How does Alive to the World teach PSHE?

Alive to the World illustrates through stories the consequences of different types of behaviour. The readers learn from the lives of others and are motivated to strengthen their own characters in the process. They realise why it is important, for instance, to be kind, to be truthful, and to persevere, and also why cheating or being lazy helps neither themselves nor the people around them. Children who respect themselves, their families, their schools and the local community have a better sense of their own identity and are more easily guided to avoid addictions and other negative behaviour which can bring distress.

There are other PSHE programmes which encourage children to think well of themselves and be positive in their relations to others. Why is Alive to the World different?

Alive to the World is centred on the specifically Christian teaching that joy and fruitfulness in life come from the gift of self in service to others. Love often involves elements of sacrifice. Alive to the World uses stories as a catalyst to show how this applies in ordinary life and to encourage children and young people to expect more of themselves while being proud of their achievements. While much of the material will be similar to that in other programmes, it is essentially other-centred rather than self-centred, and is based on established Christian morality rather subjective values.

Is Alive to the World only applicable to people of faith?

The programme has been written by Catholics and is fully in accord with Catholic moral teaching. However, it is written from a general rather than a faith perspective and can be used in any community which gives importance to Christian values centred on the family. There is much interest in the programme from Muslims.

If Alive to the World is written by people of faith, why does it not mention religion specifically?

By being written in human rather than religious language, Alive to the World emphasises that Catholic moral teaching is not exclusive to Catholics. It is accessible to anybody, and can be defended in everyday language. It also means that the many non-Catholics in Catholic schools are fully included alongside their peers. The virtues Alive to the World teaches are basic to Christian life, and therefore complement RE perfectly.

How does this approach help to establish that faith underpins moral values?

Alive to the World is a PSHE rather than an RE programme. It comes in behind RE lessons and reinforces them, and, when used in a Catholic context, shows that Church teaching is up to date and makes as much sense today as it did two thousand years ago. Having a second underpinning for Church teaching becomes all the more important later on where young people's faith may be tested or even abandoned.

The strong emphasis on marriage in the books appears anachronistic in a world where many children come from broken homes.

Alive to the World goes out of its way to be non-judgmental of split parents, but at the same time it makes clear that the natural family is centred on marriage and that marriage, like all worthwhile things, takes effort. The characters in the stories portray life with all its stresses and problems, but show how these can be resolved in the give and take of commitment to family and friends. The books have been used with great success among the poorest children from very broken environments. For some, they are the only introduction to married life that children have encountered and the only models of married behaviour that they will see while young.

Isn't it difficult to teach marriage to those who have never known it?

Every teacher will be aware of the sensitivity of the subject and will want to put it across delicately. Sometimes this can be demanding. However, children naturally aspire to permanence in their relationships and the large majority will say that they want to get married. Experienced Alive to the World teachers find that children already know when their own families are broken in some manner and do not want to be told otherwise. While they do not want to judge their parents, they appreciate help to live their own lives differently.

Is it fair to lift children's expectations of marriage while knowing that statistically so many marriages fail?

The picture of marriage given to children can be unduly pessimistic. There are known patterns of behaviour which lead to good marriages, and by beginning with children when they are young much can be done to help them achieve success. AttW helps children to respect their physical, social, emotional, intellectual and spiritual integrity and encourages them to become people who are easy to live with. AttW may be particularly relevant for those who have less good role models at home.

Does the programme cover multiculturalism?

Alive to the World shows each value in its universal application and includes examples from many cultures. Respect for other people is fundamental to its teaching throughout. There are individual chapters on understanding people from other backgrounds, but most of the teaching is centred on respecting others whoever they are. There are, for instance, moving chapters on making friends with a child with Downs' syndrome. A large-scale validation exercise found that Alive to the World is particularly strong in encouraging children to accept people who are different from themselves while being self-confident in their own identities.

Why does Alive to the World use a book rather than DVDs to put across the more intimate aspects of sex education?

Visual resources necessarily take a one-size-fits all approach to sex education. The subject matter can cause embarrassment, to teachers as well as to children, and may intrude upon children’s right to modesty and privacy. The book Sexuality Explained has been written to complement the Alive to the World series as a resource which teachers can recommend to parents. Individual chapters from the book can also be used as the basis for class teaching among older children.

What happens if parents do not want to teach their children?

Most parents are prepared to do so if they are shown why it is important, and if they are given enough support. They find it an enriching experience which draws them closer as a family and helps both adult and child to speak openly about the topic as the children enter their teens. This can be very useful as they give their growing children advice and discuss with them appropriate ground rules of behaviour. Louise Kirk expands on this subject in a talk she gave to parents which can be downloaded here.

Are the Alive to the World books limited to the main subject areas of their titles?

Each book is arranged in units and chapters which cover a broad range of issues round a central core. The teacher manuals have a framework of topics in their introduction which describes the subjects covered and the key values which are being addressed in each.

Is the teaching just in the stories?

The stories are springboards for the main teaching which is explained clearly in the Teacher Manuals under the headings: Knowing, Accepting, and Doing. Full notes give ideas for discussion and suggest exercises within these three heads. Where books are used with individual children, there is enough in the stories to open conversations which otherwise might not take place.

Is it necessary to have a book for each child?

The student books are attractive to hold and look at and are designed to encourage the children to want to read the stories. They look ahead to what is coming next, and flick back to earlier stories, giving continuity and allowing for deeper understanding as the story unfolds. Young people themselves say that they do not like loose papers and pay less attention to them. Teachers confirm that it makes a big difference when pupils each have a book.

Is it possible to look at a set of the books?

Yes. Please go the Order page to request inspection copies. You will be sent an invoice with the books which becomes payable when you decide to keep them. The time limit is flexible, within reason.

If you decide not to keep them, please send them back in good condition and the invoice will be cancelled.

Please note that, with the introductory offer, it is hardly more expensive to order one complete set of the books than to order singly the books for the three primary school years. The older books include chapters which you may find useful for reference, such as those on emotional developments at puberty.

Alive to the World books

It works!

I thought the Caring and Sharing book gives a real visual imagery of what your parents tell you but which you haven’t before been able to see. I also liked all the facts I learnt.

Daniel (aged 12)

Children often enjoy reading books outside their own age group.