The national curriculum for Pounds 80

24th January 1997 at 00:00
Learning Through Literacy: Myself. Learning Through Literacy: Homes Scholastic Pounds 80. Age range: 5-7

Each of these literacy packs comes in a bright, upright box containing eight children's books, a folder of posters called "visual resources", and a thick A4 teacher's resource book, packed with photocopiable ideas for teacher and child alike. This is becoming a familiar format for reading programmes, so what is different about this one?

Like other publishers, Scholastic is making the national curriculum a selling point, this time with coverage not only of the English Order, but of the other subjects as well. On the basis of a very small collection of books and endless suggestions for activities based on them, teachers can now be confident that all the scientific and historical nooks, the mathematical and geographical crannies, and even the far perimeters of multicultural art, music and RE at key stage 1, will have been covered. These packs, they are assured, offer a double indemnity against the great OFSTED menace.

Scholastic has a well-deserved reputation for choosing high-quality children's literature. These boxes contain predictable picture-story books by the best children's authors, likely to be in most infant rooms already. The non-fiction is more variable and raises the question of how children learn "facts" and "knowledge".

In Changing Times - Housework by Ruth Thomson (Homes pack) I couldn't help noticing the historical "fact" that women were doing all the housework throughout the generations. The cover photograph shows a man ironing a shirt, but the issue is not raised. Children need to reflect on the role models offered here.

The eight books in each box account for less than half the Pounds 80 price, so, excluding the very thin packs of posters, the rest is invested in the A4 resources books. Each teacher's book has additional materials - an anthology of poems, stories, and factual writing - but I disliked the cheap-looking presentation. Photocopies simply push up the cost of using such materials and ought to be good value for money, not so obviously ephemeral and dispensable.

The activities for teachers are detailed and structured on three levels to allow for differentiation. Some are worthwhile and original, others are dull and mechanical.

So there we have it: all the key stage 1 subjects, all at three levels, covering all the attainment targets in every possible combination of worksheet, exercise and lesson plan. The national curriculum for Pounds 80, but it's not my idea of literacy.

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