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Dramatic package covers secondary school PSHE

Adam Rood
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PSHE – personal, social and health education – is a tricky old subject to teach. And, because it isn’t a “real” subject which you immerse yourself in at university like maths or history, it tends to fall to non-experts.

When I was Head of Upper School in a girls’ secondary school, we decided that form teachers should be timetabled to teach PSHE because, we reasoned, they knew their tutor groups well and would have the right sort of rapport with them. So far so good. It worked until we got to the sex education module in year 10. One of “my” year 10 tutors was an old-fashioned spinster, Miss P, who’d probably never seen a naked man let alone discussed with anyone what such a man might share with a female. She panicked, came to me in horror and begged for help. Of course, I took over that module with her class and it went well – although I doubt that it did much for Miss P’s relationship with “her” girls.

I mention all this here because I’ve just come across a new drama education initiative which is designed – partly – to help schools round exactly that sort of problem. After all you can’t expect every teacher to have experience of every aspect of PSHE. I know about heterosexual sex and healthy eating but have, for example, no experience whatever of drugs or transgender issues.

Guildford School of Acting graduate Adam Rood has founded Key Stage Theatre. It began life in 2011 with a production “Alphabet of a Teenager” which touches on the entire KS3 (lower secondary – years 7-9, age 11-14) PSHE curriculum in just 50 minutes and has been seen by over 15,000 students all over the UK in 150+ performances.

“A sharp decline in financial resources in recent years means that schools are finding increasingly innovative ways to deliver PSHE on a budget, with the same level of effectiveness previously achieved in weekly lessons,” Rood tells me.

“PSHE can be delivered incredibly effectively, provided that the students relate to the resources available and if the content is relevant to their lives.”

Having taken part in so many “drop down days” (where the entire school is off timetable) and where many visitors are working with students in various year groups, Rood wanted to simplify the process for educators, so that one company takes care of everything, rather than having to hire a plethora of outside visitors.

“We’ve called it ‘PSHE takeover’ because that’s exactly what it is. We turn up having already conducted a pre-visit at the school,” Rood explains. “We set up our resources and we deliver our programme throughout one school day.”

Everyone in Key Stage 3, plus Year 10, has the opportunity to see the Alphabet of a Teenager performance. Then comes the chance to discuss and engage in the topics covered in the production, including cyber bullying, racism awareness, underage drinking and sexual health.

Meanwhile Year 11 students take part in a three-hour workshop focusing on careers and work related learning which incorporates entrepreneurialism and roles within a company, their personal employability and ability to work within a team.

All students in the school can learn the skill of song writing and use it to write songs based around PSHE topics. Rood says: “The premise for this part of the day fuses the notion that all students connect with music in the charts, many of which are based around PSHE topics subliminally and often explicitly. With the spotlight on popular reality television shows like The Voice and The X Factor, we believe that students will enjoy gaining an insight into the world of song writing, learning a new skill and gaining valuable information on PSHE topics along the way.”

Alongside this is a film created especially for the programme and bespoke workshops tailored specifically to each year group.

Schools can fund this programme through their PSHE budget and through their Pupil Premium allocation. Everything in PSHE Takeover is measurable through student and teacher questionnaires and the statistical results are released to the school in a full report which the school can use as demonstration of learning and external visitors in their OFSTED inspections.

Several actors/facilitators are involved so I approve very strongly of the enterprising nature of this work and the way it keeps trained performers in useful, developmental employment.

PSHE Takeover is available from October 2013 to all state and independent secondary schools in the UK. Well done, Adam Rood and his colleagues. If I were still in a senior role in a secondary school I’d be looking at this very seriously.

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