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(The locations and schools described in this section of the report have been anonymised)
Report submitted to funders in 1989
1.1. The project is based at the Centre for Applied Research in Education at the University of East Anglia. The project team consists of one full time senior research associate, Dr Richard Davies, one half-time secretary, Rosemary Roberts and two directors, Professor Barry MacDonald, Dr John Schostak.
1.2. The project was a one year pilot study of the feasibility of producing developmental profiles of secondary aged girls and boys in relation to their attitudes towards and patterns of drinking for the purpose of targeting alcohol awareness material/programmes. The principle emphasis was to be on the pupils' own experience bearing upon encounters with alcohol. These encounters considered whether the young person was consumer or witness, user or possible abuser. The concern of the project was to look at and represent individuals as inhabitants of a social world in which alcohol is ubiquitously used in a bewildering variety of circumstances and for a vast range of purposes.
1.3. Specific tasks were:
1) Portray and analyse a range of youth subcultures in the age range 11-18 identified with drinking.
2) Determine whether there are significantly different features which must be more closely studied in order to produce effective targeting.
3) Generate profiles of a range of 'careers' of 'problem drinkers'.
4) Describe and analyse a range of definitions of drinking and problem drinking which members of different youth cultures recognise.
5) Identify a range of processes and contexts whereby alcohol takes on a positive image.
6) Describe and analyse a range of definitions of drinking and problem drinking which members of different youth cultures recognise.
7) Determine the ways in which alcohol is treated within the curriculum generally, both formally and informally as, say, a formal issue within health education, or as a concern in pastoral care practice whether in relation, for example, to incidents of adolescent drinking, or to family problems.
8) Identify the impact of teacher strategies, values and attitudes on children's beliefs and behaviours concerning drink.
2. The field-sites in which the project gathered data were a Secondary School and a Senior Tutorial Centre. It was thought important to ensure that representatives of those groups which had been removed from mainstream schooling should be 'added back' to the study as well as making it possible to compare the different teacher attitudes and styles of the mainstream and the special unit.
2.1. Criteria for the Choice of Secondary School. The project had been specified and funded before access to a school had been negotiated. It commenced on January the 1st 1989 and on that date there was no school to go to. Nor was there any guarantee that a school in reasonable proximity would be willing for research to be undertaken, with their pupils on their premises, on an issue of such potential sensitivity as that of young people and alcohol.
2.2. The first step, then for the project, was to obtain a site within which to conduct the fieldwork. There were 3 basic criteria for the initial choice of school:
1) as far as could reasonably be determined the school should be "a typical secondary" for the area; (see 3 below)
2) it should be reasonably accessible
3) it should have a broadly based catchment area e.g. council estate, private housing, urban, suburban, rural in order to sample as wide a range of social contexts as possible. Included in this concern for broad contextual representation was the choice of an additional establishment, a Special Unit for "refusing or disruptive pupils" . This we considered would provide us with data from an extreme point in the continuum of pupil experience (more of this below). The director of the special unit played an important role in our negotiations with the school selected as the base for fieldwork.
2.3. We had no interest in a school because it had any particular reputation in relation to alcohol or drugs.
2.4. There are several secondary schools that fit roughly within these criteria. From these we drew up a short list of three. We settled finally upon a particular school because, first, none of the pupils were children of project staff (which happened to be the case with two of the three schools) and second, both Dr Schostak and the director of the special unit had previously done research there and had enjoyed good relations with the head, staff and pupils. The head teacher and the director furthermore had subsequently maintained contact enabling an immediate, informal overture to be made. As the Head's response to this was favourable a formal request was put forward which was accepted. Thus by the end of the third week in January a school had been selected and formal negotiation for access completed.
3. The Departmental Context.
3.1: Appropriately this was specified by the head teacher. The project theme, alcohol and related issues of smoking, health, social life, forms of behaviour, personal experience and so forth, linked it most obviously to Personal and Social Development (PSD) in the school timetable. The head of PSD was nominated as link teacher to the project and interviews of pupils were to be undertaken during PSD lessons.
3.2.: Interviews at first scheduled to begin after the half term of the Spring term were then unfortunately further delayed by another 2 weeks owing to the illness of the head of PSD. This left the project with a very tight schedule for the fieldwork given that it was only able to introduce itself to the school, negotiate a timetable and a strategy with the PSD department well into the second half of one of two terms available for fieldwork. Moreover exam pressures in the summer term and the early flight thereafter of 5th and 6th formers created an additional constraint.
4. The Consultancy Group
4.1. From the outset the project decided that it's local and regional character was a virtue to be encouraged. To this end we presented it as a resource within the county, for those working in areas related to the issue of young people and alcohol. In other words we were concerned that we should be alert to the interests, concerns and questions of current practitioners and that our own work should be both informed by them and in a sense returned to them. It soon also became evident to us that such practitioners are many but that multi agency co-operation and understanding are wastefully limited. The setting up of a "Consultancy Group" was intended to fulfil the dual aim of informing the project of the concerns of other professionals and to provide a forum for multi agency meeting.
4.2. The group met five times, at the Centre for Applied Research in Education, over the course of the year. For the project the meetings were invaluable for the articulation of questions, for establishing priorities, for learning the lie of the land, and for generating further contacts. We are told that other members of the group have found them stimulating and useful and an excellent first step to the development of a network of interested parties in and around the area. The structure of the group and its meetings were informal and numbers varied. As recently as the latest meeting in September (1989) a new member was recruited.
4.3. The consultancy group consisted of: the project team, the director of the Norwich Centre for Alcohol Services (NORCAS), the director of the Special Centre, the headteacher and head of PSD at the School, the county Drugs and Alcohol Advisory teacher, the schools and community liaison officer from Norfolk Constabulary, a divisional Youth and Community officer, the health education lecturer from the school of education, and the manager of a city centre public house much frequented by young people at weekends.
