EDUCATION: Good news teachers: you’re not alone

by
02 November 2006

Dennis Richards reviews education resources hitting the bookshelves, Sally Smith highlights CD resources and conferences, and Tony Parfitt looks at the web

 Books

Biblos: Primary Teacher’s Handbook

Catherine Bowness, Mark Brimicombe, Sarah Lane

RMEP, £14.95 (1-85175-282-X)

A VAST range of materials is currently available on the RE market, which befits the rapidly growing status of the subject. Some would argue that, in reality, such an assessment applies only to secondary schools. That story has been told many times.

The burgeoning popularity of RE in secondary schools is directly linked to the advent of statutory citizenship. In order to give citizenship credibility in the eyes of the pupils, it had to be tied into the exam system. A feeble attempt to create a GCSE in citizenship quickly foundered, and RE, with its already growing emphasis on contemporary moral and ethical issues, lay conveniently to hand.

A similar, this time unheralded, shift is growing apace in primary schools. In recent years, the primary curriculum has been dominated by numeracy, literacy, and science. A good thing too, argues the back-to-basics lobby. Sceptics, on the other hand, have bemoaned the lack of creativity and the low status of other subjects. The latter might describe the new thinking as an "if you can’t beat ’em" strategy; wiser heads might say it should never have been a case of either-or.

The excellent Biblos: Primary Teacher’s Handbook exemplifies the new trend perfectly. The handbook accompanies a series of three separate books based on the themes of vulnerability, encounter, and destiny. Using biblical passages creatively, the books fully meet the requirements of the National Framework for RE in primary schools. But equally important are the very evident and cleverly signposted links with the National Literacy Strategy.

The series is edited by Terence Copley, whose name is usually an imprimatur for quality. And it contains some first-class material for literacy hour, which means you can happily and successfully kill two birds with one stone. The individual pupils’ books in the series are reasonably priced at £6.95.

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Spirited Arts: Exploring and expressing through art in primary RE Edited by Rachel Barker

RE Today, £7.90 (1-904024-78-5)

EVEN more adventurous, and using a similar cross-curricular emphasis, is Spirited Arts. This highly innovative project draws on artwork submitted by primary-school children across the UK for a Spirited Arts competition. The winning entries reflect the core of the book. Further examples can be found on the website of the Professional Council for RE (www.pcfre.org.uk).

The book is packed with interesting ideas, and essentially works as a teacher’s manual. It contains several lessons’ worth of material, which makes the price all the more reasonable. For example, Using The Angel of the North as a theme is a gem of an idea for teachers in the northern half of the country.

  Bible Alive! Route maps through the Bible

Penny Boshoff

Scripture Union, £7.99 (1-84427-069-6)

IF YOU favour a more traditional approach, there is plenty available, and this is a good new example. As you would expect from the Scripture Union, the product is superbly produced and takes no risks. There is no attempt to relate the material to the modern world, and it is a straightforward, highly efficient record of Bible journeys from Abraham to Paul. This is probably not a classroom text, but an attractive addition to the school library.

 Special people, Special Places

Janet Marshall

BRF, £9.99 (1-84101-372-2)

ANOTHER handily priced volume for younger children takes a similar theme, basing itself on pilgrimage. This volume has 96 pages and is packed with ideas, both ancient and modern. In this case, the starting point is journeys we all have to make, leading on to the best-known pilgrimage sites in Britain and concluding with biblical examples. The author is skilled in using the story form, which hardly, if ever, fails with primary-age children.

 Collective Worship Unwrapped

John Guest

BRF, £12.99 (1-84101-371-4)

AS EVER, there is no shortage of resources for collective worship, especially in primary schools. This book offers 33 tried-and-tested assemblies with cracking story lines, and loads of suggestions for visual aids and audience involvement. The content is highly biblical, Evangelical even, and therefore best suited to Christian schools.

Collective worship

HEADTEACHERS might also wish to know that the best and most thorough policy document on collective worship I have seen comes from Yorkshire. I may be biased, but if I say Eileen Bellett was heavily involved in its production, northern RE specialists, at least, will accept my word for it. It can be obtained from Bradford and Ripon & Leeds Diocesan Education Office (admin@brleducationteam.org.uk).

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 CD resources

Cracking Christmas, Cracking Easter, Cracking Christianity, and Cracking Church Life

The Stapleford Centre, £25 per CD (£15 each for further copies of the same CD)

THE Stapleford Centre has produced a series of four computer CDs providing a rare combination of ICT and RE.

Cracking Christmas and Cracking Easter provide material covering the concepts behind the festivals.

Cracking Christianity deals with the question "Who is God?" through lessons and activities on God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, and the Trinity.

 Cracking Church Life explores aspects of the life of the Christian Church and of individual Christians. A section on church buildings includes support materials for planning visits to local churches.

Each CD contains a wealth of materials including interactive activities for Key Stages 1 and 2, narrated stories, a range of works of art to project, ideas for assemblies, and lesson plans, and opportunities for pupils to develop ICT skills through RE-related activities.

 Conferences

Stuck in Neutral?

15-17 September, Britannia Hotel in Standish, Wigan. £155 (10-per-cent discount for classroom assistants, NQTs and student teachers). For details contact the Stapleford Centre on 0115 939 6270; www.stapleford-centre.org

Christian teachers and learning assistants work in a professional world, where a secular approach is often perceived as being neutral, whereas a faith perspective is thought to be inherently biased.

The National Christian Teachers’ Conference, "Stuck in Neutral?", will explore working as a Christian in such a world, engaging with

young people’s spirituality and the positive impact of Christian values on learning and teaching.

The conference is organised jointly by the Stapleford Centre, TISCA, ACT, and Scripture Union.

Web

REonline ( www.REonline.org.uk) was launched a year ago, and in the past 12 months has had more than 21 million hits. The site innovates by providing distinct sections both for pupils and students, and for teachers.

Information that users can access continues to grow and the site is set to feature a range of specially commissioned resources, including:

• new teacher resources on management in the BetterRE section (following the highly successful "self-evaluation toolkit" produced in association with AREIAC);

• a range of materials for pupils and teachers produced in collaboration with REQuest, a leading website producer of materials for Christianity in RE.

• resources for students working at A level, produced in collaboration with staff at Canterbury Christ Church University.

The "People of Faith" section is also developing. Last year it featured videos of pupils talking about their beliefs and how these influenced the way they lived. This was followed up with an e-mail project, where pupils e-mail questions on aspects of belief and its practice to fellow pupils.

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Now this is to be extended with adults answering questions — a resource useful not only for pupils, but also for teachers who might want to learn more about aspects of faith and how it is practised.

A series of video visits — with interviews — to places of worship illustrating the variety and importance of worship in belief is also set to come online.

The site also has extensive directories of linked sites, multimedia resources for RE, calendars with suggested websites linked to each festival, and a listing of broadcast resources that will be of interest to the RE teacher. Each term a newsletter of developments is emailed to interested users.

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