Studies of cases and places

31st March 1995 at 01:00
TARGET GEOGRAPHY SERIES, By Philip Sauvain, Ward Lock. NEAR AND FAR 0 70625 199 7 Look Around 0 70625 200 4. USING THE LAND 0 70625201 2. MAPS AND PLACES 070625 202 0. AT HOME AND ABROAD 070625 203 9.

AROUND THE WORLD 0 70625 204 7 Pounds 3.95 each. AT HOME AND IN BRITAIN 0 70625206 3 ABOUT OUR WORLD 0 70625 207 1. Pounds 5.25 each. Teacher's Guide Key Stages 1 and 2 Pounds 25. 0 70625209 8. OLIVER BOYD GEOGRAPHY BOOK 5, By Bill Marsden, Vera Marsden and David Flint Longman. Pupil's Book Pounds 5.25 005 005121 0A. Teacher's Book Pounds 9.50. 005 0051229 A Copymasters Pounds 22.50. 005 005123 7A

Colin Harris reviews materials for key stages 1 and 2 that offer almost too much for the slimmed-down curriculum. Geography in primary schools lapped the high water mark two years ago when SATs were imminent at key stage 1 and hovering dangerously near for key stage 2. Since then the Dearing scythe has cut a welcoming swathe through much of the primary curriculum, but especially leaving geography and history shorn of excessive content. Such pruning was clearly needed, especially at key stage 2, even though many teachers had done their best to meet the requirements.

Meanwhile publishers miraculously conjured rich collections of national curriculum geography series only to be left with titles designed for the bloated curriculum which passes into history at the end of July. Among the most recent, Target Geography, Philip Sauvain's 10-book coverage of key stages 1 and 2 geography (with hole-punched teachers' guide) and the fifth and final book in the Oliver Boyd primary geography course fall victim to the disappearing curriculum.

Yet all is not lost. The new geography curriculum is merely a subset of the old ring-binder version, representing a slim statutory minimum. There is no reason why teachers should not use some of the "free 20 per cent" for more geography. So while it can be argued that much of the content of both these titles is no longer mandatory, enough flexibility remains in the system not to deter teachers from buying what might be construed as out-of-date resources. Access to the wide range of geography books now available for primary schools has been most welcome.

This would certainly be true of the Ward Lock series. Each book is graded to allow for progression through the primary years, introducing concepts of "up", "down", and so on at the beginning to derelict land and landscape restoration at the end (Book 5 Our Earth was not available for review - is it mainly science?). The titles suggest a range of place studies rather than themes, but the subject matter or "targets" as they are identified in the teachers' guide, attempt a focus on skills and themes in a variety of places. What is disappointing, however, is the relatively restricted range of places - Switzerland, for example, appears every year, admittedly to illustrate different aspects, as do the Lake District and Amazonia to a lesser extent.

Too many examples, especially the otherwise attractively drawn illustrations, are not of real places, people or even features. The dreaded glaciation block diagram of dimly remembered O-level texts lives on in the primary school! Why does traffic drive on the left through the Amazonian rainforest? Many of the maps are good, but they rarely include a scale, even after the concept has been explained, and North points are not always given.

By far the best aspect of this series is the text, which is suitably targeted and interesting. Many of the photographs, especially the oblique aerial shots and views of other countries, offer excellent teaching material. The series may not meet the needs of all primary schools, with too much space given to aspects of local geography more realistically observed in the children's own locality.

The Oliver Boyd Geography Book 5, with copymasters and highly detailed teacher's guide, is an altogether different quality of resource. The pupil's book does, however, suffer from curriculum melt-down in that much of the material meets the needs of pupils at level 5 of the old version and that many chunks of knowledge have either been dropped altogether or transferred to key stage 3. The "new" curriculum identifies three localities and four themes only, but does emphasise skills and the enquiry approach. Using these methods this book offers a challenging introduction to real people, real places and real environments in far greater detail than can ever be used in most primary schools.

Scores of pictures focusing on original case studies provide one of the best collections of geographical resources on the market, but the treatment of that material, the language levels and vocabulary and the complex ideas fit more readily into the curriculum at key stage 3. This is hardly the fault of the authors. Year 6 classrooms would undoubtedly be enriched by this book, and in the hands of skilful teachers it will promote high quality geographical learning.

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