5) Background Details of the Field Sites:
5.1. As indicated above two sites were chosen for interviews in order to extend the range of possible experience.
5.2. a] The School:
According to the brochure: "This is a 12- 18 all ability High School [...]. The school dates from 1937 but moved into purpose built accommodation on a large site in the 1960s. Buildings are good and include a large assembly hall, swimming pool and playing fields, as well as a range of specialist laboratories, workshops and other facilities. A newer block is shared by the Sixth Form and Home Economics Departments. In November 1988 the school roll was around 920, comprising 780 main school pupils and 140 students in the Sixth Form Centre". There are also a number of mobile classrooms in use. These are at the back of the main buildings.
5.3.The school gates lead onto a road joining to busy arterial roads [...]. During rush hours this road is sufficiently busy to have aroused concern in the past amongst staff and parents. The back of the school looks out onto extensive playing fields with a view past trees and hedges of the city. This view lends a pleasant rural prospect although the school is now in an area largely suburbanised.
5.4 b) The Special Centre
This is an off site special unit managed by the School Psychological Services. The centre acts as an essential part of the LEA's response to the needs of emotionally or behaviorally disturbed (EBD) pupils. There is a sliding scale of support: a] classroom and school based support b] activity based and counselling work out of school c] sessional attendance at the centre up to 50% time (organised in some cases as a package with the social services) and d] fulltime alternative education. This last form of support provides for group therapy, individual counselling, social skills training and where appropriate GCSE examination work. There are three centre based staff including the director; three teachers who form part of a behaviour support team within the county secondary schools; and volunteers.
5.5 During the time fieldwork was undertaken at the centre there were 12 to 15 regular attenders. All these were in their last year of schooling and all were committed to some degree to GCSE examinations. Altogether 30 GCSEs were entered and passed.
5.6 The Centre is based in a former primary school, a solid Victorian red brick building set in its own large drive and playground. It is situated just outside the city centre on a busy main road.
6). The Secondary School and the Curriculum Context.
6.1 "in the curriculum as a whole we're trying to move away from content based work to work that involves skill and understanding. GCSE has hastened the changes plus the general innovative spirit that a lot of comprehensives have adopted towards curriculum development" (head teacher).
6.2. These have been times of unprecedented change and upheaval in schools. The boundaries between research and appraisal are not so clearly drawn as they may once have been. In an area as sensitive as Personal and Social Development, where teachers are dealing with matters of intense subjectivity, where outcomes are indeterminate and performances not easily susceptible to measure, it is vitally important that a researcher coming into such a situation is clear about what he or she is doing. This is particularly so now with teacher appraisal looming and/or where TVEI with its associated monitorings and evaluations is introduced into a school. TVEI was introduced into the School the term before the project began.
6.3. A one page leaflet (see Appendix 1) was produced for the purposes of introducing and describing the project in terms that could be understood by anybody. It's aim was to put staff at ease with regard to the project and to avoid any taint of mystification or threat. Nevertheless even by the summer term, some four months after the project had got underway in the school, a teacher expressed surprise at discovering that it was not an evaluation of PSD provision in the school, but was instead a collaboration with the PSD department to to talk to the children and young people about their experience of alcohol. It could even be said in this respect that, for the project, the importance of the school lay not in its function as an educational establishment but in its role as a "convenient warehouse" of young people (Downes and Rock).
6.4 The school in turn brought its own expectations of and to the project and we were naturally concerned to be respond to these. The research in itself was of interest and relevance for the whole of the PSD programme insofar as it offered a potential indication of the living concerns of the pupils themselves. The project emphasis on pupil's own experience corresponded to the interest within the school that "the whole curriculum move towards a more pupil centred style of learning" (the head teacher). It was also recognised that the central issue or first premise of the project was important: "Coping with alcohol is an important life skill. More important in a way than drug abuse. And we are already under pressure to cover substance abuse in various forms but not so far, alcohol. But in talking to you on your visits into the school, we are all feeling we need to be dealing with or approaching the topic much lower down in the school" (the headteacher). Indeed in time the project became "a self-fulfillling prophecy.....The mere fact that (it) is taking place has heightened our awareness....we are now interested in and involved in alcohol education in a way that we wouldn't have been if you hadn't been here"(The head teacher).
6.5. In the course of our research at the school we made other more direct contributions to its educational life. The first of these took place in the summer term. We undertook teaching of two double periods of PSD with four groups of mixed ability 4th year pupils. In the course of these we trialled some available curriculum materials covering alcohol use and abuse and obtained evaluations and discussions from pupils. The second was a one and a half hour input before the whole staff during the school Inservice Training Day at the beginning of the autumn term. The subject was alcohol education and the work to date of the project with pupils. (It must be said that these contributions were inevitably limited ventures bound up with the learning and development of the project itself and their corresponding value for the school remains for staff and pupils to judge). For all this a secondary school is a large, complicated and busy place and generally speaking a considerable number of the staff and pupils were untouched by the project.
6.6. At the Special Centre, being a small, familiar and informal institution the scope of the project to work more closely with students and staff was greatly increased. The nature of the fieldwork became quite different and the potential for the research offered by the two situations were also similarly different (see "The Interviews" below). Suffice to say that interview transcripts were used by a number of the students as contributions to their coursework in their GCSE English exam and also Dr Davies led a discussion group in a formal Mock GCSE English oral examination on the subject of Alcohol. The transcripts from this occasion provided both valuable data for the project and a source for reflexive analysis of performance by and for the students themselves.
Interviews were the primary source of data, although some observation took place during class based activities. The underlying methodology of the study is qualitative, that is, it focuses upon the meaning of events and experiences to participants and as such has a particular interest in the strategies they use to make sense of their experiences as a basis for decision making. This close focus upon meanings and strategies reveals the complexities of social processes at a level which questionnaires cannot penetrate. The object is to allow the interviewee (whether in relatively formal interviews, or more naturally, as partners in a conversation) the scope to use his or her own ways of talking about experiences to define, describe and analyse in naturalistic terms what the interviewee considers important, interesting, normal. This material is then subjected to systematic analysis at a sociological level for the development of theories in a manner usefully described by Glaser and Strauss (1967) as 'grounded theory'.
