Room 26 revisited

23rd June 2000 at 01:00
HODDER HISTORY - Conflict, Power amp; People: Medieval Britain 1066-1500. Mainstream edition by Martyn Whittock. Foundation edition by John D Clare. Homework and Extension Pack by Martyn Whittock and John D Clare

NEW WORLDS FOR OLD: Britain 1750-1900. Mainstream edition by Neil DeMarco. Foundation edition by John D Clare. Homework and Extension Pack by Neil DeMarco and John D Clare. Hodder amp; Stoughton. Student's Book pound;6.99 each. Homework and Extension Pack pound;25 each

There is a large gap in the Cotswold ridge just below Winchcombe and anyone teaching in Room 26 knows all about it - particularly on those afternoons when the east wind finds the gap and hits the classroom with a ferocity matched only by the effect it has on the pupils. There are times when I look at new texts for key stage 3 and think of those afternoons in Room 26 with wind shaking the windows and Year 9 up the wall and wishing they were over it. Would this book have made a difference or would I have used it to stop that growing fissure in the window frame?

Hodder History is tabloid history only a few steps removed from the "Naughty Normans" genre. Its simple double-page spread gives pupils everything they need to know and do, without turning a page - key questions, new words, well selected and relevant sources and activities that don't need explaining twice. The Mainstream editions are plain to the point of simplicity, but there is even a Foundation version which reaches out and will meet the needs of pupils of less ability and those in special education or referral units.

One striking feature of Conflict, Power amp; People is the quality of the visual evidence from 14th-century paintings of the religious life and contemporary photographs of locations to investigate such as Totnes as a model of a medievl town.

Case studies and examples are used throughout, although teachers should expect different levels of interest; the vanishing village (Knowlton, Dorset) is well supported by evidence and visual clues whereas the move of Old Sarum to the present Salisbury introduces more arcane background material which may be more difficult to interpret in relevant terms.

The Homework and Extension Pack offers some truly innovative, multi-purpose tasks ranging from the inevitable police report on the murder of Becket to Can't cook, won't cook and The Clothes Show. You have been warned.

There is no need to struggle with adapting Britain 1750-1900 to the needs of the less able and the less motivated. Like its partner titles on the medieval period, the two versions of New Worlds for Old meet the needs of the average and below average pupil by a clever combination of choice of subject matter and understanding of learning styles. A good example of how the two approaches work is seen in the illustrations showing the changes in transport across the period; subtle changes in captioning are all that are needed to open up the topic for everyone.

One of the strengths of this title is the focus on individuals who made or at least reflected the history - those from both sides in the horrific events at Cawnpore, Franklin's search for the North-West passage and the testimony of the bodies discovered in very recent years, and Lister's shock at the conditions under which operations were performed in his student years is graphically described and the negative reactions to his attempts to counteract post-operative infection.

This is history for Room 26. Why was not it available 10 years ago?

Mark Williamson is general adviser for humanities and RE for the London borough of Hounslow

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