Football facts and fiction

THE FOOTBALL KIT. Teachers' Resource File. History Facts and Figures. Football Facts and Figures. By Frances Mackay. FOUL PLAY. By Karen King. Hopscotch pound;130.

The Football Kit, a boxed literacy resource targeted principally at under-achieving boys aged eight to 14, contains sets of fiction and non-fiction titles, each of which is accompanied by a spiral-bound teacher's resource file. The History of Football and Football Facts and Figures, both by Frances Mackay, are well-designed and produced, albeit slim (24 pages). They had to be prised away from a group of Year 5 footballers, who found the factual content fascinating.

The fiction title Foul Play by Karen King had a more mixed reception. Two boys loved it, zipping through the short-chapter book in 10 minutes, enjoying the humour of the mixed-up kit prank. Neither of them could be described as an underachiever and both thought they were at the upper end of the age-interest level for the story. It is hard to see the title being used successfully at key stage 3 and, despite being presented in big print with speech-bubble illustrations, the sentence structure will be over-complex for struggling KS2 readers.

In addition to its primary audience, the compilers of the kit hope that it will have "a wide enough appeal to interest children of all abilities, both girls and boys". I tried two able Year 5 girls with a worksheet called "When Did It Happen?" They were directed to "use the time-line in The History of Football" to answer some factual questions. Frustration set in with Q.4: "Which famous player retired from football in 1974?" The timeline has only one entry for 1974 - West Germany won the World Cup. Despite the exhortation to "use the timeline", being resourceful readers the two girls scoured the rest of the book. In the Players section they discovered that Bobby Charlton had retired in 1973. Close, but not close enough. In the end, they put down Pele. Why? Because Sam, who knows his stuff, said so, and because the book's index says information about Pele can be found on page17, the page with the 1974 timeline, so they deduced his retirement had been omitted in error. Trouble is, the other non-fiction title tells us that Pele retired in 1977, so we still do not know the answer.

This costly resource is unlikely to validate the contentious assumption that underachieving boys will automatically be drawn to literacy work that uses football as its theme, not least because more than half the photocopiable worksheets have nothing whatever to do with the game.

MICHAEL THORN Michael Thorn is deputy head of Hawkes Farm Primary School, Hailsham, East Sussex

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