7.1. For the purposes of this report we will describe the Special Centr and the School fieldwork as separate matters. The aim is to describe the methodology as it occurred within the two field sites. Central to the practical aspects of methodology was the process of negotiation. Qualitative research depends on a high level of trust being generated between the researcher and the community being researched. Otherwise meanings and significances will simply not be revealed. Negotiation takes time and considerable sensitivity to the feelings and values of others. It also involves respecting their concerns, their timetables and their beliefs. Through a process of negotiation, the researcher can progressively move towards the research goals but may have to forego some research activities in the short term in order to accomplish them in the long term.
7.2. The School.
7.2.1. The Head of PSD and others within the department did not consider it appropriate that interviews with pupils should be followed up by activities or forms of research that could be interpreted by pupils as a form of surveillance (possibly by the department itself). In other words the observation of youngsters during times and at sites mentioned in their interviews was not viewed with equanimity by school staff formally associated with the project. In these early, pilot stages of the project we did not feel that the reservations of the school department under whose auspices we were working could be ignored or confidently repudiated in the time available. In our judgment this was a matter for gradual negotiation and the securing of trust both of teachers and pupils and our main concern - to get young people to talk about their experiences, opinions, feelings in relation to alcohol and their lives - urgently prevailed. Thus interview remained the predominant method of enquiry.
7.2.2. A timetable for these interviews was negotiated with the head of department (reproduced below). They were to take place during the course of double PSD lessons. This gave a period of 1 hour and 10 minutes precisely. As indicated above, PSD lessons were chosen because they most naturally corresponded to the concerns of the project.
7.2.3. The Interview Timetable.
Provisional Timetable for remainder of Spring Term and Summer term.
Monday: 1.05 - 2.15 Lessons 5 & 6: 5th years.
2,30 - 3.40 Lessons 7 & 8: 2nd Years.
Wednesday: 9.20 - 10.30 Lessons 1 & 2: 4th Years.
10.45 - 11.55 Lessons 3 & 4: 4th years.
Thursday: 1.05 - 2.15 Lessons 5 & 6: 3rd years.
6th formers to be interviewed as and when opportunities arise.
(Tuesday a.m. every week: At the Special Centre).
7.2.4. Already on the evidence of the timetable above, it can be seen that a predetermined structure was imposed upon what was an otherwise relatively informal "selection". This was the division of the interviewees into their school category of year groups. This might suggest, for example, that one fourth year has more in common with another fourth year than he or she may have with like minded 5th years and so on. Nevertheless on logistical grounds alone we had little alternative to an accommodation of these categories in our research. Having said that, this structure was also useful for the ordering of the data and the year group categories are not entirely unrelated to organic and experiential realities. In other words in an area such as "alcohol cultures" age is legally, morally and practically significant. A 13 year old consuming alcoholic drink is generally perceived as being of a different order of concern to a 16 year old doing likewise, and this perception affects the quality of the experience of the teenage consumer. More needs to be said of the underlying interview strategy.
7.2.5 The Interview Strategy
7.2.6. These were all informal and semi-structured. Recorded on cassette with the agreement of the pupils, these interviews resembled somewhat one sided conversations prompted by the interviewer but following as far as possible leads offered by the pupils themselves. It was important that the interviews did not impose issues or concerns, ways of understanding, seeing or talking that were not the pupils' own. The fundamental strategy was to encourage the interviewee to set the agenda for the interview. It was important to know how alcohol featured in their lives, thus it had to emerge as a natural accompaniment to a description of their everyday lives.
7.2.7. It was important therefore to enable the pupils to answer from their own experience and not on the basis of received knowledge or what they considered the interviewer wanted to hear (this is not to say that the forms of received knowledge demonstrated by the pupils were not important cultural artifacts in themselves and a part of the pupils' world). In areas addressing controversial, difficult or sensitive subjects much bound up with the structural relationships of power and responsibility, of dependence and order, between adults, children and young people, it is vitally important that the adult interviewer enables the pupils' to feel the "ownership" of their experience. On such a basis they are more likely to feel confident of giving responses relatively free of exaggeration, evasion or any of the other forms of truth dissipation. Tactically the interviewer volunteered information about himself at appropriate points in the interviews, articulating thoughts, reflections, attitudes and experiences. The purpose of such openness was precisely to equalise relationships in the interview, so avoiding any comparison with an 'interrogation' and to promote trust and relaxation.
7.2.8. It must be said, that generally speaking, the frankness and responsiveness of the majority of the pupils - as evidenced by the data, (see below) - were both a pleasant surprise for the interviewer and a credit to the pupils. There is no doubt that in conditions of trust, of safety for the meanings made of personal experience, and of respect for that experience per se; and where interest and a willingness to listen without judgment are shown, then children and young people will talk about themselves and their worlds with astounding generosity. If that counts as a criterion of success then on that score alone the project has done well.
7.2.9. Something more should be said about how these "conditions of trust" were obtained. First and probably most importantly there were seldom more than two pupils interviewed at the same time; occasionally one or three; on one occasion six; but never more. Thus a degree of intimacy was enabled, concealment in numbers made more difficult, and routine peer and gender constructed postures rendered less compelling.
7.2.10. Of course there were constraints and the interviewer was not especially privileged. It is doubtful under the circumstances whether highly sensitive confidences or revelations of problems would arise. Some pupils were not forthcoming, not interested, never at ease. This should not surprise. The quality of human association is mercifully variable. Thus some interviews, in our judgment and according to our requirements, yielded better and more data than others.
7.2.11. The interviewer was a stranger, an adult, someone whose purposes may well have appeared somewhat out of the ordinary and perhaps on occasions mystifying. Moreover, the interviews were very much of a first and last nature in order to discover, so to speak, the lie of the land. There was not sufficient time, in little more than one school term during which important examinations were also taking place, to sustain progressive focusing. Consequently the opportunity for systematic development of relationships did not arise. That opportunity is still available and the possibility of second stage interviews at the school and the associated Youth and Community Centre remains open. The project is now known by a large number of pupils and most staff. The pupils are now "experienced" in relation to the work of the project and will know both the interviewer and the kind of occasion for which they are volunteering. This is an enormous step forward.
