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IT and special needs - case story (Education Guardian, 1998)
IT had a role for two special needs pupils leading to good exam results
Among the happiest faces greeting this year's exam results were Alex Roberts and Rohit Moudgil. That the boys gained French and Science GCSE might not seem remarkable, were it not that that both have Down's Syndrome and attend a regular comprehensive school. That they have a penchant for using ICT, with 'Certificate of Achievement' merits and distinctions to prove it, could easily been seen as coincidence. That their school, Raynes Park High in Merton is also keen on IT is evident too from a recent spend of £90,000 gained through the local TEC.

Sharing the boy's delight was Shirley Kavanagh, their statement support teacher. She directs their studies, arranging for them to attend normal classes with an extra teacher present. It led to the boys having support to use a computer - not just for IT lessons but for writing and teaching software. It helped turn their written efforts into work they could find pride in, and turned one of the boys onto writing poetry. Other software, such as RM's Success Maker, featured in their work on skills in spelling and basic maths. The key seems to be that it could provide work at just the right level.

Now the two boys have seven qualifications filed away, Shirley Kavanagh recalls that when she first met the two boys, the idea was simply to have them in a normal school with no allusions to exam success. Putting them in the mainstream might have its disadvantages, but she explains it has had advantages too. "They've often been exposed to things that seemed too hard, like science or spreadsheets, purely because the class was doing it anyway - they've amazed us, in that they've really taken to it. IT is a factor. They perform well at it and it's made them more confident and more equal."

Only a few weeks ago Alex and Rohit were showing their Internet skills to Lifelong Learning minister, Dr Kim Howells. He had come along to officially launch 'The Learning Circuit', with its role of spreading good practice in ICT among schools in South London. Formed by The Roehampton Institute and AZTEC, the South West London Training and Enterprise Council, it helped Raynes Park High to develop their ICT plans, set themselves targets and also provided them with much hardware and software. Aiming to be a route to connecting schools to the National Grid for Learning, The Learning Circuit currently connects seven local schools, though they hope to extend their work to over two hundred in the next few years.


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