St James Senior Boys’ School in Ashford, Middlesex is currently changing its Sixth Form timetable to enable the introduction of a more formally structured delivery of its Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) curriculum. Head of Sixth Form, David Beezadhur explains how the school used to approach PSHE, why he believes so strongly in its importance and how Big Life Project has provided the school with lesson plans, web-links, resources and activities ideally suited to delivering engaging and effective lessons.
In 1975 St James Senior Boys’ School in Ashford, Middlesex was founded with the aim of providing a complete education for boys and girls from the age of 4 -18, ensuring a well-rounded experience. Something it continues to do today.
In fact, the school places so much value on developing each child’s ‘complete education’ – their broader life skills – that it is currently changing the Sixth Form timetable to enable the introduction of a more formally structured delivery of its Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) curriculum.
Head of Sixth Form, David Beezadhur explains how the school used to approach PSHE, why he believes so strongly in its importance and how he worked with two parents to transition the school to a more secure timetable of learning to teach a formal PSHE curriculum.
All schools are under pressure to raise education standards in the core subjects and we work hard without students to continue to achieve excellence in all areas of education. The success of the holistic education we offer at St. James rests firmly upon the core values of the pupils who graduate, either at secondary or further education. A St. James’ pupil should be a well-balanced individual who is open hearted, mature, independent of thought, a confident learner and has a natural desire to make a difference to the world.
As our headmaster David Brazier stresses, our “total care ensures that boys develop self-knowledge and inner confidence which leads to a smooth transition from adolescence to manhood.”
However, I actually believe that students today need more preparation for their future life than at any other time. If a school’s role is to raise children for a successful and fulfilled career, and life ahead of them then it is our place to ensure they have the necessary ability to thrive; and these are not just academic skills.
As Head of Sixth form I notice many of our students are unable to iron, manage their money, understand the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption and of course communicate effectively, face to face with adults.
One of our recent discussions covered the different types of communication; formal and informal. One of the boys used the term ‘gay’. We discussed the meaning of this word which from historically meaning happy became a ‘neutral’ term to describe homosexuality. It has more recently ended up being a term used to describe something they don’t like or find embarrassing; with negative connotations. We talked through the fact that amongst their own group of friends they fully understood the meaning and my students were horrified when I suggested they were seeing homosexual people in a negative context. The discussion was full and made them all think about how their use of the word could be seen by people outside their group of friends; something I encouraged them to consider.
If I asked teachers whether they really believe today’s pressure on the core subjects is helping students to be fully ready to thrive at college and in the workplace, I think most would say ‘no’. All our teachers feel the more closely connected this generation becomes via the web and social media the more distant they are as people from each other.
Today students of sixth form age communicate in an abbreviated language, 280 characters or less, on their mobile devices or via social media. To a certain extent, as they sit behind a screen, communicating with their friends, they are protected. But if I was to put them in front of a potential new boss, or a college dean on an interview panel, without additional help many of them would underperform and not be able to convey their full potential.
When I joined St James’ Senior Boys’ School, I was pleased to see that the school also valued the teaching of PSHE however, it was delivered relatively informally and in many diverse ways. Everyone across the school took part in the teaching of PSHE but when done well, it requires good quality resources and a common direction.
In any other area of the curriculum, learning resources can be found in abundance. However, for PSHE topics such as drugs and alcohol, suitable teaching resources are limited. Even if our teachers had any spare time to research online activities, they would struggle to find resources to deliver the quality of teaching we wanted.
It was at this time that I became aware of The Big Life Project; a ground-breaking online platform that delivers ready-made practical life skill lessons and resources directly to teachers, allowing them to get on with what they do best; teach.
Big Life Project has provided us with lesson plans, web-links, resources and activities ideally suited to delivering engaging and effective lessons. I could see the real potential of introducing these invaluable lessons to our students.
Having found the ideal resource, we faced our next challenge: finding space in the school’s timetable for an effective amount of PSHE each week! Our timetable was saturated with other learning activities. It was too easy to make excuses that we did not have time, but with all our teaching staff so bought into the benefits of these lessons, we have made time. By completely redesigning our timetable to incorporate more contact time and rearranging activities within the school day, we have managed to provide our Sixth Form with quality PSHE time. I look forward to the new academic year where we can really progress with our formalised PSHE structure.
The Big Life Project’s resource is designed to shake up the status quo and help teachers provide the lessons young people need to start living bolder, brighter, bigger lives. Its innovative approach means we can engage and support our students in attaining much-needed life skills that will help them on their journey once they leave us. It has provided us with a comprehensive Life Skills and PSHE programme that is fit for our students.
David Beezadhur – Head of Sixth Form St James Senior Boys School
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