Sense in the silliness

6th September 1996 at 01:00
THE HISTORY CO-ORDINATOR'S MANUAL. Devon Learning Resources, Pounds 20, Old Mill Road Torquay TQ2 6AU.

It is a tribute to primary teachers that, despite the expensive fiascos that have attended the introduction of the national curriculum, they have coped. Indeed they have succeeded, thanks to their collective skills and accumulated wisdom. This sturdy ring-binder exemplifies their ability to make shared sense of history, a subject booby-trapped by much dogma and politics.

The tone is one of jaunty common sense. Straightforward advice is offered on how to distinguish true historical investigation from research by photocopier or colouring in Boudicca's tartan. Draft policy documents and work schemes are offered as guides, not unchangeable models. The processes of discussion, selection and planning for an individual school are made clear. Advice on the Office for Standards in Education aims to remove all fear and trembling and suggestions on building useful resources are similarly up-beat.

Thirty final pages give examples of classroom activities. These cover such useful favourites as making enquiry boxes for interrogating artefacts, building timelines and acting as archaeologists with mystery carrier bags.

To these are added many thoughtful suggestions for using texts and images to develop critical and deconstructive skills beyond the bounds of the purely historical.

The robust approach is not patronising. Advice on how to say "no" to importunate requests is never redundant. And it is good to be reminded that we should tolerate our secondary colleagues, if only because "they got all the boring bits in the national curriculum (OK, except the Normans)".

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