Worst lesson of the week

23rd May 2003 at 01:00
A FEW years ago, the then headteacher of the school where I used to work called me into his office. He was usually a fan of my TES Scotland column but this time he was concerned about something I had written in my latest piece.

In it I had identified our school. He was quite happy with what I had said but pointed out that I would have to be careful from now on. It made no difference to what I wrote because I was pretty positive about the place, though when I moved a few years ago I decided that I would not reveal the name of my new location. (In the period between blowing my cover and transferring, I sent all the negative stuff to John L Mitchell for use in his School Diary).

Today I'm going to be critical of an aspect of my last job and I feel I can get away with it because it doesn't apply to where I am now, and it didn't apply to my old school by the time I left.

I'm talking about PSD courses. For no other reason than that it fitted my timetable, I used to be given 30 pupils, an A4 course outline and a pile of books and was left to get on with it. "Discuss bullying, then do pages 1-3." Aye, right.

Had I been given a small group of pupils with whom I had built up some sort of a relationship, and a handful of starter worksheets, I might have had some chance of leading a meaningful discussion. I might even have made it last long enough to make up for the fact that the book work could be completed by the average chimp in two minutes, including a one-minute banana break.

There wasn't a single episode of the old half-hour long Bill that wouldn't have been more relevant to social education. Things changed when a pal introduced a new course to be presented to small classes of pupils, known to their PSD teachers through registration since S1. He provided training for staff and proper resources.

The only people to complain were a few of the principal teachers. They had been exempt from social education under the old system but were brought on board under the new regime in order to facilitate the aforementioned reduction in class sizes.

Sadly, if anecdotal evidence is to be believed, the old way of doing PSD appears alive and unwell in other schools. Should I ever find myself trapped in one of these establishments I will continue not to foul my own doorstep.

But John might get a bit more material for his Morris Simpson column.

Gregor Steele's favourite PSD lesson involved throwing balls in a bucket.

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