7.2.12. A large part of the 1 hour and 10 minutes available for the interviews (as much as 50% and sometimes more) was spent in general discussion and in establishing some familiarity. But this activity was not solely instrumental. It had substantive meaning. We considered it essential to allow the young people to provide the generalised context of their lives within which the experiences of alcohol could be located. This may have involved a great deal of information that many might consider mundane. But it is of vital importance to know, for example, whether there is enough going on in the local community to sustain and interest young people. In order to uncover this (if it were the case) we must allow them to talk about what it is like to live their lives where they do, without prior reference, if necessary, to alcohol. In the view of the project the experience of alcohol had to emerge from their world as they talked about it - not be imposed by the dictat of enquiry. The experience of alcohol had to be talked about as it actually fitted within the priority system of these children and young people.
7.2.13. Some pupils were better able and happier to articulate their thoughts and experiences than others. In the sensitive balancing act that these occasions required, the interviewer performed better at some times than others. Serendipity played it's part. Nevertheless the aim to come away from these encounters with a growing body of concrete accounts by people of aspects of their lives, was to all intents and purposes, achieved (see below).
7.2.14. Analysing the Interviews
Qualitative research, because it focuses closely upon what people say and do can not involve itself in mass survey techniques. It is more important to achieve quality rather than quantity in these interviews. The emphasis is upon the internal validity of the interviews and the triangulation of perspectives that they offer. Internal validity, as used here, refers to the regularity and consistency of patterns arising within an interview and a series of interviews with the same person or group. Triangulation refers to the correlation of perspectives that can be achieved concerning a range of objects. Triangulation identifies the extent to which individuals and groups perceive the same objects or attribute the same meanings to objects. Objects which have been triangulated are said to be objectively valid for a given individual, group or groups. Such strategies are vital in determining the range and scope of youth sub-cultures and the influence these have upon the reasoning and decision making of young people. These methodological points will be illustrated in section 4.
A simple breakdown of the interviews reveals that between March and May of
1989, 45 pupils in The School were interviewed:
7.2.15. We aimed as far as possible for a numerical balance between boys and girls but we did not make this a condition of the interviews. Willingness and availability of pupils were too important for us to make precise stipulations. We indicated that we wanted to obtain a reasonably even distribution of age and gender in order to generate points of contrast but we had already made it clear that the differing experiences of individual boys and girls was of more significance at this stage than any assumption or expectation of pattern. As it transpired we did obtain a reasonable balance. GCSE examinations and the prompt departure of candidates from school after finishing exams account for the fact that so few 5th formers are represented. In short 5th years were largely unavailable for interview at the time the project was operating in the school. A longer term project would have helped to redress this problem by enabling the researcher to follow fourth formers into their fifth year.
7.2.16. Once negotiated the strategy itself was straightforward. The interviews took place in the office of the PSD department which involved some comings and goings of staff and answerings of telephones in the middle of interviews and so forth. The interviewer arrived at the start of the lesson times agreed in the timetable (see above). Here he would wait until a pair of pupils were sent from class. These would sometimes be two boys, two girls or a boy and a girl together. We left the selection of the pupils up to the pupils and teachers themselves. Sometimes the pupils volunteered or "were volunteered". On one occasion a lack of chairs in the classroom availed us of a third interviewee; on another occasion two pupils arrived late in class and were selected on that basis. Suffice to say we did not impose specifications with regard to choice: simply any one or two, boys and/or girls, from a particular class who were willing to be interviewed.
7.3. The Speciall Centre.
7.3.1. The situation here was very different, albeit some of the constraints in the relationship between adult interviewer and adolescent interviewee naturally pertain to both school and special unit.
7.3.2. We visited the Centre every Tuesday morning. Nine students were interviewed. All would have been, in conventional respects, the equivalent of 5th years. Their ages ranged between late fifteen and early seventeen years. They were all involved to a certain extent in GCSE examination work. A member of the project team conducted the students' mock oral English GCSE and in some cases the project contributed to their course work (see above).
7.3.2. The atmosphere at Centre is most unlike a mainstream secondary school. The curriculum is individually negotiated. Emphasis is placed upon institutional deregulation and personal responsibility. Hierarchical differentials between staff and students are strenuously avoided. Smoking is allowed. Everyone is on first name terms. There are no uniforms. There are seldom more than 15 students at any one time and seldom less than 5 adults.
7.3.3. For the project the STC offered some distinct advantages. The referral procedures from school to special unit involved the construction of detailed case histories of the students. The director knew very much more about the young people we interviewed than is usually the case with staff at a secondary school. There was no question of breaking basic rules of confidentiality but the nature of the involvement of staff and students, of the relationships between them, enabled fuller and deeper life contexts to be obtained. Also it was possible to go back; to revisit students, to take advantage of a developing familiarity.
7.3.4. 6 boys and 6 girls were interviewed. 8 of these interviews were taped. On other occasions a cassette was not used as it was felt that this might fill with disquiet some of these young people who were all, to some degree, emotionally and behaviorally disturbed. These were carried out with notebook. There was very much less of a pattern to these interviews than there was at the High School. There was not a fixed "class" group from out of which one or two students could be plucked. They all worked as individuals with individually negotiated curricula. On any given Tuesday morning that may have been one, two, three or none available for interview. Three groups took part in the mock English GCSE orals of 4, 4 and 2. These sessions were taped.
Altogether 9 teachers were interviewed from both school and centre
8.1. Using the advice of the head of the PSD department we did not plan to engage in any teacher interviews until late in the summer term after exams were over and the bulk of 5th and 6th formers departed. During term time teachers are very hard pressed indeed and do not welcome further demands on their time and energy. Again with the advice and assistance of the head of PSD we drew up a list of teachers most likely to have a professional orientation towards the issue of alcohol and young people. These we identified as: year heads, teachers of religious education, home economics, PSD, social studies and English, careers advisor, head of tutor groups, head and deputy head of the 6th form centre, and head and deputy head teachers of the school. Altogether 14 teachers were requested for interview. Unfortunately the response was not enthusiastic. Time and again where interest was shown the time was inappropriate. The abiding refrain could be characterised thus "Would love to but am rushed off my feet right now". This of course was almost invariably the case and a feasibility venture such as our's could not expect to enjoy priority amongst teachers.
