Collective worship

28th April 2000 at 01:00

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT:collective worship for 5-7 year olds. BBC Schools Radio. Broadcasts: Radio 3 FM, Tuesdays May 2-23 and June 6-27, 3.15-3.30am. Book and cassette pack pound;13.99, tapes pound;2, teacher's notes pound;3.

TOGETHER: collective worship for 7-11 year olds. BBC schools Radio. Broadcasts: Radio 3 FM,Thursdays May 4-25 andJune 8-29, 3.40-4am. Book and cassette pack pound;13.99, tapes pound;2, teacher's notes pound;3.

When searching for hymns to use at their weddings, some couples have only the songs they learnt at primary school to fall back on, usually those from the BBC's songbook Come and Praise. The influence of BBC broadcasting on our culture should not be underestimated - it is only a matter of time before someone walks down the aisle to "From a Tiny Ant".

BBC assembly broadcasts used to be taken live. Anavuncular voice would read a comforting prayer in a programme that was part exhortation, part exaltation. But today if you wish to listen - live - to Together or Something to Think About, you would have to get up at 3.20am. And the tone has definitely changed. The subject matter remains serious, appropriate and worthy, but the broadcasts do not often feel like acts of worship, largely, I think, because the reflection element tends to be hurried through as if it were an embarrassment.I recognised the approach straight away - a little bit Blue Peter, a little bit Newsround, with Top of the Pops mixed in with that muzak you get piped at you around the meat counter at the supermarket. The children will probably love it.

Something to Think About is for infants and, like its companion Together, the programmes are grouped into two units of five assemblies. They share some stories in unit 1, though they are suitably adapted for each age group. These explore such issues as peace (Middle East), education (Bolivia) and the environment (Indonesia). The voices of children are included in Together - you may not be able to force children to worship, but you can encourage them to think.

The infant resource book has some bizarre text arrangements, but it contains some singable songs, although the tunes are mostly from the "Kumbaya, One Finger One Thumb" school of music and the accompaniments are banal. I note that one Alvin Stardust contribution includes a high E flat. For infants?

On balance, the book is uncertain and tentative in tone, perhaps reflecting the state of compulsory worship today. It consistently uses "invite", "ask" and "if the children want to". Whatever happened to "tell"?

Paul Noble Paul Noble is head of St Andrew's primary school, Blunsdon, Wiltshire

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