Dinah Starkey looks at new materials that help non-specialist teachers meet a wide range of ability
Accessing Religious Education by Christine Moorcroft, for ages 8 - 9 Accessing Secondary Religious Education: Founders and Leaders by Eileen Osborne All published by Folens Student books pound;5.99 each Evaluation packs pound;9.99 each
Folens has long had a niche in the market, providing reasonably priced visual resource packs closely matched to national curriculum requirements - as well as to the budgets of cash-strapped schools. Its new series, Accessing Religious Educaiton, is no exception. There are big books and photo-cards for younger primary children and a series of photo-books themed around the QCA schemes of work for older ones.
The key stage 3 series follows a similar format. The difference is that there are also three sets of teachers' notes containing differentiated activities for special educational needs, mainstream and gifted and talented pupils.
The Year 4 pupil book from the primary series focuses on the familiar topics of Hindu worship, Christmas journeys, Easter, and religions in the neighbourhood, and some units are better than others. The images contained in Hindu worship, perhaps because they are less familiar, seem fresh and exciting. There are gorgeous colour pictures of Hindu gods, with their associated stories, followed by some great photos of Hindu worship. This takes up half the book and is worth every page.
However, it is followed by a rather perfunctory section on Christmas journeys, consisting of a map of the Holy Land, a handful of poorly reproduced old masters and a couple of banal modern illustrations, followed by an equally short, but visually more interesting look at Easter. The pupil books are backed up by competent teachers' notes providing background information and ideas for using the images. We are on well-trodden ground here and it shows. Any school that can afford individual RE textbooks for each child might choose this conveniently packaged offering, but most would do better building their own collection of images and artefacts.
However, the KS3 series is well worth considering. Differentiation is a headache in RE and many a non-specialist struggles to meet the range of ability within one tutor group. The teacher's notes are well thought out and offer genuinely different activities based on a single image. They should go a long way towards making life easier for those general teachers who often find themselves teaching RE. There's a good range of pictures and the activities - mostly discussion and paper-and-pencil based - are workmanlike, and unlikely to lead to any shining moments of insight.