Sex is a tricky one. It seems cruel to give information about an area of life some pupils may never experience

26th May 2006 at 01:00
;Life in a special school;People;Features Arts We're having to use a little creativity collecting evidence for our "healthy school" file. True, we do try and encourage the children in their healthy eating, but Jason will only eat prawn cocktail flavoured Wotsits and then only from his Bob the Builder bowl. We'll gradually get him to try new foods - through play sessions where the emphasis is relaxation and fun, not nutrition - and in the meantime the dietician has recommended top-up liquid food, fed through his tummy button at night. Just hope the assessor understands when she comes to look round.

And what will she think of the seniors cooking oven chips, frozen peas and grilled burgers? Our "survival cookery" course is designed to be practical and realistic. Our young people are just not going to peel potatoes, their parents wouldn't like them managing pans of boiling water and, as for podding peas or mincing meat from the butchers, well, it's unlikely to happen. So for now we're sticking to meals we know they can reproduce by themselves, and we'll gradually introduce soups, smoothies and other sneaky ways to prepare the magic five portions of fruit and veg a day.

The form insists on two hours of physical activity a week. Maxine has more than two hours of physiotherapy a week, but is unable to bear her own weight or lift an object, so we're not in the realms of raising her heartbeat here. We do swimming, riding, climbing, trekking, team sports, sailing, canoeing and gymnastics for those who can, and we encourage as many as possible to take part. But it would be stretching it to say that all our youngsters do two hours a week.

As for PSHE. Yes, we cover drugs and sex education, although "drugs" is more to do with safe management of drugs at school and teaching children not to take them from anyone they don't know. Many of our pupils are unlikely ever to be in a position where they will be offered street drugs and are even less likely to have the means to make, steal or borrow the money needed to sustain a habit. Sex, as always, is a tricky one. We make sure our young people know what we and their parents think they need to know, but it seems almost cruel to give all the information about an area of life some may never experience. We teach PSHE conscientiously and meaningfully, but I would be lying if I said all the children accessed the full programme.

Emotional health is the most important aspect and underpins all the above.

Building healthy self esteem and assertive communication skills is what we are all about; teaching and modelling respect for ourselves and each other is at the core of our school. So are we a healthy school despite our disabilities, difficulties and complications? I think so, yes, although we may still have some explaining to do about the Wotsits.

Maria Corby is deputy head of a special school for pupils with severe and multiple learning difficulties. She writes under a pseudonym

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