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Bridging the gap between Years 6 & 7
By devising two carefully dovetailed units, one for Year 6, the other for Year 7, Nottingham County Council and Ireland in Schools showed how Irish texts could prepare Year 6 children for secondary schools and give their new Year 7 tutors a better appreciation
of their abilities.
At the end of Year 6 children enjoyed a modern fantasy, The Battle below Giltspur, which drew on Irish myths and legends. This experience was used as a benchmark and building block when they entered Year 7 in their new school, when they explored Irish myths and legends, Celtic Magic Tales, and other 'old tales'.

Resources
Benefits
The bridging units worked and helped to

• safeguard and build on the gains made at Key Stage 2 through the National Literacy Strategy;
• improve continuity of teaching and learning from Year 6 to Year 7;
• provide early, tailored intervention to secure Level 4 for pupils still at Level 3, and those below;
• establish systematic and coordinated support for literacy across the curriculum;
• raise the threshold for entry at Key Stage 4 and subsequent results; and
• improve motivation for both teachers and pupils at Key Stage 3.


Year 6: good versus evil?

The Battle below Giltspur by Cormac MacRaois, Wolfhound Press, 0-86327-356-4
The Year 6 scheme is based on one text - The Battle below Giltspur. Set in modern County Wicklow, Ireland, it provides opportunities to work on the themes of mystery and fantasy, with real characters embarking upon a journey and mythical characters and powers appearing within a modern setting.

When the ancient force of Bealtaine blows on May Day, and fuses life into the scarecrow near Niamh and Daire Durkan’s home, Glasán isn’t the only scarecrow to visit them. The Black One has also been awakened by the power of the Bealtaine winds. Niamh and Daire find themselves drawn into a dangerous attempt to destroy the evil powers of Greyfang and Deathtooth as the opening foreshadows:

THE ROOKS OF GILTSPUR WOOD were all of a flutter. They could not roost easily in their tall weather-beaten pines. They kept shuffling about on their horny claws, cawing and muttering to each other. Then they would suddenly leap into the air a frantic flapping of their ragged black wings and just as quickly turn and land again.
Scrags was angry. Scrags, the biggest, fiercest old rook was King of the Wood. For more years than any of them could count he had ruled his kingdom high on the south slope of Little Sugarloaf Mountain in County Wicklow. When Scrags was angry everyone was nervous.

Fast tense and full of blood-curdling happenings, The Battle below Gilstpur is a rivetting fantasy, a magical tale of power and revenge, blending high adventure and ancient Irish myth. MacRaois triumphantly avoids the pietism of many ‘good-versus-evil’ books by creating characters, real and supernatural, who move beyond mere allegory into forceful credibility, as myth crosses over to children’s lives with most powerful results.

 

Year 7: epic stories

Celtic Magic Tales by Liam Mac Uistin, O’Brien Press, 0-86278-341-0
The Year 7 scheme is based on two texts Celtic Magic Tales by Liam Mac Uistin and The Old Stories by Kevin Crossley-Holland.

Whereas the latter is well-known to teachers in English schools and needs no explanation, Celtic Magic Tales is not so widely known and used, despite being praised as ‘a collection to stir any heart’ and ‘magical stuff and a perfect gift’.

Of all the Celtic countries Ireland has preserved the richest store of stories from its Celtic past which was rich in mythology and belief in magic and the supernatural. In Ireland these stories were passed on in Gaelic from one generation to another and, later, with the coming of Christianity they were written down by monastic scribes.

In that other world magic can be used for good or evil. Magical powers are used to get people into and out of trouble, as in ‘The quest for Aideen’.

In other stories, involving Cuchulainn, heroes are at each other’s throats or involved in humorous contests.

Finally, the notion of love that brings tragedy to the lovers is one of the grander themes of traditional Gaelic storytelling, as in ‘Deirdre and the sons of Usnach’. One of the earliest examples of tragic love in European literature, it is ‘an epic story of bravery, loyalty and honour intermingled with jealousy, betrayal and death.’