Rapping robots at Sandwell schools

Sandwell Council have been at it again, this time spending thousands on super-hero themed plays about recycling that have cost the taxpayer almost £30,000 in the past three years.

Rather than leaving the teaching to teachers, the Black Country authority have employed the services of ‘Eco-girl’ and the ‘Recycling Rapping Robot’ for no fewer than 130 sessions, whilst neighbouring Walsall Council felt that 18 sessions were more than adequate.

Julia Bridgett, the waste disposal manager at Sandwell Council, clearly thinks that there’s no such thing as too much intensive rap-based garbage fun, adding that, “The Recycler show leaves workbooks for the pupils themed on the show”.

Excellent. The trouble is, 12,000 kids in the Borough have had the pleasure of this particular show; so is it really eco-friendly to be running off so many workbooks for children who are presumably being taught that gratuitously felling trees is something to be avoided? There appears to be a glaring contradiction there…

In their enthusiasm to come across as the most right-on eco-council on the block, some may argue that Sandwell could be dedicating rather too much time, energy and resources to the green agenda whilst consistently, their school system generally props up the rest of the country with historically poor rankings from the Audit Commission.

As Cllr Tony Ward points out:

“I think it’s a bit of a gimmick. We seem to be getting away from the basics of teaching and I can’t see why we need to spend this much on actors dressing up as superheroes to tell children why they should recycle. They should just do this in the classroom.”

At the end of the day, if such theatricals were the most effective way of educating children on any given subject, then why not just do that with every subject – heck, do away with schools entirely?!  But on a serious note, between this and ‘Gypsy Awareness Month’, Sandwell are in real danger of diverting the curriculum away from important mainstays and spending too much time on faddy, politically correct missions.  Though this may look good and tick a few boxes but ultimately, it’s the children who lose out.

This isn't about objecting to kids learning about recycling, it’s about acknowledging that children are exposed to lots of environmental information as it stands (most already know more than their parents!), and the classroom is an effective a place as any to reinforce these central messages. Many of us will recall visits from Theatre-In-Education companies whilst we were in school – it was a great opportunity for the teachers to put their feet up for the afternoon and for the kids to declare a ‘play day’, but ultimately it didn't constitute a solid lesson.  Certainly Sandwell should be wary of relying too heavily on these outside ‘experts’ and put a little more faith in their teachers and the long-term fundamentals of the classroom.