Missed chances to boost history

6th May 2005 at 01:00
STANDARD GRADE HISTORY SERIES. Scotland and Britain since 1830. International Relations 1890-1930. People and Power: Germany 1918-1939. series editor Graeme Coy. Hodder Gibson, pound;10.99 each

This series was first published in 1998-99. A second edition followed in 2000, and these three revised third editions in 2004.

All the books share common features: all are lavishly illustrated, give good coverage of the syllabus at the three Standard grade levels and include a section on studying history and passing examinations.

So they will continue to help teachers make the study of the past as engaging and interactive as possible for pupils.

My quibbles lie in the details. Scotland and Britain covers two of the contexts within unit one of the SQA exams, the 1830s-1930s and the 1880s-1980s. As a head of department, I would have to think hard about buying a book which would be only half used.

Given that the aim of the series is to help pupils pass exams well, it is surprising that so many tasks are given over to knowledge and understanding, while the enquiry skills questions, which pupils find so difficult, receive less than adequate coverage. And given that the revised edition was published when the Scottish Qualifications Authority had already indicated changes to the enquiry skills section of unit one at Credit level, it is odd to find questions and model answers based on source analysis.

International Relations gives some irrelevant material on, for example, the Boer War. It can be argued this knowledge is essential for pupils to understand the complexity of the causes of the First World War and the tensions between the powers prior to it, but the space could have been better used to cover the wide range of questions in unit two of the exams.

There is another missed opportunity in chapter 11 on trench warfare, where extensive source material is cited but there is no pupil task directly related to much of it.

People and Power: Germany bears all the hallmarks of the other titles. It is lively and engaging but, again, the pupil tasks should really reflect the style of exam questions they will meet and the extended writing task should have noted the SQA's instructions concerning the layout of responses and how marks will be awarded.

These books are more than adequate for successful delivery of the Standard grade course but given competition in the market, the publishers have missed a chance to continue dominating it .

Jim McGonigle is PT of history at Hermitage Academy, Helensburgh

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