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PSHE Health


I


am currently an Executive Producer for BBC Learning which means that I come


up with creative ideas for projects which will support teachers in schools and help to transform their learning. It’s a great job, and one which fits neatly with my previous role as a classroom teacher: I know how hard it is to keep a class’s attention and I’ve always wanted to work hand in hand with teachers and give them amazing teaching materials that will enthral their classes. With this latest project, E20 – a spin-


off of the main soap EastEnders, the challenge was to bring PSHE issues to life and tackle the themes that teachers and students are worried about. I was at an independent girls school myself (Haberdashes’ Aske’s School for Girls in Elstree) and can well remember those teenage years. I wish we’d had the opportunity to discuss sex within a relationships context rather than sexual reproduction within biology O level! When I started teacher research last


autumn there was a topic that came up which motivated me into finding out more. The topic was “consent within relationships”. By this, teachers meant safe boundaries for sex. Many a mum or dad will tell you how they worry about what their teenagers are getting up to and whether they are being responsible when it comes to sex. Teenage girls generally want to look


fabulous, in line with current trends and fashion, and they want to be popular and liked by peers and boys. Through their wardrobes and make- up they might look sexualised but that doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily knowledgeable about sex! And it’s the same for boys, for all their bravado, do they really know what the boundaries are? Teachers and parents are


discussion…


E20: now open for


Sarah A Miller, explains how EastEnders helps teachers discuss difficult subjects with their students


Clothes and make-up give confidence but also mixed messagess


culmination of many months work, involving secondary schools, teachers and pupils. PSHE is taught in most


secondary schools, but it can often be a difficult subject for teachers to deliver because it covers such a breadth of issues. It usually falls to the form teacher and involves all the contentious teen topics such as sex education and drug and alcohol abuse. Some of these topics are natural territory for a soap like EastEnders and drama is in fact the perfect medium


for this kind of subject: it allows pupils to distance themselves and talk in the third person about personal themes. Teens aren’t going to want to


talk openly about their own first- hand experience of dates or sexual experiences, far easier to focus on the characters on screen. The two female leads in E20 are very different teenage girls – Faith is all mouth, brassy and sassy, but fun to be around; Ava has a dark secret, a “posh” past, academic ability and aspirations, but is very naïve about her own sexuality. The central “sex” storyline for


our actress who plays Ava is very challenging. Although the drama is not shot in a shocking manner, it is clear what has happened. By putting this issue within a learning context, it is handled responsibly and gives the opportunity for teens to talk about it in a safe environment. There are “up close and personal”


Many a Mum or Dad will tell you how they


concerned about informing girls and boys about safe boundaries in relationships, about what’s appropriate and about how to make sensible choices. Teachers told me they were shocked


by stories of sexual abuse within teen relationships or even rape. Boys and


www.firstelevenmagazine.co.uk


worry about what their teenagers are getting up to and whether they are being responsible


girls were often ignorant of what actually constitutes “consent” within a relationship. The sexual


relationships theme, which runs through the heart of series 3, is also


current – it ties in with a new campaign aimed at raising


awareness of domestic violence


and abuse within teen relationships. The new series of E20, which is transmitting on BBC Three is the


character monologues – where a character turns to camera and shares their thoughts and feelings in an intimate way. The monologue after Ava’s abuse is deeply moving, but accompanied also by a male teen perspective and by a piece to camera from a police woman making it clear what the law is on rape. Although the storylines sound


strong, they have been written by young people and resonate strongly with the different teenagers who’ve viewed it so far. I hope the programme will


challenge teen views about sex and help them understand that the choices they make may have serious consequences and affect lives way beyond their teenage years.


Autumn 2011 FirstEleven 61


PHOTOS: BBC EASTENDERS: E20





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