The brave new world of politics;Curriculum materials;Books

17th September 1999 at 01:00
MODERN STUDIES: The Government of Scotland. By John McTaggart and Rona Molloy. pound;6.

POWER AND INFLUENCE ON DECISION MAKING. (Intermediate 1 and 2). By Brian Paterson. pound;5. Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum.

Scotland's new Parliament and its high profile in the Higher Still syllabus will have given modern studies teachers across the country a summer of positive expectation and nervous tension.

Positive expectation because equipping students with the knowledge and skills necessary to participate effectively in society will be easier in a more accessible political system. Nervous tension because yet another topic now "needs attention".

While modern studies students from around Scotland took part in the opening of the Parliament, their teachers were frantically sorting out newspaper cuttings, adjusting units and trying to organise the Scottish content of their Secondary 5 and 6 courses. Or preparing for their summer holidays.

Enter the cavalry.

New support materials, produced by the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum and provided in photocopiable book form to every school, will be an excellent starting point for all teachers. Written by experienced practitioners, their logical approach and lively style should enable students to engage with Scottish and national politics.

The Higher text makes no claim to be definitive because, as the introduction correctly asserts, it may be 20 years or so until the new Parliament's procedures and constitutional role are clarified.

What this book can claim to be is an excellent resource on which to build and develop materials for "The Government of Scotland" topic.

The background to devolution is dealt with well and the structure of the new Parliament is clearly detailed. A strong section deals with potential areas of dispute between Westminster and Holyrood while the relationship between the Scottish Parliament and local government is also well handled.

The text follows other Higher publications by relying on an informationquestion format but there is enough variety and relevance in the tasks to ensure that students will be well prepared for assessments. The excellent glossary and list of websites, contacts and references add a depth often missing in other materials.

The Intermediate 1 and 2 resource uses a variety of approaches to enliven drier material in the "Power and Influence on Decision Making" topic.

The "Power" section gets off to a great start with an enjoyable introduction to the sometimes marked differences between Scottish and UK society.

Subsequent sections on the Scottish Office and the Scottish Parliament are thorough though, inevitably, a little tougher.

The "Influence" section provides solid background information on both the media and pressure groups, using a case-study of Greenpeace to good effect.

In some places the language used may be a little challenging for Intermediate 1 students, but the tasks which accompany each section are extremely well focused.

As with the Higher resource, questions closely resemble those which students will face under examination and the use of optional research questions as extension work is a refreshing improvement on much of the support material produced thus far for modern studies.

Publication deadlines have ensured that neither of these resources detail the actual result of the elections to the new Parliament or subsequent events. This apparent drawback may be an advantage, because the resources will retain relevance for years to come, provided teachers insert up-to-date materials.

The battle modern studies teachers face in keeping resources up to date often seems to resemble the task of the Forth Bridge painter. These resources are a durable undercoat, allowing teachers to respond to changes in the Scottish political landscape.

The Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum can be contacted by writing to them at Gardyne Rd, Dundee DD5 1NY.Gavin Clark is assistant principal teacher of modern studies at Dunbar Grammar School and chairperson of the Modern Studies Association.

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