One of the heard;Secondary;Reviews;English;Books

11th June 1999 at 01:00
TALKING RIGHTS; TAKING RESPONSIBILITY - a speaking and listening resource for secondary English and citizenship. By Heather Jarvis and Cathy Midwinter. UNICEFManchester Development Education Project. pound;13. Available from: UNICEF, Unit 1, Rignals Lane, Chelmsford, Essex CM2 8TU. Tel: 01245 476315 Fax: 01245 477394.

There's much to admire in this resource. It has structure and sequence, contains built-in classroom organisation and, most importantly, is a well-conceived treatment of an issue that matters to all children and has a real possibility of changing attitudes and actions.

UNICEF has a responsibility for implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and this programme of speaking and listening for key stage 3 pupils is an ideal way to bring it into schools.

As the national curriculum and key stage tests increasingly drive out the claims of personal and social education, English becomes a refuge for some of its aspects. When material is so well presented and relevant to programmes of study as this, who can complain?

Well, there is one slight gripe. I was sorry some connections were not made with stories, poems and plays, but wise teachers will make their own.

A summary of the Convention is printed at the start: it remains a touchstone for all that follows. A curriculum grid shows the nature and learning outcome of each of the six units: Talking about Rights, Exploring Identity, Dealing with Conflict, Living in a Community, Examining the Media, Planning for the Future. Each unit contains several activities. These involve structured discussion, role-play and whole-class presentations.

So, what is its aim? Perhaps pupils will emerge with new notions of responsibilities being the essential concomitants of rights, more sensitive notions of conduct to each other and, on a wider basis, tolerance at an age when adult and peer pressures to be less tolerant grow fast.If, as the resource quotes, "'Talk'... is fundamental to active citizenship", this may be a good weapon in the fight to make it so.

Dennis Hamley is a writer and former English adviser for Hertfordshire

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