THE diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales came to be (at
last) on Easter Day. The new Education Officer of the Church of
England Board of Education for schools in the Leeds, Bradford, and
Ripon areas is the director of the Centre for Church School
Education at York St John University, Richard Noake.
It is fitting, therefore, that Religion, Society and
God: Public theology in action, edited by R. Noake and N.
Buxton (SCM Press, £25 (CT Bookshop £22.50)), has emerged
from the old diocese of Ripon & Leeds - first as a tributeto
the Very Revd Keith Jukes, a much-loved Dean of Ripon, who died
unexpectedly in 2013; and also to commemorate the 1300th
anniversary of the death of St Wilfrid, the original founder of
The book is a compendium of a series of lectures delivered in
the cathedral over the past five years. The format is
straightforward, and deals, in the first part, with issues of
ultimate concern, such as the the place of God in the modern world.
The second part tackles the part played by faith in contemporary
The list of contributors is impressive - and so is the content:
the Rt Revd Lord Harries of Pentregarth takes on Professor Richard
Dawkins; the Jewish scholar Dan Cohn-Sherbok bravely tackles new
ways of interpreting the Holocaust. Estelle Morris is the
educationist who offers a typically thoughtful and useful
consideration of faith schools.
Ms Morris, of course, is a former Education Secretary, who
voluntarily resigned because she didn't think she was up to the job
(not a course of action the present incumbent is likely to take any
time soon). "Like all institutions, faith schools need to respond
to legitimate concerns in a fast-changing world," she said. As a
former Birmingham MP, she would be particularly valuable now.
Since these were lectures delivered live to a mixed audience,
they are highly readable and thought-provoking. Well done, Ripon.
Here's to the next series.
AT THE opposite end of the spectrum, in Exploring the
Role of Godly Play in the Church Primary School, by Jane
Lewis (Grove Education eD18, £3.95 (£3.56)), the author
enthuses about an approach to RE based on play, and the Montessori
approach to education.
Developed in the United States, in the early years of the
millennium, "godly play" seeks to present an alternative to the
traditional forms of RE or storytelling. This little volume will
particularly appeal to proponents of a Montessori approach.
Capturing the vision of godly play is essential to making it
Margaret Cooling is typically succinct in her assessment: "This
approach is particularly good for the 'learning from' aspect of RE,
which teachers often find harder than 'learning about'." Well said.
She is wise enough to know that reluctant teachers of RE will be
reticent about such an open-ended approach.
They will be altogether more comfortable with
Emotionally Intelligent RE: Learning about our emotions
from Bible stories by Cavan Wood (BRF, £7.99
Any volume that announces that it contains 25 lesson-plans for
RE will naturally be of immediate interest to practitioners, and
especially those who regard RE as a chore. And this is an
enterprising volume, because it grasps a nettle that church primary
schools often avoid: where does Personal, Social and Health
Education (PSHE) stop, and RE start?
Anger and jealousy - the story of Cain and Abel provides a
perfect vehicle to do it through RE; let's combine the two. Grief -
the story of Job. Loyalty - we can't do better than Ruth and Naomi.
And so on. Brilliant. And by my calculations it is 32p a lesson. If
that gives me a weekend off from RE preparation, it is worth many
In a similar vein, The RE Teacher's Survival Guide: A
practical guide to teaching RE in primary schools, by Jane
Brooke (BRF, £6.99 (£6.30)), provides a wealth of material
for a teacher thrust into subject leadership in a primary school.
(It invariably comes as a surprise to well-paid heads of department
in secondary schools that their primary colleagues have to take on
subject leadership unremunerated. Indeed, it is not unusual, in
small primary schools, for a teacher to have to take on more than
Thankfully, Brooke's comprehensive guidance to RE
subject-leaders in a primary school answers all the likely
questions. What are the pitfalls? How can you assess spiritual
development? What if my teaching colleagues are negative towards
the subject? How can I avoid offending Muslims and Hindus? What
about a report to the governors? This is the stuff of sleepless
nights. Worry not, this jargon-free guidance will give you all the
help you need.
IT IS strange that primary schools rarely cover the First World
War. But this year is surely an exception. What Price
Peace? A teaching resource for primary schools exploring issues of
war and peace, by Chris Hudson (BRF, £8.99
(£8.10)) is, therefore, a welcome arrival on the
The volume is suitable for a cross-curricular approach, using
the war as a focus for RE, history, PSHE, and particularly
Parents and grandparents will be grateful that the school is
undertaking this on their behalf. The unimaginable slaughter
involved is probably why schools have shied away from even
mentioning it. And yet the Christmas truce, Woodbine Willie,
The Wipers Times, the Angel of Mons, and Toc H,
among many more, open the door to imaginative, but also factual
consideration of the war years.
Michael Morpugo's brilliant stories for children,
Warhorse and Private Peaceful, provide the ideal
background for two of the author's chosen themes: the white
feather, and the widespread affection for animals felt by soldiers
on the Western Front.
As Britain struggles again, in 2014, to come to terms with its
position within Europe and the world, there is surely an
ever-urgent responsibility on schools to explain to our children
the events that have created and defined our island story.
And this is a year like no other: the 70th anniversary of D-Day
takes place on 6 June, and it is the centenary of the start of the
First World War. The publishers have got it right. To tackle the
First World War in primary schools is an idea whose time has