Scots well served

18th October 1996 at 01:00
A SENSE OF HISTORY SCOTLAND P4-P7 Age range 9-12 Pupil's Books (pack of five)

ANCIENT SCOTLAND BY DOROTHY MORRISON Pounds 24.95 WARS OF INDEPENDENCE By Dorothy Morrison Pounds 24.95 THE HIGHLAND CLEARANCES By Sallie Purkis and James Mason Pounds 19.95 EMIGRATION FROM SCOTLAND By Douglas Lawson Pounds 19.95 TEACHER'S GUIDE POUNDS 19.99 Pack of 12 Posters Pounds 22.99 + VAT A SENSE OF HISTORY CELTIC BRITAIN RESOURCE PACK By James Mason. Pounds 4. 99 Set of 6 posters Pounds 13.99 + VAT Longman

Various factors have restricted the publication of textbooks devoted to Scottish history. The relative smallness of the Scottish market has been cited as the main reason; the demise or takeover of Scottish publishing houses is another possible factor. So it's good to find Longman catering specifically for the teaching of Scottish history in primary schools.

The Scottish titles are related closely to the Environmental Studies 5-14 Scottish Curricular Guidelines. In the teacher's guide, the early pages are devoted to helping primary teachers see how the selected topics can fit into their environmental studies curriculum. This section should prove very helpful to those seeking to respond adequately to a far from straightforward document.

The choice of titles was not, of course, dictated by the Guidelines, which are very vague about historical content, but was decided after consultation with teachers and advisers. I hope further titles will be added, as the present list presents a somewhat negative view of Scotland's history in that half the titles are concerned with Scots leaving their country.

The teacher's guide contains much practical advice and guidance, for example on the optimum use of the posters, and the copymasters should prove useful.

Care has been taken in the pupil's books to employ language which is likely to be accessible to most middle and upper primary children. However, the fact that the Environmental Studies Guidelines place P7 firmly with S1 and S2 (12-14 year olds) as a distinct "stage" in terms of contexts and developing understanding has been rather ignored.

The illustrations in the books and posters are attractive, interesting and effective in terms of promoting discussion and stimulating pupils' imagination. The emphasis is on historical sources, with good use made of paintings and photographs. The contribution of modern illustrations is useful, though some, such as the colourful but anodyne representation of the Battle of Stirling Bridge, look somewhat unrealistic.

The pupil's books contain a well-judged blend of illustration, source materials, historical narrative and description, and tasks for pupils. Selection of content, within the constraints of available space, is well suited to the interests of primary pupils, with appropriate emphasis on social history.

In Emigration from Scotland more attention could have been paid to the large-scale migration to continental Europe in the 17th century, at a time when links with Europe are of interest in schools. Likewise, in the otherwise very well written pupil's book on The Wars of Independence, there is surprisingly little on Scottish tactics for dealing with English heavy cavalry: the schiltrom (a "hedgehog" of spears) is ignored.

There are few obvious errors, although the Teacher's Guide, including one copymaster worksheet, promulgates the old mistaken view of the '45 Rising as a war between Scot-land and England.

Supplementing existing Invaders and Settlers material, Celtic Britain is well illustrated, with the Lindow Man especially likely to arouse great interest. Although the focus is heavily on Wales, with important aspects of Celtic Scotland such as St Columba and lona being ignored, teachers should find that this package complements Ancient Scotland admirably.

Overall, A Sense of History Scotland provides primary schools with a useful and attractively presented addition to their Scottish history resources.

Iain Hall is co-ordinator of the PGCE primary course at the University of Paisley Faculty of Education.

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