Primary education: Emotional skills SUMO offered to primary schools

14th August 2009 at 01:00
Emotional skills programme modelled on straight-talking business world will be offered to all primaries

Original headline: Shut up and move on: how advice to kids got blunter

It sounds like the shortest and bluntest emotional skills lesson ever. "Shut Up and Move On" - or SUMO - is a new programme that will be offered to primary schools across Britain from next month.

Originally developed for the straight-talking business world, the scheme has been piloted in nine primaries in Cheshire and also used in secondary schools.

All primary schools must teach personal, social and emotional education as part of the statutory curriculum from 2011, and this scheme may appeal to teachers looking for a less wishy-washy sounding alternative to "happiness classes".

SUMO was developed by Paul McGee, a motivational speaker based in Warrington, who runs events and workshops for companies on how to use the technique to handle change, work as a team and tackle stress.

The schools' version - SUMO4Primary - has been developed by Gill Hodgkinson, a teacher at Lower Peover CofE Primary School in Cheshire.

"Shut up means `shut up that voice inside your head that highlights weaknesses and undermines your confidence'," she said. "And the rest of the process is about moving on."

However, teachers hoping to tick off the entire personal, social and emotional curriculum in a few seconds by shouting the phrase between taking the register and mental maths starters will be disappointed.

Emotional skills pointers

The technique teaches children six principles, which the scheme's organisers say can help pupils manage their emotions (see box). These include: "Hippo Time is OK", which explains that it is fine for children to wallow, and "Ditch Doris Day", which teaches them they can create their own destinies.

Although few primary pupils are likely to know who Doris Day is, Mrs Hodgkinson said the phrases had quickly caught on with pupils.

"We had a couple of children who lost their dads this year through illness who have said that hippo time was something they particularly related to," she said.

"It's just been so well received, by parents as well as children. One boy said his dad came home stressed about something and he said: `I think you're in hippo time, dad.' It's percolating through."

The idea that children should be taught that life will contain challenges and they need to learn how to deal with them has been a growing trend in PSHE education.

The popular Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (Seal) programme that was developed in 2003 and is now used in thousands of primary schools also aims to teach children about understanding other people's point of view and managing worries.

Marilyn Tew, chair of the National PSE Association for Advisers, Inspectors and Consultants, said that when heads were deciding which programmes to use, they should think about who would be teaching it.

"I'm almost going to say that it doesn't matter what the materials are like as long as they are age appropriate. It's much more to me about the kind of pedagogy and the sort of relationship that a teacher builds with young people to create the right climate in which to work."

Six principles of SUMO

  1. "Change Your T-Shirt", which encourages pupils to take responsibility for their own life by rejecting labels such as "victim".
  2. "Develop Fruity Thinking" urges children to take charge of their thinking and think positively.
  3. "Hippo Time is OK" suggests that everyone needs time to wallow.
  4. "Remember the Beachball", which teaches that different views can be equally valid, just as the colours you see on a beachball depend on your perspective.
  5. "Learn Latin" introduces the idea of carpe diem (seize the day).
  6. "Ditch Doris Day" means to reject the "whatever will be, will be" sentiment of her hit song Que Sera Sera.

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