Exmouth headteacher apologises over pupil role-play upset


- Credit: Archant

A headteacher who apologised to parents when pupils believed role-play was real has defended her tactics.

Pupils from Marpool Primary School were shocked, believing their lunch times would be cut – and playtimes scrapped altogether - when headteacher Rachel Pattison told them during assembly the council had stepped in to sanction the move.

Mrs Pattison turned to role-play in a bid to encourage pupils to express emotion and problem solve.

She apologised to parents on social media when some pupils became upset at home, believing the exercise to be real.

Mrs Pattison said future role-play exercises would go ahead, but the parents would be notified.

She said: “If I had told the parents [this time] I don’t think it would have had the same impact. Somebody would have let it slip through. If that had happened, we wouldn’t have had the same strong feeling.

“I expect in future I could say ‘I am going to provoke a reaction in the children, be prepared’.”

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Many youngsters went home in tears, believing the council had cut lunchtime and scrapped playtimes altogether.

Mrs Pattison said a fake letter read to pupils during assembly had provoked strong reaction and thoughts.

She said role-play was used in the school to launch new topics and projects; this exercise had opened up discussions about democracy, tolerance, mutual respect and referendum.

“I wasn’t expecting the children to react as strongly,” Mrs Pattison said. “The children went home with such strong feeling; the parents equally had strong feeling about it.”

Mrs Pattison turned to Facebook to apologise to parents dealing with any backlash.

She wrote: “Please may I apologise if you have had to deal with any fall-out. I was not expecting such strong responses from the children.

“The quality of writing and the high level of conversation they have had has been brilliant. The letter is not real, but has formed a significant aspect of our role-play.

“In future, I will inform you if another role-play is to be used and thank you for your understanding albeit frustrating. Sorry.”

Parent Natalie Jenkins posted to Facebook: “A bit of shock but actually very cleverly done; teaching children to role-play in this way in a safe environment.”

Christine Lumley wrote: “I think it would have been enough to let them write letters in a hypothetical situation - not tell them lies and make many children distraught. Next time inform the parents before hand.”

Kirsty Hague posted: “Clever, but would have been nice to know to play along. Was the most stressed journey home ever with upset children.”