties and makes direct links between those and the relevant strategies.

It fits well with the current SEN code of practice and the responsibility schools have to take on the planning and managing of SLCN at all levels (universal/targeted/specialist) with specialist support from external agencies. It is useful in encouraging a whole school approach and an audit of the ‘communication friendliness’ of the school.

It provides the foundations teachers need to understand SLCN and allows us as specialists to build on those foundations.

I would recommend this book to teachers and school staff as an introduction to SLCN and a good summary of ‘what helps’. This does not replace the training packages that we are able to deliver as specialists in school but forms a very good baseline of skills which we can then build on and tailor to the specifics of the school, teachers, children and young people.

It asks the fundamental questions, provides concrete answers and is jargon ‘friendly’. This ticks a lot of boxes!



SLCN authors at Education Show, Brimingham

Speech Language & Communication Pocketbook

Six months ago we added the Speech, Language & Communication Pocketbook to the Teachers’ Pocketbooks Series. (See earlier post). We were delighted to have secured for this book two first-time authors with a breadth of knowledge and expertise between them. Just as our Learning & the Brain Pocketbook was a collaboration between experts in neuroscience and education, the SLC Pocketbook brings together the combined professional expertise of a teacher working in a secondary school language unit and a speech and language therapist working in education.

Victoria Mason


Victoria Mason, author


Victoria Mason and Emela Milne know their onions and they’re going to be sharing what they know  at the Education Show in Birmingham on Saturday 21st March. They’ll be talking about ‘Social Communication in the mainstream classroom’ and you’ll find them located in the Early Years / SEN seminar theatr. Both authors work with pupils in both primary and secondary settings and their Pocketbook reflects SLCN needs across this range.

A recent review in nasen’s ‘Special’ Magazine remarked that Victoria and Emela’s:

… practical experience really shows throughout the book as key information is neatly explained and everyday teaching and learning strategies simply outlined, allowing classroom practitioners easily to include approaches in their daily practice, to help develop speech, language and communication skills and make an important difference for children and young people.

Look out also for NAPLIC’s Spring Newsletter (National Association of Professionals concerned with Language) in a few days’ time for an excellent review and firm recommendation of the Pocketbook. Sneak preview:

‘It asks the fundamental questions, provides concrete answers and is jargon ‘friendly’. This ticks a lot of boxes!’

If you’d like your own copy of the Speech, Language & Communication Pocketbook, it’s available as a paperback or e-book. Details on our website here with a free pdf extract here.






Praise and Prizes

‘If we are not accountable [to ourselves], we shall wander the world seeking someone to explain ourselves to, someone to absolve us and tell us we have done well.’ (Nietzsche)

I once worked with a colleague who rewarded her students with sweets. She kept a stash of chocolate and sweets in her classroom cupboard and dished them out liberally to pupils who behaved well, who conformed to her expectations, who tried hard and whose work was of a high standard. To begin with it seemed to work and she was, unsurprisingly, highly popular – for perhaps half a term. New to the department, this colleague was keen to tell us all about the benefits of her approach. I was a young teacher at the time – I instinctively felt uncomfortable with the tactic and I refused to join it. I disliked what I began to see in her students: they constantly pestered her (and increasingly other members of the English department) for these rewards and, ultimately, their behaviour deteriorated, their work suffered and their motivation dropped off. If they couldn’t have the sweets, they weren’t interested.

At the time I wasn’t able to argue my case eloquently. A few months ago, editing the Growth Mindset Pocketbook and reading Barry Hymer’s chapter entitled Feedback Trumps Praise and Prizes, the experience of the aforementioned colleague leapt to mind. Here’s what the Pocketbook has to say on such matters:

Abandoning Cherished Practices
Bear with us! In this chapter we could be nibbling away at some of your most cherished practices. In some cases this might be less of a nibble and more of a savage chomp. We will be questioning from first principles the role of praise, stickers, reward schedules, prizes, ‘self-esteem’ and other off-shoots of behaviourism and the 1970s Californian culture. This isn’t because stickers, praise, etc don’t work or aren’t sometimes recommended by people who should know better. They often do achieve certain things. But they do so at a cost. The cost is to a learner’s intrinsic motivation and growth mindset.

We will suggest alternative routes to growth mindset ends. We’re aiming for intrinsically-motivated learners, not extrinsically-motivated sticker-junkies.

I wish I’d been able to formulate Barry’s final sentence above, substituting ‘sticker’ with ‘sweetie’ (or for readers in the US, Canada and elsewhere, ‘candy’).

Hymer and Gershon argue intelligently about the difference between extrinsic motivation and intrinsic. The latter is fostered by providing our students with high-quality feedback, not short-term rewards. For some, sticker-devotees are among them, this is still controversial. Here’s more from Barry and Mike’s Pocketbook, this time on praise:

The Problem with Praise
Arguably, praise of the ‘You’re a superstar/genius/smart cookie‘ sort is barely feedback at all. It gives students no information about the task, or how they tackled it, or how they might take ownership of its mastery. Instead, this kind of ‘fixed’ praise risks closing down future learning by:

  • Inviting complacency (‘Geniuses always excel, don’t they?’)
  • Locating the purpose of learning as pleasing someone else (‘Should I be doing this for my teacher, or myself?’)
  • Creating resentment (‘I dislike people who don’t say I’m a genius’)
  • Inspiring a fear of future failure (‘Can I ever evoke that level of praise again?’)

