Off the peg and in the gap
The real challenge facing those responsible for school personal and social education and cross-curricular programmes is how to provide high quality, easily accessible material without disempowering those who use it. This pack is a very valuable resource but only partially strikes this balance.
It is intended to provide schools with an "off the peg" comprehensive, self-contained PSE programme for 11-year-olds. This wholesale way of filling a yawning PSE gap may seem alluring, but carries with it the real danger of token tutor commitment to a disparate work-sheet approach.
There can be no substitute for each school thinking through its own principles and shaping a PSE programme relevant to its children's needs. However, if used thoughtfully within an established PSE framework, schools will find this publication a rich source of good teaching and learning materials.
The pack is produced by Burnage High School, Manchester, with its local education authority advisory teachers. The range of topics is designed to dovetail PSE coverage with cross-curricular themes such as citizenship and health education. All issues, whether they deal with personal hygiene or bullying, first aid or body image, are handled with sensitivity and geared appropriately to Year 7 student interests. The most effective elements are the study skill unit on "active listening" which places students in "detective" mode, and an extended "problem page" activity on loneliness.
The programme contains three terms' work of specified modules and lessons. An introduction provides advice on methods for grouping students and group work strategies, as well as a rationale for student self-evaluation. Each module is prefaced by an outline page on objectives, lesson methodology and resources.
A series of business-like lesson plans follows, together with teacher's background notes, photocopiable teacher handouts and student workbooks for every topic. At the end of each student booklet is a superficial self-evaluation sheet which requires students to respond to "can do" statements like "I took part in class discussion", or to rather gauche declarations like "I would like to find out more information about puberty, parenthood etc".
Users are helped to navigate the pack by a straightforward system of symbol coding for the different types of page.
The general layout is attractive, using prominent headings, bold, clear lettering and simple, effective illustrations. The pack provides a comprehensive but not necessarily sufficient programme.