Scottish history comes to life on CD

15th April 2005 at 01:00
Scotland in the 16th Century

The Jacobites

Victorian Scotland

Scottish Archives for Schools printed resource packs and accompanying CD-Rom relating to the whole series (five titles)

National Archives of Scotland and Learning and Teaching Scotland packs pound;5 each; CD-Rom pound;15

age range: P6-S2

This song, which celebrates the Jacobite victory over Sir John Cope at the Battle of Prestonpans in September 1745, is one of many sources used to bring to life the printed packs from the National Archives of Scotland which were highly commended by the Saltire Society last month.

The song was composed by Adam Skirving, a wealthy farmer who lived outside Haddington at the time of the battle. The lyrics and a recording feature on the CD-Rom which accompanies the set of attractive and informative packs published by Learning and Teaching Scotland.

Recent newspaper articles have highlighted concerns about a lack of Scottish history in the curriculum. So these resources are timely.

They allow pupils from P6 to S2, working at levels C-F, to study some of the priceless archive material used by professional historians in their research. These sources include photographs, eyewitness accounts, diaries, family papers, industrial records, church records, certificates and the statistical accounts of Scotland.

Making these sources readily available to teachers and pupils has been the aim of the Scottish Archives for Schools project. It enlisted Marion Cuthbertson, a teacher from New Stevenston Primary in Motherwell, to devise activities related to the sources.

The activities are varied and ensure that pupils examine the sources in detail so that they are able to meet the 5-14 attainment outcomes for knowledge, understanding and skills. Successful completion of the creative end-of-topic activities, which are designed to extend learning, will require pupils to have studied every unit.

The CD-Rom contains an electronic version of each pack with additional recordings. This supports independent learning and helps pupils understand sources written, for example, in the old Scots dialect. The quality of the recordings is excellent.

The packs will complement existing topic studies. They offer flexibility because each topic is divided into units which could be studied as a whole or in parts. A project on housing, for example, would be enhanced by the Victorian Scotland section on poverty, health and housing, giving it a use beyond S2, but it would be difficult to use it on its own.

Similarly, unit 2 of the pack has a subsection on fishing, but it only covers the disaster off the Berwickshire coast in October 1881, when the Eyemouth haddock fleet was hit by hurricane force winds and almost two-thirds of 300 crew drowned. While this tragedy is a vivid account of the dangers faced by fishermen, more background work would need to be done on the importance of the fishing industry in Victorian Scotland.

Other reservations about the pack are that the photographs, paintings and sketches are very small and some of the maps are difficult to read. The CD-Rom allows the user to zoom in on some of the maps, but this is at the expense of the whole picture. It would have been very useful to be able to view the illustrations on full screen from the CD-Rom.

The notes which accompany the CD-Rom say that it holds images which allow pupils and teachers to make up multimedia presentations. This would be a very useful facility, but I was unable to access them on my computer, despite having the required specifications.

These reservations should not detract, however, from an excellent resource that will enhance the teaching and learning of Scottish history.

Allison Hillis is part of the area network support team for Helensburgh and Lomond area, Argyll and Bute

Hey, Johnny Cope, are ye walkin' yet

Or are your drums a-beating yet

Gie you were walkin' I would wait

Tae gang tae the coals in the morning

Cope sent a letter frae Dunbar'

Chairlie meet me an' ye dare

I'll learn ye the airts o' war

If ye'll meet me in the morning

When Chairlie looked the letter upon

He drew his sword his scabbard from

Follow me, my merry men

Meet Johnnie Cope in the morning

When Johnnie Cope he heard o' this

He thought it wouldnae be amiss

Tae hae a horse in readiness. Tae flee awa' in the morning ...

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