For primary teachers feeling "deskilled and demoralised" by the burden of paperwork, testing and target setting, Hilary Claire offers support in the form of an ambitious yet practical book designed to encourage creative teaching. Not Aliens sets out to help primary teachers interpret citizenship and PSHE guidelines, drawing on children's concerns and ideas.
This book is based on the author's innovative research in two contrasting London schools. Chapter one introduces the children, the research project and the schools. The next four chapters explore themes raised by the children, such as identity, family, racism, health, crime and safety. The book offers important new insights into children's thinking and into their understandings of politics and economics. It challenges us to look critically at current citizenship and PSHE guidelines, questioning whether they are based on an "assumption that middle-class andor white children are the norm".
In the final section, Claire discusses values within a multicultural society, acknowledging areas of consensus and conflict. She rejects postmodernist relativism, arguing that schools need to adopt internationally agreed human rights principles, which provide a framework for dialogue. She stresses the need for a transformative curriculum which draws on children's multiple identities and everyday experiences, but which also addresses global concerns and recognises that if we are serious about political literacy we need to encourage economic understanding in children. She concludes by demonstrating how this might be realised in primary school, highlighting practical resources as support.
Reva Klein's new book is one such practical resource. It reports on an action research project initiated by Save the Children which set out to develop our understanding of the processes of learning and teaching about children's human rights at key stages 1 and 2. The project encouraged the participating teachers to consider an approach to citizenship education based on children's rights.
Citizens by Right draws our attention to the importance for schools of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This document, which has been ratified by the UK government, confirms children's right to education, and spells out the aims of education. These include "development of respect for human rights" - all children have the right to human rights education and schools have a duty to provide it. There are important implications here for teacher training, including the need for all new teachers to consider the relevance of the convention to their professional practice.
The book demonstrates the everyday practical relevance of the convention to schools. Using photographs and examples of children's work, it shows how it can be brought to life, arguing persuasively that children's rights need to be at the heart of citizenship education.
It contains a number of activities which can be readily adopted by others, and should prove particularly useful to student teachers and teacher educators.
Most helpfully, the teachers report on how they and their schools responded to the project's challenge. They do not gloss over the difficulties, offering colleagues the opportunity to learn from their mistakes as well as from their successes.
Audrey Osler Audrey Osler is professor of education and director of the Centre for Citizenship Studies in Education, University of Leicester