Sunday, 14 September 2008

Welcome to high school - By the way you've got a disease!

After my post earlier this week about the ways that high schools are trying to ease the transition to Year Seven, I was shocked yet amused with the stroy that Year Sevens in one school were told they could have a deadly disease and could be placed in quarantine...

Fortunately, the typhoid epidemic was a fictional scenario made up for a lesson in creative writing. But that news came a little too late for some.

New pupils at Bower Park School in Essex were told there had been a deadly outbreak of typhoid to 'liven up' a creative writing lesson. The lesson on the fourth day of term at Bower Park School in Romford, East London, left several of the pupils in tears. One mother whose son was in the class said: 'His teachers had told him they had to stay in school and be tested. If they had red spots or felt sick they had to report to the nurse straight away. Then they were told it was all a joke - it was a lesson in relaying emotions and writing about how they dealt with it. I'm horrified.'

The 11 and 12-year-olds were first told by their teacher there had been an outbreak of typhoid in the school. They were then told there would be a 48-hour quarantine, before the teacher explained that the set-up was a role-play exercise to stimulate creative writing.

Typhoid, which is caught through contaminated food or water, kills up to 30 per cent of sufferers if left untreated. Symptoms include a high fever, diarrhoea and sometimes a rash of rose-coloured spots and internal bleeding.

The lesson plan, entitled School Under Siege, was devised by a London-based teaching centre and has been used in at least one other school, in the Havering area of Essex.

Since it was taught at Bower Park School, the headmistress has had to meet with several concerned parents and explain to them that the lesson was part of a push to re-vitalise creative writing classes. Mary Morrison said in a statement: 'There is a massive push at Bower Park School to eradicate "passive learning" and replace it with exciting, creative lessons where students are active participants and wholeheartedly involved in their learning. The English Department introduced a dramatic approach to their Year 7 lessons with the outcome being that the students captured their feelings and translated them into a piece of dynamic creative writing. Unfortunately some of our Year 7 students believed the storyline that there was a local epidemic in the community, even though our less able students were told that the activity was role play prior to the start.'

She added: 'Lots of the children found it a very stimulating class. There were very few who were upset by it.'

I think there was an overreaction from some pupils and parents, but nevertheless, I guess it's a rather unusual way to break the new pupils in!


Sticks said...

It would be interesting if the lesson plan was used as instructed by the creators

Jo said...

My daughter did the 'School Under Siege' activity at her school last year, whilst she was in year 6. However, it was made clear to all of them that it was a role play activity BEFORE it was started - had it been the other way round, I am sure I would have been one of the parents complaining too - am pretty sure that the creators would not have intended it to be used in the way this other school did!