School bans Scottish play because of sexual content


A school in Angus has come under fire after being accused of banning pupils from studying the Scottish play Black Watch.

Pupils at the Webster’s High School in Kirriemuir say they were in the middle of studying the play for Higher Drama when they were told to it wasn’t allowed.

Parents have hit out at the head teacher, Jane Esson, who they say banned the play because of her own evangelical beliefs.

They claim she took issue because of the bad language and sexual content of the play – dismissing council which says it was the pupils who decided to study something else.

Black Watch is a critically acclaimed SQA approved text by Scottish writer Gregory Burke.



Black Watch by Scottish writer Gregory Burke is based on interviews with former soldiers


It is based on interviews with former soldiers and tells the story of those who served in the Black Watch regiment in Iraq during 2004.

The pupils who were studying the play were all aged between 16 and 17.

One parent said: “Mrs Esson has evangelical beliefs and this may have some bearing on how… she thinks the school should be run which is basically censorship.

“All of these pupils are young adults and should be treated with the respect they deserve.

“It’s ridiculous in this day and age and I know my kids hear a lot worse at school – and they have heard all the slang words for sex during sex education in first year.

“When my daughter came home and told me they had been banned from studying this play I was furious. It’s like the dark ages.

“The school is in a catchment area of fairly middle-class and well educated people and we just don’t agree with this kind of censorship.”

The parent added: “There are very few plays or books which are part of the curriculum that don’t have some bad language or sexual content in them and you can’ avoid it really, so what is she going to do, ban all of them?”

Another parent who did not want to be named said: “Black Watch is one of the plays on the SQA approved lists. The pupils certainly didn’t choose something another text. They were told they had to pick something else.”

The parent claimed Mr Esson “didn’t want them knowing about all this sexual stuff”.

The issue was raised at Webster’s High School Parent Council.

Chairman of the Parent Council Geoff Hobson said a deputy who turned up at meeting in place of the head teacher told them Esson deemed the text “inappropriate”.

He said: “It was also noted that a parent of a pupil in the drama class had objected to the bad language in this text.

“There is clearly a balance to be struck between allowing pupils to study a wide range of texts and obligating pupils to study texts contain bad language and sexual content they are uncomfortable with.”

Kirriemuir councillor Ronnie Proctor, a retired Black Watch Major, said: “It is up to the headteacher to decide what is taught and she had exorcised that prerogative.”

However the National Theatre for Scotland said: “While we would entirely support the right of any individual headteacher to to exercise choice for his or her school, Black Watch has been studied by, and seen live by, thousands of Scotland’s school pupils, very many of whom have testified to its power, emotional punch and contemporary significance.”

An Angus council spokesman said; “While the play has not been banned, it is not being used as a core test this year.

“The play is not on the SQA’s prescribed reading list, and this year the class has chosen another text to study.”

Head teacher Jane Esson declined to comment.