Not enough gory bits

4th September 1998 at 01:00
Heinemann Living Through History series. Book 1: The Roman Empire and Medieval Realms. By Nigel Kelly, Rosemary Rees and Jane Shuter Pounds 9.25

Foundation Edition By Fiona Reynoldson and David Taylor Pounds 9.25

Assessment and Resources Pack. By Nigel Kelly and Susan Willoughby Pounds 25.99

Foundation Edition. By David Taylor Pounds 25.99

Book 2: The Making of the United Kingdom and Black Peoples of the Americas. By Nigel Kelly, Rosemary Rees and Jane Shuter Pounds 9.25.

Foundation Edition. By Fiona Reynoldson and David Taylor. Pounds 9.25

Assessment and Resources Park. By Nigel Kelly and Susan Willoughby. Pounds 27.99.

Foundation Edition. By David Taylor Pounds 25.99

Less able pupils are still required by the national curriculum to study two thousand years in three. Enter Heinemann with foundation texts that are strikingly different from the mainstream, with reduced narrative, shorter re-written sources and simpler diagrams. The series aims to "win the battle for history" by making it enjoyable. We expect to find more "gory bits", individual lives and large-scale artwork. Judged by these criteria, the product is disappointingly dull.

The titles on British history remain committed to inclusivity, using step-by-step spreads with family trees of the English kings 1066-1272, and information about Lincoln mayors and the merchant trade in Southampton. Individual and family profiles do, however, offer murders to solve and mysteries to unravel: Who killed Christopher Marlowe? Was Elizabeth Dysart a double agent? The study of Defoe is too condensed in the foundation book for his importance to be understood. Some memorable images are lost in the trans-lation from mainstream to foundation, such as Eleanor of Aquitaine going into the Second Crusade as an Amazonian warrior.

As to gore, both texts are restrained, but the slaughter of the Levellers at Burford is well-told, with the recanting Cornet Den howling and weeping like a crocodile.

Extensive use of photographs and first-hand accounts of whippings give raw edges to the story of black people in the Americas, and regular use of black perspectives helps the student to live the history with the subject. This is a well-structured, source-based account which fulfils the publisher's aims and helps reinforce the importance of the topic. Its adaptation for the full ability range makes it a powerful tool in combating racism.

The series has several drawbacks. Half of Book 1 is no longer a component of key stage 3. Schools cannot be certain how many foundation texts will be needed without sharing or wasting resources. And two teacher's books are an expensive commitment, given the numbers likely to use the foundation text. It would have been better to produce a single resource pack for the full ability range.

Mark Williamson

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