As they say on their www site: 'We work with primary and secondary schools where more than half of pupils come from the poorest 30% of families in the UK, according to the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI).' Hence the Tough Young Teachers title. However, what I wish to comment on isn't really related to the fact that this was a Teach First programme, because I think the issues which concern me are more widespread.
As I say, I didn't watch the programme, but I did read Tom (always entertaining and often thought-provoking) Bennett's review of the programme. He wrote, inter alia:
I find this as worrying as Tom does amusing.
Who could conceivably think that this is a good idea? Even by their own odd notions of education, this is wrong-headed. What learning objectives does such a filth-fest support? Where is the evidence base that this is a sensible thing to do with a mixed class of adolescents?
The intention, I can only assume, is to signal to the children that we can talk freely about things that are normally embarrassing. Or to put it another way, that we can talk freely about things which modesty and social convention teach us should not be part of normal conversation. Or to put it a third way, to de-sensitise them.
What actually happens, of course, is that the children who know the most risqué and deviant words, and the ones who have been watching pornography, are rewarded. They are the ones who can say the most original things, and (if they are lucky) break through the teacher's assumed nonchalance and provoke a blush or a stammer.
The most depraved kids are thus given the power, permission and platform to corrupt the rest. The expletives I deleted from Tom Bennett's review included two that I was not familiar with. I really don't need my kids being taught this sort of vocabulary, and still less introduced to the ideas it expresses.
This 'liberal' approach is actually very doctrinaire. Those of us who take seriously our responsibility to preserve our kids' innocence are over-ridden by this ideologically-driven approach. Never mind that we have no TV, teach them custody of the eyes, and so on: at school not only will they be introduced to depravity, but also to the notion that this is all normal and acceptable.
Doubtless, people will argue that we must teach our kids about this; and that I am naive not to realise that most kids are watching porn, and so on.
Yet most is not all, and I do not see why the innocent should be corrupted and the perverse rewarded.
And as I have blogged before (here and going further back in the archives, here) what evidence there is, suggests that even getting them thinking about and discussing sex may increase the likelihood of early sexual experimentation.
My other reflection is how bad this is for the teachers: individually and as a profession. Either they don't want to talk to kids about sex (which is a normal and healthy reaction) and are being made to do so, overcoming any scruples they may have. Or they do want to talk to kids about sex, in which case they are the very last people who should be doing so.