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Tuesday, 17 November 2009

"Alive to the World": good PSHE programme

Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) is a political football in educational policy in the UK. Many Catholic parents are rightly concerned that their right to bring their children up according to the faith is undermined by some of the programmes in use.

Therefore it is good to see a new PSHE programme that can be highly recommended. Alive to the World was created by Christine Vollmer, who is well known in international circles for her campaign work for the family. She sits on the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Academy for Life. She originally created the programme for Latin America and the UK team has edited the English translation to make it suitable for use in England. The books are designed for whole school PSHE but can also be used in the home and in parishes. Alive to the World is published by Gracewing and may be ordered from the dedicated website at a special introductory discount.

Knowing that there can always be pitfalls, even in well-meaning programmes, I gave the materials from this one to some people whom I know to be aware of the issues involved and critical of bad material. This is their verdict:
This is the best PSHE programme we have seen, being both genuinely educational and suitable as a resource across the curriculum. It is very readable, and whilst presenting personal situations which the children will be able to recognise from their own experience, it draws on charcters from history and literature, avoiding the tediuos and narrow fare usually tackled by such material; 'Me', drugs, sex, the environment.

The more personal areas are, rightly, designed to be dealt with in single sex groups, although some areas would be better used as homework.

It is understandable that some diocese and faith schools have already bought this course, but it also is suitable for schools with no 'faith' basis. We found these books useful as a parenting tool and look forward to the year 9 and 10 books.

Reviewed by a group of parents and teachers.
A Catholic father who has reviewed the material wrote to me:
It's an excellent course, and to see a book that deals well with pornography, promiscuity and other issues so well is really refreshing. It also gives really good resources around the 98+% of life that is not those issues. I've never seen anything as good as this and I've seen quite a few of them."
Some weeks ago, I also mentioned another excellent programme This is My Body which was produced in conjunction with the Diocese of Lancaster. I was worried that the two programmes might be in competition but in fact, "This is My Body" is a set of 12 lessons for Year 6 children focussing on fertility and conception within the heart of Catholic spirituality. "Alive to the World" is a complete PSHE programme for years 4-8 which tackles virtue in order to support Catholic moral teaching in the round. "This is My Body" provides leaflets for parents listing the sexual topics it would be appropriate for them to cover with their children at a given time. "Alive to the World" gives stories as a way of helping them provide that teaching, while also teaching parents the biology on which NFP is based.

It is great to be able to report on two good programmes that accord unambiguously with Catholic teaching and support parents as the prime educators of their children in the ways of faith.

I have heard good news from the programme authors that the 452 bishops of Brazil have decided unanimously to recommend the programme in their dioceses! In England, the programme has so far been recommended as a resource by the Diocese of Salford. I hope that there will be many others to follow.
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