Head defends ‘Black Watch’ decision

National Theatre of Scotland's production of the Black Watch . Scott Fletcher who plays Kenzie (left) and Richard Rankin who plays Granty (right).  Director is John Tiffany. The play is based on irterviews conducted by Gregory Burke with former soldiers who served in Iraq.    Picture  Robert Perry  The Scotsman 14th Sept  2010
National Theatre of Scotland's production of the Black Watch . Scott Fletcher who plays Kenzie (left) and Richard Rankin who plays Granty (right). Director is John Tiffany. The play is based on irterviews conducted by Gregory Burke with former soldiers who served in Iraq. Picture Robert Perry The Scotsman 14th Sept 2010

The head teacher of Webster’s High School has written to parents explaining her decision to withdraw the play ‘Black Watch’ as a study text for the school’s Higher drama class.

Following national media coverage and a barrage of comments on social media sites, Mrs Jane Esson sent out letters last Tuesday giving her reasons for the decision, which had been publicly slated by former First Minister Alex Salmond and a number of Scottish writers including crime writer Ian Rankin.

Commenting on the furore Mrs Esson wrote: “You will be aware of recent media coverage and comment concerning my decision. The extent and nature of the coverage is not what I wish for the school and I feel it important to explain to you directly the decision which has provoked it.”

She stated a complaint was received from a parent about the study of the play and, after reviewing the text and consulting with the senior management team in the school, it was agreed that, on balance, it was “inappropriate” for the play to be studied as a class text by pupils, some of whom were as young as 15.

Mrs Esson continued: “This was a reasoned judgement based on consideration of the language of the play and the maturity it demands of an audience.”

The play, which first appeared at the Edinburgh Festival in 2006, details events leading up to the deaths of three servicemen in a roadside bomb attack in 2004. It contains graphic language and sexual content.

Mrs Esson continued: “The language of the play features constant use of the ‘c’ swear word. The content of the play focuses on issues of sexuality, male identity and the psychological damage caused by warfare. It is a very powerful and thought-provoking stage play but my professional view is the explicit text is too demanding for our young learners in a classroom setting. The play has not been banned from the school. It is available for use by pupils for personal study or for home reading.”

A council spokesperson said: “As the head teacher has explained in her letter to parents the play has not been banned from the school, it was withdrawn as a study text for Higher Drama. The play is available for use by pupils for personal study or for home reading, with parents and pupils encouraged to read it together. Any pupils can use it as a text for Advanced Higher if they chose to study drama at that level.”