8.2. Nevertheless four teachers gave up a half hour to an hour of their time to talk about their views of the issues related to young people and alcohol. These were not taped but written down in longhand in a notebook. By late in the summer term (June 20th onwards) we had an abundance of recorded material from pupils and did not wish to add to the burden of transcription.
8.3. The exception to this was the interview recorded of the headteacher who kindly gave an hour of his time to the project. To compensate for the lack of formal responses to the requests for interviews, we engaged informally in conversations and discussions with a few members of staff in breaks between periods, lunchtimes and so on, about the nature of the project and about alcohol and young people. These discussions overall helped to generate a sense of teachers perspectives.
8.4 At the Special Centre interviews were obtained with all three full time staff, including the director and one member of the part time staff.
8.5 Although these interviews provided useful insights into issues of teaching and learning about alcohol in relation to curriculum development, the overriding concern of the project remained pupil experience.
9. Personal and Social Development; The Curriculum Context.
"to say that the curriculum dimension of pastoral care is a discovery of the late 1970s and 80 may be something of an exaggeration but not much" (Bulman & Jenkins 1988. p5)
9.1. A brief review cannot do justice to the complexity of the subject of PSD in schools. Its status and definition remains uncertain even in schools with a high degree of commitment to it. It has its origins in the development of pastoral care systems in schools in the 1960s. Marland (Marland. M. 1974. p.152) describes the aims of the pastoral system:
1] to assist the individual to enrich his personal life;
2] to help prepare the young person for educational choice;
3] to offer guidance or counselling, helping young people to make their own decisions - by question and focus, and by information where appropriate;
4] to support the 'subject' teaching;
5] to assist the individual to develop his or her own lifestyle and to
respect that of others;
6] to maintain an orderly atmosphere in which all this is possible.
(Marland. M. 1974. p.152)
Where such a pastoral care system was out into operation in the schools, however, it became a largely separate element of the school from its academic structure. It concentrated largely upon one to one counselling and liaison with the welfare networks as well as the mechanisms of control and imposed discipline. The 1970s showed pastoral care to be preoccupied with "administration, paper work, pupil referral procedures, discipline and punishment" (Pickles, I, 1989. p.6.). This historic tension between the pastoral and the academic has continued and is reflected in the wide variation in PSD provision in schools and the ambivalence towards the subject that one encounters in every staffroom.
Some of that ambivalence is exemplified in the use of the term "subject" to describe PSD. It is not a school subject in the conventional usage of that term. There is no agreed body of knowledge to be handed on; no imposed syllabus; no associated examination; no initial teacher training - PSD teachers were and are subject teachers who for a variety of reasons became involved with or assumed responsibilities for PSD); the emphasis in PSD is on the affective rather than the cognitive; controversial and sensitive issues are routine aspects of it; the teaching strategy is "pupil-centred rather than "subject-centred", thus the focus is on "drawing out" rather than "putting in". Suffice to say that PSD in a school almost constitutes a "state within a state" or even a form of counter culture. Despite this, PSD during the 1970s and 1980s continued to receive wide and substantial support from HMI and central government (Pickles, I. Op.cit. p.9.).
9.2: The Cross Curricular Context.
By 1989 in the context of the developing National Curriculum the then Secretary of State for Education asked the National Curriculum Council to give consideration to "the nature and place of cross-curricular issues" in the new curriculum (Letter to the Secretary of State for Education, NCC. 21st April 1989). Personal and Social Education was identified by the NCC as one of three fundamental cross-curricular dimensions. The other two being "a multi cultural approach and equal opportunities for boys and girls" (Interim Report to the Secretary of State on Cross Curricular Issues.p2 para. 2.1. NCC 1989). It also states that "Personal and Social Education (PSE) is arguably the most important of the cross curricular dimensions to which schools need to give attention" (ibid. p3. para 4.1).
9.3: Although the precise implications of these judgements and recommendations are not yet known, it would appear evident from the Interim Report of NCC that the commitment of central government to PSD in schools is likely to remain high. This is particularly the case in relation to its cross curricular potential and the important role PSD can play in satisfying the requirement of the Educational Reform Act that the curriculum "promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society" and "prepares pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life".
10. PSD at the School
(Unless otherwise specified, all quotations in the following section are taken from an extended, recorded interview with the Head teacher on the 27th of June, 1989)
10.1. The project did not concern itself with a detailed study of PSD at the school. The school allowed the project to undertake fieldwork on its premises on the basis of interviewing pupils to discover the quality of their experience in relations to issues of alcohol and not to investigate the nature and scope of any part of the school provision. As we have argued above: the project was at pains to avoid any suggestion that there was an evaluative element in its work directed either at the school or the work of its teachers. Thus we operated within the context of PSD but aside from naturally occuring discussion of it with pupils and teachers, did not attempt any systematic study. But for the purposes of context we provide a brief and largely impressionistic account below.
10.2. The tensions, complexities and ambivalences in relation to PSD in a secondary school are present in the School as they are in virtually every other school. One member of staff favourably recalled the visit of a teacher from France the previous year who was amazed that teachers should have a responsibility for "personal and social development" of pupils (we were subsequently informed by a probationary teacher from Germany working in a local secondary school that teachers in France and Germany are trained and contracted to deliver subject specific knowledge and no more). Another member of staff firmly of the conviction that the personal and social development of the child is to all intents and purposes determined by the age of 7, claimed still to be awaiting a satisfactory definition of PSD in school. One pupil thought PSD was "Physical and Social Development" while another called it "Social Studies under another name".
10.3. Nevertheless PSD enjoys "a high profile" in the school and a good proportion of staff have been and are involved in it.
10.4. In 1982 the then headteacher was sufficiently persuaded of its value to create a PSD department and appointed one of the teachers to be full time head. This same teacher, also head of the Upper School, became the link teacher to the project. There are presently 9 teachers involved to some degree or other in PSD provision, and the current headteacher has continued the tradition of commitment to it. The majority of pupils interviewed claimed to consider it of importance and shared the view of the following 3rd year pupil, a girl, whose group, at the time of interview, were doing health related topics in PSD: "PSD is useful because it makes you think about things you wouldn't otherwise think about. They bring up a situation and you think "Yeah, what would I do? I hadn't thought I'd ever come to a situation like that".