It’s all too easy in the hurly burly of classroom life to praise a pupil for something they didn’t actually find difficult; we’ve known for some time (E.g. Morine-Dershimer’s research in the ’80s) that this can serve to lower personal expectations of performance.

But kids love praise!
Yes, pupils love praise. Don’t we all? We might also enjoy sweets, cigarettes and huge calorie-laden breakfasts, but it doesn’t mean they are good for us. Praise, prizes and performance grades, all act as extrinsic reinforcers, focusing on the outcomes of learning rather than the intrinsic satisfactions of the task itself. As we said earlier, it’s not that extrinsic reinforcers don’t work, they often do. But they work at the expense of something much more precious than behavioural compliance – your learners’ intrinsic motivation and desire to grow their skills, knowledge and competencies. We know this from decades of research – rewards have hidden costs. So your sticker charts and reward schedules will probably get short-term results, but they won’t turn your students on to learning – they are more likely to turn them into sticker-seekers, or individuals who will go through life seeking meaning in others’ affirmation, absolution or judgment.

Reframing Praise
In pursuit of growth mindsets it’s possibly best to avoid the word ‘praise’ with all its fuzziness and unhelpful associations. Instead, you’re more likely to provide information to guide future behaviour when you offer positive (and critical) feedback or recognition or encouragement. Or simply show intense interest in your pupils’ learning. To see this in action, have a look at this description of the high-achieving Fiennes children remembering their parents’ habitual response to their children’s work:

‘ There was always analysis, be it homework or a picture. Anything that was created, there was immediately a discussion about it. Could it be this? Or should we try this or that? Never, ‘That’s lovely darling, let’s put it on the shelf.’

Children aren’t traumatised by adults who show critical interest in their learning, and who avoid mindless affirmations. But for those who’ve been raised on a diet of hyperbolic praise, this lesson might be hard won. Stick with it.

£8.99 from Teachers' Pocketbooks

£8.99 from Teachers’ Pocketbooks


The Power of Failure

‘I’ve missed over 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot…and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.’ Michael Jordan, basketball legend. (Nike advert)

Sticking with the growth mindset theme of the previous post, Barry Hymer and Mike Gershon assert in their Growth Mindset Pocketbook that many of the things children and adults tend to avoid are actually just the sort of thing we should embrace. They include: failure, errors and mistakes.

Schools who understand the powerful role of mistakes and failure in learning can inspire their pupils to develop growth mindsets. One school Barry visited made the value of failure explicit to its pupils by displaying an acrostic poster on the wall of every classroom:


Our failures – and those of our pupils – are events, not reflections of who we are. And all events invite us to learn. By reflecting on what lies behind our failures we can convert them into powerful learning experiences. Great achievers have done this across the centuries, sometimes at heroic levels. (Hymer and Gershon)

The following material is taken directly from the Growth Mindset Pocketbook:

Modelling Mistakes
You’re a teacher. As you already know, teaching involves making plenty of mistakes. This is the fastest route to getting better at the job. You try something. It doesn’t work. You think about why it didn’t work and then you try something else instead. That works and so you keep using it, making refinements as you go.

The result is that most teachers have extensive experience of growth mindsets in relation to their job. And even if you’ve ended up stuck in a fixed mindset you can easily change things by challenging yourself to do something different next lesson.

The beauty of this is that you can share your experiences with the pupils you teach. You can talk to them about mistakes you have made during the course of your career, and how this has helped you to get better. If you’re feeling brave you can even talk about mistakes made during the current lesson. This can lead to a whole-class growth mindset in which you and your pupils work together as one, sharing the learning load.

A Quick Experience of Failure and Success
You can get your pupils working towards a growth mindset by setting up activities deliberately involving trial and error. In maths and science this happens all the time. In fact, the entire history of progress in these subjects is a history of growth mindsets. Many scientist used to believe that a mysterious element called ‘phlogiston’ caused things to burn. It was only the committed growth mindsets of subsequent researchers which allowed us to discover the truth (for now)  – that oxygen is the culprit!

Here are five trial and error activities you can use:

  • Set pupils a problem and give them free rein to try out different solutions
  • Pupils work in groups on a problem. One pupil records the trials and errors which come about
  • Give all your pupils a rough book to practise work in first
  • Encourage pupils to include trial and error in their written work. For instance, by starting again, showing working out and writing notes in the margin.
  • Model trial and error in front of the whole class, talking them through as you go, eg: ‘So, this mistake has been helpful to me because I learnt from it that…’

Don’t limit thinking about challenge and the benefits of making mistakes to the classroom. Growth  mindset stories abound. Tell your students how David Beckham and Jonny Wilkinson used to practise for hours every day to make the most of their talent. Tell them how Robert M. Pirsig’s novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was rejected by 121 publishers. It has sold five million copies worldwide.

Copies of the Growth Mindset Pocketbook are available from Teachers’ Pocketbooks at £8.99 + p&p. Discounts for bulk purchases start at 10% for 10 books.

Barry Hymer, co-author Growth Mindset Pocketbook

Barry Hymer, co-author Growth Mindset Pocketbook




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