Special schools and parents have an exciting new free magazine with a world view
Special schools and all who work with them get a brand new glossy and interactive publication of their own to download today (September 22), headed by the most experienced UK editor working in UK SEN and inclusion, Mick Archer. And it's free.
The lively first issue of Special World goes out to an already impressive existing circulation of 125,000 people across more than 100 countries, created from the database of its publisher, Inclusive Technology.
That customer and contact database gives Special World a unique feature – it’s a truly global publication from day one. And although it was not purposefully set up as a vehicle for advertising, interest from suppliers means that its first issue of 57 pages includes around 10 pages of adverts so it is also financially self-sufficient from the get-go, a major advantage for longterm sustainability.
The commercial aspect and the publication’s ownership by a schools supplier holds no contradictions or challenges for editor Mick Archer. He knows the field inside out from his years as editor of Special Children magazine. And he also spent years as publishing director for its then owner, Questions Publishing, working across a range of titles and subjects.
Contributions from across the world
In his first editorial Mick Archer tells readers, “We have made a modest start by publishing contributions from England, Canada, Scotland, Serbia and the USA. Wherever in the world you are reading this we want to hear from you.
“We want to hear your news, know about your forthcoming events, be up-dated on your research and hear about your achievements. Where possible we will provide links to original sources so that any of our readers wanting to know more about you and your work can find you in a click. In this way we hope Special World will become a forum for and a gateway to our global community.”
He told Agent4change.net, “Special World is an idea whose time has come. The worldwide web has democratised discussion in every area of scientific and social discourse. An open-access publication for those working with children with special educational needs and disabilities is an obvious next step. It’s a collective endeavour that will stand or fall on the willingness of parents and professionals to get involved.”
Publisher Martin Littler, CEO of Inclusive Technology, is delighted with the path being taken. “The very last thing I want this to be is a glorified house magazine for Inclusive Technology [the UK's leading supplier of products and services for SEN education] – that’s why we went for an independent editor, Mick Archer, who has tremendous integrity and the widest knowledge of the special education field.. We hope this will become the recognised forum for best practice from all over the world. We want to reflect the views of special educators and their priorities.”
Special World will initially have three issues a year (termly) which will be archived on its website for free download. How this service develops will depend on reader demand and feedback. Martin Littler spotted the demand as the activities of Inclusive Technology went truly global with the advent of the internet. "We find that special schools often have more in common with special schools in other countries than they have with mainstream schools in their own," he said. "What could be better than to hook them up with their own magazine and forum for good practice?" And that forum is already being established on social media via Twitter (@specialworldmag) and a Facebook page.
'Every country in the United Nations – except Mongolia'
One of the factors behind the move was the massive international popularity of Inclusive Technology's HelpKidzLearn portal. "At its height we had half-a-million regular users from every country in the United Nations - except Mongolia," he writes on his blog about the creation of the magazine (“Linking Special Educators from every country”).
The first issue of Special World has a wide range of news and features, hitting important topical issues like England’s new framework for SEN and an election windfall for SEN in New Zealand. There are features on topics like classroom design for inclusion, classroom practice for music and science, the “eye-gaze revolution” and how to deal with the online bullies who target SEN children.
There are also round-ups of new resources, books and events, and reviews. It’s an impressive and well-designed publication with an interesting group of contributors that includes well-known UK personalities like Sal McKeown (resources editor) and Myles Pilling (who contributes his “dyslexia dozen” apps) with international contributions from Sanja Denic (Serbia), Susan Zurawski (Nova Scotia) and Jennifer Keenan (USA). There are also openings for new talent, marked by the appearance of award-winning journalism student Lauren Archer.
The magazine is free to download and is in what is known as “interactive PDF” format which makes it ideal for browsing on a tablet, mobile phone screen or a computer monitor. The interactive aspect covers the ability to run video in windows (with an internet connection) and to reach out to other sources and people through active URLs. The magazine can be printed out for those who need hard copy (it is licensed for personal and educational use but not for commercial).
Welcomed all round
The widespread excitement about, and hope for, Special World is that it can fill an important gap for everyone working with special children, and parents too. And it is being welcomed all round. As ICT, SEN and Inclusion specialist John Galloway puts it, “There’s a lot to like about Special World. For a start it is global, recognising that although language, culture and context may differ, challenges and barriers to learning are no respecters of international boundaries.
“It provides a new space for sharing ideas, something good teachers do instinctively as part of their practice, particularly when it comes to working with children with special educational needs. These educators appreciate that every child is different and that we can all learn from each other when working towards meeting their needs. That even if we are struggling to support and teach them effectively, by sharing ideas and being open to new ways of working we may find an answer.
“Having an editor with an established and well-respected pedigree in this area should make for a readable publication that helps connect teachers across the globe, bringing them together in the collective endeavour of best serving their pupils.”
Publisher Martin Littler feels he is a last repaying a debt to special education. “My teaching career started in a special school; I was on attachment to Otterspool ESN(M) Special School in Liverpool. What I learnt there set me up for my teaching career and, strangely, for a career in business too.
"There is so much enterprise and talent in special education – so linking best practice worldwide should be very productive.”
Register for free magazine at the Special World website
Special World on Twitter: @specialworldmag
Martin Littler's blog on the Special World title: “‘Cringe-worthy’; ‘very patronising’ & ‘unfortunate’ and that's just the title!”
His blog on the magazine's roots “Linking Special Educators from every country”