10.5. This view is corroborated by the headteacher, "I think PSD is now accepted by the staff and pupils, parents and governors as an important part of the curriculum here. It has been sold. Plus a lot of staff are interested in teaching on it. More and more staff are experiencing it. Most departments of the school have got someone with experience of teaching PSD". However in the academic year of 1989/90, PSD in the lower school (2nd and 3rd years) will occupy a relatively small part of the newly timetabled curriculum "In our new 30 period structure PSD will occupy one 50 minute slot". In the Upper School (3rd and 4th years) PSD is subsumed within Social Studies and will occupy 3 periods. This is a GCSE accredited subject and a course run entirely by the social science department "That's more of a closed shop if you like. There is also a debate going on within the Social Science department where one member of staff thinks that social studies must be an academic, sociology based course and the philosophy of the school which thinks it should really be an umbrella subject bringing together a number of cross curricular themes. That's quite a big constraint in the upper school".
10.6. For the present (academic year 1988/89) PSD consists of two seperate courses: PSD in the Second and Third years, and a seperate Social Studies course for Fourth and Fifth years. In the 6th form the equivalent of PSD is the accredited Citizenship course and other work with tutors. The school is alert to the issue of continuity between these ostensibly separate strands of provision.
10.7. In terms of process or style of teaching the school is committed to an approach that is "much more pupil centred". This is recognised, however, as "a problem in the upper part of the school when we are trying to fulfill the demands of an external GCSE syllabus and the conflicting demands of a fairly free flowing PSD".
10.8. But the influence of PSD on the school is significant and may become more so: "PSD should ideally be an agent of change. I would like the whole curriculum to move towards a more pupil centred style of learning. PSD methods should be spreading outwards to other departments. GCSE has helped to do this in its style of course work".
10.9. A further important influence for change at this stage in the school's history is TVEI . The school is "just coming to the end of the first year of our TVEI extension. This is beginning to have an influence because there are curricular themes there which are cross curricular".
10.10. Finally " in the curriculum as a whole we're trying to move away from content based work to work that involves skill, understanding and GCSE has hastened the changes plus the general innovative spirit that a lot of comprehensives have adopted towards curriculum development".
In the upper school we move from one period a week to three periods a week,
I think some staff feel quite disoriented when going in to teach a subject which
doesn't have a body of knowledge but if the school has amongst its aims the
development of the indiviudal in all senses and the development of the individual
as a member of the community, PSD is vital to do that I think it is doing something
that traditional subjects can't do.
So what is the relationship between PSD, Citizenship and what goes on in tutor time with the tutor? Once you admit PSD to the formal curriculum in lesson time you start running into some kind of problem with what goes on in tutorial time. And for a long time it's been very uneasy. A lot of tutors have been very uneasy, about being, as they put it, expected to teach during tutor time and there's been a strong argument with a lot of tutors that if PSD is covering things then there's no reason for us to. I think we're trying to meet that by evolving tutor time into more positive activity all related to records of achievement. Records of achievement have got to be totally positive and none of them warning people off things. Records of achievement consist of pupils talking about what they've done.
11. The Catchment Area of the School:
From the minutes of the Norwich Court of Mayoralty dated Saturday June 30th, 1632.
"Tho: Garrerd of Hellesdon
Edmond Powle deposeth that Thomas Garrard the yonger did upon the Lords last day intertayne drinkers and dauncers in his house. And that Gawdy Blacke dwellinge in Hellesdon and diverse others to the number of Twenty men and women and he did sell them a full Ale quart of Beere for a penny".
("A History of Hellesdon Village" by Kenneth Hipper 1978.)
Although local documentation now describes Hellesdon as a "mature suburb" of Norwich, its identity has not always been dominated by the Norwich connection. Indeed, Hellesdon began life as an Anglo-Saxon village in the ninth century before Norwich existed.
It was not until the reign of Phillip and Mary I in 1556 that Norwich was first allowed to enlarge its boundaries to include part of Hellesdon. Further parts of Hellesdon were swallowed up by Norwich at the beginning of this century and these became known as the hamlet of Hellesdon. Ordinance survey maps of the area before the 1930s show very little building. But during that decade there were major building developments between the city and Hellesdon and the transformation of the village into a major suburb was accomplished. The parish of Hellesdon became divided into "city" and "county"; the city side of Hellesdon tending towards further housing develpment in the post war period; whilst the more agricultural, county side was developed in the main privately and in a more haphazard fashion.
The "mature suburb" of today supports its own shopping centres, an industrial estate, a Community Centre, a library and schools: a first, two middle and one high school. Large companies such as Rhône Poulenc (formerly May and Baker) and Heatrae have based themselves within the area bringing comparative prosperity through jobs. In 1983 Associated Dairies opened a large supermarket on the boundary between Hellesdon and Norwich which provided a number of part time or Saturday jobs for youngsters and a large sport and leisure centre.
Hellesdon is now too large to compete in the Sports Councils' Eastern Regions Inter-Village Sports Tournaments. Instead it has formed links with other parishes of similar character and size: Drayton, Old Catton, Spixworth, Sprowston and Taverham and these organise an annual Inter-Community Sports Competition of their own.
Norwich City Centre is a 60p bus journey away and the services are frequent. Norwich enjoys the role of provincial capital/centre in relation to Hellesdon in that it is the provider of cinemas, discos, entertainment and large department stores - in fact anything Hellesdon cannot provide for itself. Norwich inevitably is important to this study as it is a focal point in the social lives of many Hellesdon teenagers.
Taverham like Hellesdon was an Anglo-Saxon settlement and is 'pre Norwich'. One of its main claims to fame being the existence from 1700 onwards of a paper mill which in the nineteenth century produced paper for 'The Times' newspaper but this mill is no more. Today it is a scattered village five and three-quarter miles from Norwich which is often described as a "dormitory". There are, nevertheless, some small scale market gardening activities and a specialist breeder of Broad Breasted Turkeys.
