Come together

Terence Copley looks at resources with ideas for collective worship and an introduction to religious celebrations

While primary teachers have to spend far too much time administering numeracy, literacy and all the paperwork that goes with being a teacher in 2002, the spiritual dimension is likely to move to the periphery, both for them as individuals and in their work with young children. Are exhausted and overworked adults capable of a spiritual life? With difficulty. Can they then help children in their spiritual journey? With equal difficulty. If the spiritual becomes peripheral, collective worship may become even more so. For teachers under pressure, a quick fix may be the only option.

Favourite Assemblies for Ages 4 to 7. Favourite Assemblies for Ages 7 to 11. Edited by Anne Stewart, both PfP. Price: pound;10 each

These two books are helpful and clear and contain all that is needed to lead collective worship, which they still, misleadingly, refer to as assemblies.

There is a basic kit of 40 in each collection, linked under eight themes. The format consists of an introduction, some sort of activity, a story, a conclusion followed by a prayer and also a more secular "thought" with specific song suggestions.

They are well-tried examples from PfP's Primary Assembly File subscription series, practical, realistic and clear. Instant "assemblies" are rarely as good as the purpose-built model - but for the teacher in a hurry, they may be the only option.

Assemblies for Sensitive Issues. The Primary Assembly Song Book. Edited by Gerald Haigh from PfP. Price: pound;25 each, including two cassettes

How sensitive is "sensitive"? These acts of collective worship deal with the death of an adult, the sudden death of a child, the issue of making fun of adults with special needs, anxieties about meningitis, refugees, divorce, the closure of a school, not liking one's body and other raw issues.

They are partly intended as emergency standbys, like a fire extinguisher, rather than a year's diet of worry. The aims of each act of worship are made clear and the guidance for the leader is very specific.

Religious and secular options are offered by way of prayers and thoughts. The assumption is that a senior member of staff would be leading the event - although in such cases they might be better prepared than the text assumes.

The songbook contains 45 songs with a score including guitar chords and full melody and accompaniment for pianokeyboard. The lyrics are thoughtful and sometimes secular.

When God appears, the presentation is wisely not religion-specific. These songs are necessarily different from previous generations of school songs and hymns. They raise the interesting question of whether this generation of children will remember as vividly what they sang in the hall as their parents or grandparents do. We should know by 2052.

Promoting Pupils' Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development through Collective Worship. Edited by Julie Grove and Louise Tellam from Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council. Price: pound;25 plus pamp;p. Tel: 0121 704 66566824.

A good RE adviserinspector is worth her weight in gold, for she amasses around her talented people who make exciting things happen in the schools and sometimes well beyond that authority.

This is just what has happened in Solihull, on more than one occasion, and this time a writing group of five has produced a major resource (329 pages), which links collective worship to "SMSC".

Collective worship has too often been an orphan, isolated from the rest of the curriculum, a different experience for children, questioned by them, but often undefended by those in authority in school except that "we have to do it, it's the law". This resource provides a rationale to integrate worship with curriculum and lots of detailed practical help.

Celebration Stories series from Hodder Children's Books. Price: pound;8.99 (hardback), pound;4.99 (paperback) each

The celebrations covered here are Hanukkah, Divali, Guru Nanak's birthday and Harvest. The writers are very experienced - in some cases award-winning - children's authors and the 46-page texts are illustrated in black and white and colour. Each has a short glossary and a two-page introduction about the celebration.

It is a pity that the Christianity book takes Harvest as its subject, as is not an ancient Christian festival, but a curious product of the 19th-century - there are more important festivals to go for.

It means that the story contains less of the religion than those in the other books. Yet all the stories are well told and will go into a class library in KS2 or alongside other support material into a scheme of work for RE.

Perhaps the publisher could produce four celebration books for each of the six main religions in UK RE. That would give balance within religions as well as across them.

But then, being slightly mischievous, I wonder if we could have a series called Non-Celebrations, about the ordinary routines of each religion, which accounts for the nitty-gritty of believers' lives?

Terence Copley is professor of religious education at the University of Exeter

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