What keeps me awake at night - Covering sex education classes? It's a minefield

21st June 2013 at 01:00

I am a supply teacher who sometimes does a day of "general supply", as opposed to covering lessons in my area of expertise. One of the reasons I do supply is that I enjoy the constant variety. So I like arriving in the morning not knowing what subjects I am going to be presented with.

The only prospect that elicits a groan when I am handed my schedule is seeing the dreaded letters PSHE, or PDE, or PSE or whatever the school has decided to call sex, drugs and rock'n'roll education - the rock'n'roll encompassing everything from religion to environmental meltdown.

Covering personal, social and health education lessons is a total lottery. The best experiences are when there is a relevant and up-to-date video on alcohol or drug abuse that holds the students' attention. Unfortunately, however, the tasks left for cover lessons often smack of desperation on the part of the regular teacher. The children cannot see the point so behaviour management is a problem.

"Why are we doing this, Miss?" is a frequent enquiry as the students draw yet another mind map on leisure time or relationships. More academic children actively resent "wasting" a whole hour drawing a poster about the perils of smoking. But if the teacher does leave something more challenging it can often be awkward for someone unfamiliar with the sensitivities of the group. How do I approach obesity with an overweight child sitting right in front of me? Racism, too, is a delicate issue when there are unfamiliar students from ethnic minorities in the class. And as for role plays on bullying ...

So it was with horror that I read that UK pressure group the Sex Education Forum has suggested that schools should teach awareness of "sexting" and pornography. For older children, the forum proposes a lesson plan based on unwelcome sexual content on mobile devices and the values presented by pornography.

Imagine a female supply teacher tackling pornography with 15-year-old boys. I think if I found that was to be my cover lesson, I would turn and run back down the school drive.

The writer is a teacher from the West of England.

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