Local newspaper cuttings reveal the nature of the rapid expansion of Taverham - in 1966 7000 new homes were planned for the Taverham-Drayton area, in 1975 the Ghosthill are of Taverham was approved for development, and in 1980 the Taverham-Drayton area were to have another 2000 homes located within their boundaries. At each point along the way concern was expressed by the existing inhabitants that local resources such as schools would be unable to cope with the influx of people. Taverham has also tried to preserve its identity as a village community and guarded itself against becoming simply a dormitory serving Norwich.
Amongst the facilities which Taverham offers are a variety of schools - the Taverham Nightingale First County School being one of the last state schools to be built in Norfolk, and there is also some competition from a well known local preparatory school at Taverham Hall. Taverham Oak Farm Clinic which deals with the rehabilitation of children and adults with neurological problems has also recently come to Taverham. There are plans for a county standard golf course and also for a library to be housed with an extended Village Hall complex. An ambitious ten year project to build a Sports Centre began in 1983 which it is hoped will eventually encompass changing areas, bars, two committee rooms, two squash courts, a main hall possibly housing a swimming pool and a rifle range.
Notably, there is no common land, no public footpaths and no chapel in the village. A local public meeting convened a few years ago voted against siting a public house in the village - drinkers are directed by a road sign to the nearest public house which is two miles away from Taverham.
A community similar in character to Taverham which has grown from an obscure rural village into a large, modern, residential district. Like Taverham it has had to battle to preserve its ancient village traditions, and in the past has resisted proposals to bring it within the city boundaries of Norwich. The rapid expansion of the village population has meant that village facilities are very stretched. The Village Hall can no longer accommodate all the evening activities of the community and so they have expanded into the school. Former Victorian mansions have taken on new uses, for example, Drayton Hall is now used by the Health Service as a maternity unit and Drayton Wood and the Old Rectory house have become homes for the elderly and disabled. Drayton, unlike Taverham, has its own traditional 'locals' - The Cock and the Red Lion.
Services such as doctors' surgeries, garages, a bank, haridressing saloons are grouped around the village green. There is a recreation ground with a modern pavilion which accommodates various kinds of sporting activities. Drayton is also lucky enough to have the Bob Carter Centre - a popular new community centre offering a range of sports and other activities which attract people from surrounding villages as well as Drayton.
Alcohol Education - A Review
At the beginning of this year (1989) a Department of Education and Science circular stated that: " local education authorities and schools will need to consider the preparation of an alcohol strategy in the context of personal and social education (PSE) and health education" (Department of Education and Science Circular 14/1989, p10, ). Dr John Rae, Director of the Portman Group, set up this year "to recommend practical initiatives to reduce the health and social problems associated with alcohol misuse"(The Guardian newspaper, 26.10.89) was recently quoted as saying in relation to alcohol education "They put so much emphasis on protecting everyone from alcohol and so little emphasis on encouraging the young to make informed and responsible decisions about their own lives" (ibid). In the contemporary context then, a review of the changing role and nature of alcohol education in schools appears timely.
Since the 1970s there has been growing public concern with the social and personal consequences of excessive or otherwise inappropriate forms of alcohol consumption: ("The Politics of Alcohol:Two Periods Compared" The Institute of Alcohol Studies. pps 28-29). This period was marked by a new emphasis on "prevention rather than treatment of alcohol problems" (Ibid). This is not the place for close historical scrutiny but suffice to say that in the context of prevention education inevitably becomes a central issue. A number of committees of enquiry examining alcohol problems in Britain stressed the importance of education arguing for "an expansion of public education about alcohol and its effects"(ibid). By the late eighties this view was corroborated by the Wakeham Committee, the Ministerial group on Alcohol Misuse set up in 1987 by central government in order to review and develop Government strategy in this area. In its first annual report it stated that "We recognise the importance of education taking place in schools on the dangers of alcohol misuse" (First Annual Report 1987-1988. Ministerial Group on Alcohol Misuse). In the same year the Standing Conference on Crime Prevention pointed to the larger dimensions surrounding issues of alcohol education: "the root of the disease lies in the failure of society to adopt sensible drinking habits, and so the solution must involve changes in attitude rather than an obsession with regulation" (Report of the Working Group on Young people and Alcohol. 1987. P.24).
A solution that involves changes in attitude poses particular educational problems. Along with the growing recognition of the importance of education in relation to alcohol there has been acknowledgement of the failure of past educational programmes to effect changes in behaviour or to have very much impact at all on the kinds and levels of alcohol consumption in society and, in particular, on young people's attitudes to alcohol. In its annual report, the Edinburgh based Alcohol Research group pointed out that "Available evidence of the effectiveness of alcohol education for school pupils is not encouraging" (Report on the Tenth Year. Ist October, 1987-30th September, 1988. p1). Research elsewhere supports this somewhat gloomy prognosis. One writer summed up the situation "A review of the empirical evidence bearing upon the efficacy of such education suggests that convincing evidence of its ability to reduce levels of youthful drinking is so far lacking" (Dorn, N. "Alcohol, Youth and the State". 1983. p.99 ). What has been said elsewhere in the context of drug education applies also to alcohol education "The diversity of programmes notwithstanding, the efficacy of drug education programs in schools is, to put it most charitably, disputed"(Forbes, G. Fopp, R. "Drug Education: The Competition for Attention" 1897). As recently as 1987, alcohol education was described as being "still very much in the Stone Age" (Bagnall, G. Plant, M. "Adolescent Drinking " 1987, p830).
This is now, to some extent, common knowledge amongst professionals in the field and perhaps does not altogether do justice to the past and present endeavours of teachers and programme developers. There should perhaps be some caution about such judgements of inefficacy for two reasons. First, strictly speaking, it is difficult to know how effective alcohol education programmes hitherto have been. Appropriate questions to ask such programmes remain, in important respects, elusive "Rigourous evaluation of alcohol education is difficult to achieve" (Plant,M. Bagnall, G. "Alcohol Education: The Rocky Road Ahead" in Alcohol & Alcoholism. Vol. 23. No.3 pp. 191-192. 1988. p.191). Second, as we argue throughout this proposal to judge alcohol education purely in terms of consumption and therefore of its ability " to reduce levels of youthful drinking" is not necessarily the most appropriate judgement of it to make. Alcohol education should be judged as an opportunity to contribute to the understanding pupils have of themselves and of others, and of the choices and consequences of personal and social action in the cultural contexts of their lives. (HMI "Personal and Social Education from 5-16". Curriculum Matters 14. 1989 p.3.)
