The law is on your side in social education

20th October 2000 at 01:00
LEARNING FOR LIFE, Vol 2. Grampian Police CD-Rom, pound;50. Vol 1 also pound;50, vol 1 and 2 pound;75. from Shell Education Services, PO Box 46, Newbury, Berks RG14 2YX

Grampian Police is prepared to send a policeman to every school to be called on when needed. However, he would not be there to quell classroom riots, but rather to try to get pupils thinking about how they can become useful members of society, among other things.

The policeman is a jolly cartoon guide in the second CD-Rom issued by Grampian Police in its Learning for Life programme. If you are not already aware of this programme, then you are missing a tremendous classroom resource. Aimed at primary and early secondary years, it promotes health, safety, personal and social development and good citizenship.

As well as social education, these resources could find a place in a number of other curriculum areas, such as modern studies and history. The medium is attractive and light-hearted, but the message is vital. What we're talking about is guiding children towards those moral values and personal development which will see them included in society.

The two CD-Roms have been developed from the Police Box which has been in schools for a few years and comprises 166 social education workcards, graded in three age ranges. These have been incorporated into the CD-Roms and with each card is a lesson plan, assessment ideas, extension material and homework tasks. Volume one covers bullying, drugs and vandalism; volume two, which has just been issued, deals with safety, law and order and citizenship.

On the CD-Roms, each workcard becomes a colourful moving display which talks, plays music, beeps, quacks, honks and shoots out stars whenever you answer with something sensible.

In a lesson encourging children to think of the importance of ordinary people as witnesses or neighbourhood watchers in combating crime, a scene of street crime is flashed on to the computer screen for a few seconds. The viewer is then invited to recall details, including composing a photofit picture.

In another lesson, on safety, Internet users are encouraged to keep themselves safe and are warned against the potential risks from abusive messages, giving out personal information, on-line buying and chat rooms. This is all done by way of an on-screen display which is manipulated in the same way as an e-mail site.

Learning for Life avoids drawing the individual into a closed world in which only the pupil and computer exist. Many tasks require consultation and discussion before a response is given, so pupils are encouraged to sit in pairs or small groups around the computer screen. There are also repeated exhortations by wee Angie, the jolly policeman's sidekick, to "write things down in your jotter".

One thing that grates slightly is the voice of the jolly policeman. He speaks in those warm, homely Yorkshire tones of the bread commercial. A regional accent closer to its Scottish origins might be more appropriate.

The section on citizenship was especially strong. In the current brouhaha over examination results it is timely to remind ourselves of that truth universally acknowledged, that schools are about far more than simply pushing pupils through the examination system. If we are not producing well-balanced individuals with an appreciation of their responsibility for the functioning of society, then the best exam results in the world are simply froth on the surface.

Innes Murchie is principal teacher of guidance, Bridge of Don Academy, Aberdeen

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