March 2014

The know zone

  • Do the right thing
    Four recommendations in the recent report on whistleblowing by charity Public Concern at Work are particularly significant for schools and colleges, says Richard Bird. More
  • Save and prosper
    In tough times, ‘resourceful resourcing’ comes into its own. Val Andrew offers business managers a guide. More
  • Fresh look for inspections
    Suzanne O’Farrell examines the implications of changes to Ofsted’s subsidiary guidance and handbook and looks ahead to the new framework scheduled for September. More
  • Post-16 committee
    The focus in this Leader is on ASCL Council’s Post-16 Committee, which has a wide-ranging remit that includes all aspects of post-16 education in schools and colleges. More
  • Great aspirations
    Kathryn Podmore is Principal of Birkenhead Sixth Form College, an active member of several education bodies and chair of ASCL Council’s Post-16 committee. More
  • Ensuring complete representation
    From time to time ASCL Council co-opts members from groups that are under-represented to ensure that the views of all types of members are taken into consideration when debating policy. More
  • ASCL PD events
    Whole School Leadership of Teaching and Learning, Student Voice Beyond Student Councils, and Strategic Behavioural Management that Works More
  • Analyse this...
    What systems, processes and people do you need to help your staff develop their skills and their careers? Sue Bull and Vicky Bishop explain. More
  • Virtually University
    Virtually University (VU) links schools and colleges with universities via videoconferencing to help inform and inspire students with their HE choices More
  • Adding value
    Walk your way to improved health More
  • Poisoned chalice?
    Schools Minister David Laws recently announced a new programme to encourage ‘outstanding’ heads and school leaders to move into schools in challenging circumstances. Would you be willing to take on the challenge? Here, ASCL members share their views. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    The antidote to common leadership conundrums... More
  • Take Care?
    No matter the intention, what you call it or how you present it to students, Personal, Social, Citizenship and Health Education (PSCH More
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No matter the intention, what you call it or how you present it to students, Personal, Social, Citizenship and Health Education (PSCHE) is not good for a teacher’s well-being.

Take Care?

You didn’t mess with Walter, 5ft 2in and Barnsley from top to toe. He was also the deputy head. Famed for driving at 20mph to save fuel and only ever purchasing broken biscuits, Walter did the timetable. He believed in doing it quickly. If empty spaces appeared on his grid, Walter simply stuck in the name of a teacher whose timetable wasn’t full.

He took Polyfilla to a new level. “You look a fit young lad to me, I’ve put you down for a bit of PE.”

Walter’s idea of equal opportunities would be to offer a similar opportunity in textiles to a female colleague on the grounds that she “always wore nice clothes”.

And one subject, PSE – personal and social education – could have been called Polyfilla studies all on its own. Nobody wanted to do it.

You can always tell when a school has had a difficult past. It changes its name.

It’s the same with subjects. Scripture became Divinity, became RI, and then RK, metamorphosed into RE and is now known as RS. It’s still a mess. Comparative Religion will probably mean it’s called Religious Allsorts next.

And could we get the boys cooking? Not when it was Domestic Science we couldn’t. It was no better with Home Economics. Only when we hit upon Food Technology were the boys prepared to give it a shot.

At the Barnsley comprehensive where I worked in the 1970s, RE and PSE were amalgamated and given the name CARE. The famous Methodist hymn ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’ had words of sympathy for us. “Are you weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?” You bet we were.

Another school I worked in later in my career named it Social, Personal and Moral Education. It didn’t last. When the kids started saying how much they hated SPAM, management panicked that parents would confuse the dinners and the curriculum. It was quickly dropped. A bit like the same school’s Curriculum Related Assessment Programme for new staff. Acronyms can be dangerous.

Yet another school called it Parenting and Life Skills. But then, of course, everything had to be tested and measured.

“How did you get on in the Life Skills exam, Sharon?”

“Failed it , sir.”

Not the most positive way to send Sharon out into the world.

“Were you any good at Parenting, Billy?”

“Hopeless, sir, couldn’t do any of it.”

You can bet your bottom dollar that Billy would be a great dad.

Not much has changed. In more recent years David Blunkett, when Secretary of State for Education, worried that not enough people were bothering to vote. Citizenship was added and PSE became PSCE.

More recently still we have noticed that the little darlings are becoming a bit plump. The spectre of obesity stalks the land. Health is now the buzz word. It is now, therefore, PSCHE and the name you are likely to see on a school timetable today.

The sex thing

But just because today we have to include lessons about the virtues of carrots and the evils of sausages doesn’t mean that the real agenda has changed. It’s the elephant in the curriculum. It’s the sex thing. Sex education is the bane of every era when it comes to education. Where to put it, as one education secretary famously asked.

So when I noted, to my horror, that Walter deemed it necessary to include CARE in my teaching timetable for the year I was filled with foreboding. The old ‘lags’ in the staff room looked on with knowing smirks.

The nadir of my CARE career was the requirement to teach contraception. The lesson consisted of attempting to put a condom on a banana. I have had a university education and speak the language of Moličre, Voltaire and Rousseau. But I knew nothing of the matter in hand, as it were.

It didn’t help that grimy kids of 40 years ago were more fascinated by the banana than the condom. They knew more about the latter than the former. Not surprisingly, the lesson was a fiasco. Hilarity all round for the class. Humiliation for me.

And if the whole PSE thing were to be scrapped? Frankly I couldn’t Care less.

  • Dennis Richards Retired headteacher

Want the last word?

Last Word always welcomes contributions from members. If you’d like to share your humorous observations of school life, email Permjit Mann at ASCL offers a modest honorarium.