Hands up if you're winning

To get young people onside it's better to "high-five" them than to wag the proverbial finger, especially when it comes to health education and lifestyle choices.

That's the belief of Alistair Ramsay, former director of Scotland Against Drugs and author of a new series of learning materials on the subject of a healthy lifestyle. "You can't lecture young people about lifestyle. You can't produce a template to follow," he says.

"They have to have the chance to question for themselves what they want in their lives."

Working with the Homework Diary Company, Mr Ramsay has produced an education programme aimed at helping young people to learn, at each stage of their development, about the choices for a healthy lifestyle.

Called "High 5 Lifestyle" because the high-five gesture is a celebration of something good, the programme uses a form of guided discovery learning.

"This methodology is not prescriptive. Young people must be able to choose what they want in their lives. When they make their choices, their lifestyle may not be the one the 'establishment' wants to promote but it will be based on informed choices," says Mr Ramsay.

The programme has three levels - "Me" for early years, "Developing Me" for children aged seven to 11, and "Choices for Me" for young people aged 12 to 18 -each covering learning and working, healthy eating, people, substances, and exercise and leisure. Detailed teachers' notes are accompanied by a book for parents and one for pupils to record their own views in.

"Parents often want to play a supporting role and this programme locks them into their child's learning, enabling them to identify their supporting role," says Mr Ramsay.

"This is vital for health issues so that the young person, their parents and the school are synchronised with a common message."

The secondary school level of the High 5 programme is being published this month with advance copies going to every secondary in Scotland. Primary and pre-school levels will be published later this year.

Ken Cunningham, former president of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland and headteacher at Hillhead High, Glasgow, describes the resources as detailed and user-friendly. "High 5 does simplify the process of promoting a healthy lifestyle and provides materials to develop the partnership between the school, the young person and the home," he says.

Brian McAlinden, head at Castlemilk High, agrees. "The parent booklet addresses many concerns of parents who want to help their children and at the same time support the school on the difficult lifestyle choices facing young people today," he says.

"For staff involved in PSE lessons or tutor time, the teachers' notes will be welcome."

Mr Ramsay, who runs his own company, Drugwise, writing materials and delivering training, describes the project as the only "holistic" and "comprehensively structured" health education programme to be launched in Scotland since the Health Education for Living Project (HELP) in 1994.

Drugwise offers training in High 5 Lifestyle, visit drugwise.limited@ntlworld.com

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