Passionate conviction

1st December 2000 at 00:00
PRIMARY HISTORY CURRICULUM GUIDE. By Pat Hughes, Kath Cox and Gillian Goddard. David Fulton. pound;12.50. THE TEACHING OF HISTORY IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS. By Hilary Cooper. David Fulton. pound;15.

Even within Curriculum 2000, history still occupies a rather precarious position, elbowed aside by subjects to which national tests supply a formidable respectability. Two books with a persuasive faith in history's status are therefore particularly welcome.

Primary History Curriculum Guide is aimed at students and newly qualified teachers. It provides a clear outline of what they are required to teach, and gives some interactive exercises to help develop a greater understanding of the subject.

It is direct and unpretentious and, though it makes no claim to more subtle insights, it contains succinct and encouraging sections on a range of resources and how to use them. It points briefly towards the equivocal nature of some evidence - portraits used as propaganda, for example - but its main virtue is the assurance it offers that buildings, artefacts, photographs, music, news-papers and books can al help children understand the past from which we spring.

Hilary Cooper's new edition of her splendid and deservedly influential book is enriched by the contribution of many teachers, students and children whose work she has woven into her argument. She is convinced, contrary to some eminences who should know better, that objectives in history and literacy and numeracy can be purposefully linked, a conviction both passionate and rational. Her entirely practical suggestions stem from a clearly argued philosophy of historical thinking.

The book combines practical classroom experience in the form of numerous case studies with a confident handling of the methodology of research, the implications of research findings and the developmental nature of children's grasp of concepts such as time and causality. Hilary Cooper treats teachers as members of a reflective profession. Her suggestions for implementing the revised programmes of study will encourage them to believe they are not just the instruments by which national objectives are achieved but people with skills and minds.

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