Everyone join in;Secondary;Religious Education;Books

15th May 1998 at 01:00
50 MORE ACTIVE ASSEMBLIES. By Peter Norton. Heinemann. pound;16.50

It is always good to see attempts to prevent passivity in collective worship for secondary pupils, who move from involved collective worship at primary school to become silent statues at secondary. 50 More Active Assemblies is a delightfully ambiguous title implying a companion volume, 50 Less Active Assemblies. Alas, the publisher highlights "50 More" to prevent this misconception.

But the writer does not highlight "collective worship", or recent comments on good practice from the Office for Standards in Education, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and the Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education. This is a pity, as the assemblies remain divorced from any educational context, including spiritual development.

What we have is quick-fix, structured formats with a mixture of religious and secular material under six loose themes - celebrations, our effect on others, personal qualities, Bible stories, saints and famous people. There are some group activities and a question-and-answer format to encourage interaction. Each ends with a concluding line for the leader to use.

Apart from the Christian celebrations section, presented as information about Christian beliefs (surely the role of RE), the Bible stories are reduced from their religious context to PSE. Noah's Ark is thus about good qualities that should be preserved and bad qualities that should be jettisoned. David and Goliath comes down to determination, hard work and self-confidence. Daniel in the lion's den is turned into doing what we know is right, resisting cigarettes, for instance. What we can't scent in this collection is the whiff of spiritual awareness about collective worship or sensitivity to the religions some of the stories have come from.

* Terence Copley is professor of religious education at the University of Exeter.

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