It’s the start of a new term. I hope you are all rested from your holidays and ready to deal with everything the start of a school year brings including the deluge of educational marketing with “not to be missed opportunities for your school!”*
I have been musing about this alot recently- Partly in response to this article about marketing and PSHE- getting brands into the classroom. But also in response to the current abortion counselling debate and the notion of “independent” counsellors.
In terms of brands in the classroom when discussing this on twitter – I and many colleagues (thanks @DrPetra, @PeterBone1 @PSHEassociation for contributing) felt uncomfortable with this. In particular we felt that as with resources may not be sufficiently evidence based or critical but that often teachers may turn to them because they are free rather than shelling out for an expensive resource. (So we felt teachers need to be supported to think critically about the resources which is in part what this blogpost aims to do. Also the PSHE association are also looking at kitemarking of resources which will also help the cash and time poor teacher find the best resources for them!)
Then I also got thinking its not just brands who want to get into schools but also all sorts of groups – theatre in education, teambuilding, presentations etc etc. So who or what do we invite into our classroom and how do we know they fit with our values and ethos in our school? I have a personal account of this- we invited in a Christian organisation into our secular school to do a presentation getting young people to think about when they should have sex. They assured us that although they would mention their faith it was not central to their presentation, and having heard good things about them I decided to try them out into our school. Their presentation was really good- I was impressed- unfortunately I think we pitched it at wrong year group- they had suggested Y10’s was most suitable- knowing my groups- I think much much more suitable for year eights. Anyhow they also provided leaflets about access to pregnancy counselling. I made sure I checked with them that this agency offered impartial non-directive counselling and was assured it did. Unfortunately I later discovered that the organisation they were handing out leaflets for were also exposed by Education for choice as having poor practice and what most upsets me about this is one of the counselling centres actually exposed in the article was the one the leaflets directed young women too. 😦
It just goes to show that even with the best will and research in the world sometimes things will sneak into your teaching environment that you really are unhappy with. So how do you prevent or address this?
Here are some top tips:
Speak to your local authority advisers- they will have a good idea of what has gone well in other schools. Also speak to colleagues, ask on twitter (#ukedchat is good hashtag to use), ask on TES forums, ask the PSHE association, The Sex Education Forum)
Do some careful research- there is nothing wrong with inviting agencies in with different faith/background to your own school but make sure you are happy with what is going to be said, be prepared to challenge anything you are not happy with, and address it with the students.
An excellent starting point would be to read this guidance document about external visitors and SRE from the sex education forum. Also consider very carefully if you are going to teach about the sensitive topic of abortion and invite external agencies into do that for you- here is how it can go so wrong. Education for Choice have an excellent statement on this:
"Schools often like to stimulate interesting debate about abortion by inviting speakers from pro-choice organisations to balance the views given by ‘pro-life’ (anti-abortion) organisations. Anti-abortion organisations think that abortion is unacceptable in any situation and would like to see the practice outlawed. The opposing view to this would be a pro-abortion stance – the view that abortion is always the right solution to unwanted pregnancy. This is not a view held by any organisation. Instead, agencies that value young people’s health and recognise their rights will support an individual to make their own decision about pregnancy for themselves. The view of these organisations is balanced, in and of itself."
Taken from their fab best practice toolkit available here.
Anyhow hope that helps when considering who or what you allow in your classroom. Please feel free to comment or tweet me.
*Oh but if you get a letter from me offering help in your school as many schools in my local area will do shortly, obviously you should invite ME in because I’m ace 😉 (but also because my role is to work with you to develop best practice for your school- I wouldn’t ever do or say anything in the classroom that hadn’t been agreed first)