As a matter of facts

4th June 2004 at 01:00
Gillian Hilton reviews resources that cover some challenging issues

Sex Explained series. My Parents Are Getting Divorced. Feeling Freakish. Just a Girl. By Melissa Daly et al. Abrams, pound;6.95 each

Choices for Teenagers. by Nancy Scott-Cameron. First and Best in Education, pound;19.95.

Love Bites resource pack. The Wright Stuff, pound;75.

Presentation is jokey with many coloured illustrations. These would appeal to the younger age groups but the language demands a higher level of skill than the illustrations suggest. The information given is straightforward and reassuring and much of it would be of use to a worried teenager, as the tone is sensitive and understanding. For boys, however, there is a lack of the facts they so desire. We are told (yet again) that penis size does not matter, when actual measurements are what boys want.

One could also ask why the beginning of the book on sex starts with making babies, an area many teenagers and most boys are less interested in than falling in love and the sex act itself, which unfortunately and perhaps coyly is never shown.

The main problem here is American spelling, language and inferences. The terminology is, in some cases, difficult for an English reader to understand, the suggested websites are American and the celebrities mentioned would be unfamiliar to a UK teenager. The books are however, inexpensive and good for bedtime solo reading.

Choices for Teenagers is published in photocopiable book and CD-Rom form and covers smoking, drinking, taking drugs and sex, all areas which may present difficulty for teachers. The intended audience is 10 to 14-year-olds, though the language and material would make it unsuitable for use with primary children, better for Years 9 to 11. The type is small and dense and there are no illustrations - nothing to attract the teenage reader. Teachers could possibly use some of the ideas, but there is a worrying tendency to shock students, an approach to this area of education which has not proved successful.

The "points to ponder" sections are lists of facts, many with no real indication of how to use them. They are also in danger of being quickly dated and therefore irrelevant. Possibly asking young people to find out these facts and figures for themselves would have given the material a longer shelf life.

Useful lists of further contacts, phone numbers and web addresses are provided, but the layout of these is such that photocopying for handouts would use extensive amounts of paper. There are some good ideas too, for discussion and role-play sessions and suggestions for homework. The case studies would help in depersonalising this area of the curriculum. On the whole, this material would be useful for teachers and PSHE co-ordinators to provide ideas, but not for giving directly to students in the classroom.

The Wright Stuff theatre of puppets Love Bites teachers' resource pack includes a 40-minute film, divided into sections, with colour-coded lesson plans for workshops and pupil resources. The coding is useful, but could prove problematic for photocopying.

For inexperienced PSHE teachers the material would be of real use, as it provides learning outcomes and ideas for assessment, lesson structure and homework. There are also good tips, such as alerting other staff to the lesson content, in case they overhear students in the corridor discussing topics such as oral sex. Lesson timings are given and the approach is one of active student engagement.

The ideas for learning outcomes are from the Passport Project and so closely allied to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority PSHE curriculum. There are helpful sections on provision for English as an additional language, special needs and gifted and talented students and links to other areas of the curriculum.

The lists of required resources will be a boon to the hard-pressed co-ordinator or form teacher required to deliver this area of the curriculum. There are sessions on often neglected areas of the SRE curriculum - sexual orientation, accessing sexual health services, and values and responsibilities. The pack deals honestly and openly with difficult issues and areas on which students themselves claim to need more input from school SRE curricula and should prove a useful asset for the secondary PSHE resources shelf.

Gillian Hilton is principal lecturer and curriculum leader for education policy and practice at Middlesex University

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