The Spirit of the Child
by David Hay with Rebecca Nye

Published by Fount, 1998, 216 pages, 12.99 ISBN 0-00-627855-8

Reviewed by Bill Gent , Redbridge Advisory and Inspection Service

Though it is now commonly recognised that the promotion of spiritual development is the responsibility of the whole curriculum and the whole of school life, it should have a special interest for the teacher of religious education. In seeking to explore what the concept of 'spirituality' means, this book will be an invaluable aid.

David Hay of Nottingham University is well known for his work on the concept of spirituality. In books like Exploring Inner Space he presents the idea that, couched in general non-religious terms, most adults claim to have had some kind of 'spiritual' experience - the sense of being in the presence of the 'other', and so on. In this book he once again suggests that a sense of the spiritual is a biological feature of the human species.

Rebecca Nye, who has written two research-based chapters in this book, is a psychologist by training.

Whilst David Hay looks at the concept of spirituality by way of a historical perspective, Rebecca Nye's chapters are based on interviews with a number of youngsters about things which matter to them. Her method was to interview them and to produce detailed transcripts. Then, any part of a transcript which was felt to have a 'spiritual' quality was marked. Looking at all the marked passages, Hay and Nye tried to find a concept which would embrace what they had identified. They found it in the notion of 'relational consciousness' - a consciousness of a relationship with self, others, the world or the other (about which, for some, traditional religious terms provided a language map).

If your school relies on you as the resident 'expert' on the spiritual, this book is essential holiday reading.

Praying Their Faith
edited by Colin Johnson

Published by CEM 6-90 ISBN 1-85100-132-8

Reviewed by Anne Krisman

Flame-dancing Spirit, come
Sweep us off our feet and
Dance us through our days.....

This invocation of the Holy Spirit, from the St Hilda community, is an extract from one of the prayers in an extraordinary anthology, 'Praying their Faith', edited by Colin Johnson and published by CEM. The book is a compilation of prayers from the world faiths and is something I have wanted for years - to read this book is to go into the core of the faiths represented.

The multi-faceted nature of prayer is explored in a thoughtful introduction by the editor, "Prayer can be an expression of anger and despair, or penitence and purging, of desire and striving, of solidarity in the struggle for justice and peace, of hope and joy, of serenity and submission". He states clearly that prayer should not be stereotyped as just asking for something from God. Colin Johnson also contributes notes to each prayer, which place each one in context.

Lat Blaylock also suggests some fascinating classroom activities linked with the anthology. I liked his idea about deduction, where pupils are given a prayer and told to deduce all they can about the beliefs of those who use it.

I really recommend this book. There is something new for everyone. I was delighted to read a Jewish women's prayer from the Middle Ages, which asks God to bestow his blessing on the challot (braided Shabbat loaves) as they go into the oven.

Redbridge SACRE Briefing Paper 3
Sikh Appearance and Identity

Reviewed by Eleanor Nesbitt

This paper is intended for schools but I hope that it will be used much more widely than this. It consists of fifteen highly relevant questions and sound, realistic answers on Sikh appearance and identity. These include 'What does the law say about a Sikh wearing a kirpan?' and 'Why do Sikhs use the names they do?'.

The sustained consultation with Sikhs locally and nationally, in the production of the paper, make this a model of good practice in negotiating guidelines which acknowledge sensitivities and differences without precipitating controversy or causing offence. At every point both schools' responsibilities and concerns (eg health and safety) and Sikhs' priorities are taken seriously. Sikhs are represented without being stereotyped unrealistically as totally uniform.

The paper provides practical help in a straightforward (but far from simplistic) way. This means pointing to several acceptable solutions. Take, for example the question whether a Sikh child can be asked to remove a kara during sports. The answer includes the suggestion that the pupil be requested to wear a smaller kara, or that it be moved up the arm, in which case alternative methods for protecting it are suggested, or finally consultation with the parents or the local gurdwara.

Notes, glossary and sound suggestions for further reading and guidance are included. These, together with contact details of neighbouring gurdwaras and Guidelines for Redbridge schools that have been agreed by members of the local Sikh community on 'the wearing of the kirpan by Sikh pupils' (and forms which could be used in reaching an agreement), all maximise the usefulness of the briefing paper.

My only concern is that a document with such potential for informing people and reducing risks of confrontation may not be as widely known as it deserves both beyond Redbridge and outside the educational establishment.

Eleanor Nesbitt
Lecturer in Religions and Education
University of Warwick

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