It is 8:44am on a Tuesday morning and pupils have begun to stream into your classroom. You haven’t had the time to fully prepare for period 1, you have half a set of books to mark before the end of break (which you remind yourself that you are on duty for) and you are expected to deliver an inspirational SMSC, British Values and Prevent session to your tutor group in the next 15 minutes. It is a reality that many teachers are used to.
While teachers struggle to find the time for SMSC, political developments, divisions and misunderstandings in 2016 suggest that an education in citizenship has never been more important. Rather than the internet making the world a broader, more tolerant and open place, it has arguably narrowed the information and insights that young people have access to. Social media sites tend to only show the side of the argument that the students, their friends and their family believe in. Fake news platforms and Twitterbots feed young people stories and articles which are not only inaccurate but partially/entirely fabricated. YouTube 'influencers' are consulted more frequently than newspapers. Because of all this, any citizens who are not dedicated enough to seek out the other side of the argument or sufficiently discerning to realise what is false and what isn’t, will find themselves unable to fully participate in a democratic society. Divisions between society stand to become more entrenched rather than smaller.
In this blog series, we will look at using SMSC resources to enable over-worked teachers to have effective discussions with students without having to invest large amounts of time into lesson preparation. We will also look at how senior staff can use data to engage students in whole-school initiatives or social action. Each weekly post will contain an exploration of leading pedagogical theories on SMSC delivery and evidence-based research. Finally, we will feature regular advice from teachers and pupils trying to innovate with SMSC delivery.
Many of the recommendations each week will be aimed at the whole school rather than solely one class, meaning that members of SLT can explore how themes and curricula can sit across the all students. In the weeks to come, we will explore topics such as; how to teach students about prejudices; how to facilitate safe discussions around contentious issues and how to make trade-offs as a politician/minister.
It is worth noting that the SMSC curriculum was not intended to be, nor does it do well as, a stand-alone subject. For example, it is hardly worth trying to teach a year 7 who does not yet know how to interpret a bar chart how different demographics voted in the EU Referendum. Thus, this series will also concentrate on applying SMSC across the curriculum using weekly themes and the application of current affairs. The ideal result would be for young year 7s to be desperate in Maths to learn how to read a bar chart so that they can go back and better understand how young people voted differently to the elderly in June 2016.
After reading each weekly instalment, it is hoped when 8:44am comes around next Tuesday morning, you and the rest of the staff at your school will not only feel prepared but excited about exploring the SMSC, British Values and Prevent curricula with your students.
(Head of Content at VotesforSchools, Former Teacher)