Empty words;Cross-phase;Reviews;Books

8th January 1999 at 00:00
WORDS ALOUD. Books 1 and 2. Chosen by Anne Harvey Guildhall School of Music and Drama pound;6.95

These two anthologies of poetry, prose and drama have been put out by the Guildhall School to accompany its new graded examination syllabus in Speech Communication and Drama. The syllabus is designed for children and adults taking a solo approach to drama through such activities as verse reading and public speaking. Doubtless with an eye on a rather larger market, the books are also advertised as a resource for National Curriculum English at key stages 1 to 3.

Unfortunately, they contain little evidence of the "modern and innovative educational philosophy" claimed by the publisher for the Guildhall syllabuses. On the evidence of these two volumes, it is hard to believe much has changed since my own long ago experience of the speech and drama medal industry.

Although presumably selected to match the difficulty of the examinations at each grade level, the pieces have no other apparent raison d'etre. Jammed tightly on the page, they are neither linked thematically nor explained. And as every teacher of English knows, it is contextualisation that makes reading aloud meaningful. The books will probably serve their examination market adequately, but the absence of context makes is hard to recommend them for wider use in schools.

David Hornbrook is Arts Inspector for the London Borough of Camden. His latest book, 'On the Subject of Drama', was published by Routledge last April

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