Nevertheless what emerges is a developing commitment to change and the location of alcohol education in its broader cultural, regional, personal and social contexts. It is not enough for alcohol and health related education to be merely an add on provision to the mainstream curriculum (TACADE "Perspectives" Three Views in Drug Education. From Introduction). Increasingly alcohol education is seen as an integral part of "the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school, and of society" (DES circular 14/1989. op.cit. p.10).
There is now wide recognition of the endemic and complex nature of alcohol in western society. Many involved in the development of alcohol education argue that it must reflect "a highly complex political and behavioural problem" if it is to be significant let alone effective (Horman, R.E. "The Impact of Sociopolitical Systems on Teenage Alcohol Abuse" in Youth, Alcohol and Social Policy. 1979. p.263). The World Health Organisation states that alcohol consumption is "heavily influenced by cultural, economic and social trends not specific to alcohol" (Makela et al. Supra Note 2. World Health Organisation. "Problems Related to Alcohol Consumption". 1980. p.217). In consequence alcohol education in schools occurs in a society proffering conflicting and contradictory messages about alcohol itself; "which preaches control but practises abandon; which spends hundreds of millions promoting misleading images which it attempts to counter with a million or two; and which it profits from the very excesses which it deplores but does very little to curb ..... drunken drivers are not censured; parents do little to control the drinking of their children; electors deplore rises in alcohol taxation (Young people and Alcohol.op.cit. p.26). Thus there is conflict and contention in relation to alcohol that cannot be avoided when plannning an educational programme. Alcohol education serves individuals living out their lives in a culture in which alcohol does not simply prevail as a discrete item of self-discipline or personal health "The recognition that the social order is made up of diverse social groups each with their own cultures and drinking practices implies a recognition that there can be no single model of alcohol use by a society ... the meaning and value attached to 'health' will vary from social group to social group" (Dorn, N. op. cit. pps 209-212). Clearly "No single message about drinking would be appropriate or relevant to all members" of a given community (Means, R. et al. "Educating About Alcohol" 1986. p.169.). In sum, the challenge confronting alcohol education has changed very little over forty years "There is a lot more involved in drinking than drinking" (Mass Observation, "The Pub and the People: a Worktown Study". 1943. p167.). Thus it seems not entirely unreasonable to suggest there must be a lot more involved in alcohol education than alcohol.
This proposition is now generally recognised as central to the development of alcohol education. Recent research, for example, confirms there are "clear regional differences in alcohol consumption patterns" (Bagnall. G, Plant, M. "Adolescent drinking" in British Journal of Addiction, 1987 p.829). This has obvious educational implications. Alcohol education must take account of the diversity of experience: "Extreme caution needs to be taken when generalising about 'national' patterns of alcohol use" (ibid. p.129). Curriculum approaches need to share this caution. Educational programmes relating to alcohol "should reflect the diversity of cultural backgrounds of pupils and their families, which may have widely differing attitudes to alcohol" (Report of the working group on Young people and Alcohol op.cit. p.26). Indeed such programmes should be further contextualised "..education must take into account the environment in which their pupils live if it is to be flexible enough to help pupils to come to sensible decisions" (Ibid. p.27). Finally, as the Health Education Council once emphasised in the context of its own work, alcohol education needs to recognise "the importance of a 'holistic' approach to health in which ordinary people have a right to define what they value about different lifestyles" (Means, R. et al. 1986. op.cit) and such education presupposes no expert body of knowledge to be passed on "the teacher and the taught both have things to learn" (ibid. p182).
Ways forward gradually take shape from these developments, arguments and dilemmas. Alcohol education if it is effectively to address itself to these complex layers of significance must draw upon the real experience of participants (teachers, pupils, and significant others) "This requires a minimum of teacher 'chalk and talk'....and a readiness to listen to pupils " (Dorn, N. Op.cit. p.213). This also requires a willingness for teachers "to be involved in their own learning"(TACADE. op.cit. p.22). Teachers and pupils need to work together in a "classroom environment...structured to enable this (participatory) learning process to take place - for young people to think, share, experience and reflect" (ibid p.21). What has been said of social education can also be said of alcohol education "we see social education as essentially an experiential process, as opposed to the passive reception of ideas, impressions, norms" (Thompson Report, "Experience and participation: report of the review group on the youth service in England". 1982. p.68).
The emphasis on "experiential process" requires a distribution of the responsibility for learning from teacher to student. If learning is to derive from recounting, discussing and reflecting upon experience it must be assumed that "students are not totally ignorent and that it is important for them to use their knowledge in determining the curriculum" (Forbes. G, and Fopp. R. op.cit. 1987 p.152). A curriculum for responsible choices should involve responsibility for learning. This involves the development of a curriculum or an educational programme "that asks what do young people already know, what is relevant for them to learn, in what manner would they prefer to discover, and in what mode they would prefer to report their findings?" (ibid. p.152). Already elements of an action research approach in which pupils and teachers construct their own learning and procedures and reflect upon them have emerged "allowing students to focus upon topics of interest to them and encouraging them to present these in modes with which they feel comfortable and with which they can identify, is an inducement with many subsequent spin offs, including relevance, using rather than ignoring existing skills and competencies, and capitalizing on the perspective of young people" (ibid. p.153.). It would be surprising if such topics did not include growing up in a certain community within the structures of a family, more or less involved in peer groups, leisure groups and activities, bearing a relationship to a local geography, tradition and economic structures all of which inform the young person's likely experiences of alcohol: "the most important resource in any classroom is the student. They do bring an incredible amount of knowledge and experience to any learning situation" (TACADE. op.cit. pps 6-7). This, it would seem reasonable to suppose, is especially the case when the issue in question is young people encountering and making choices about alcohol.